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N.C. State's Cam Hayes (3) shoots as North Florida's Jonathan Aybar (21) defends during the second half of N.C. State’s 86-51 victory over North Florida in the Mako Medical Wolfpack Invitational at Reynolds Coliseum in Raleigh, N.C., Friday, Nov. 27, 2020.

As we see the regular season come to a close with only four games remaining for Pack men’s basketball, we have been hit with another underwhelming season for NC State. Currently sitting 6-8 in ACC play, talk of an NCAA Tournament selection no longer exists, and as the Wolfpack stands right now, it has most likely punched its ticket to the NIT, predicted as a sixth seed for the National Invitation Tournament.

 

Of course the March Madness chance still exists, if the Pack can survive and advance through the ACC Tournament, which while possible, many are not hopeful given NC State would likely run into the second seed of the tournament by its third round. Even before hitting a top seed, current 10th seed NC State would run into the seventh-seeded Syracuse, a team the Wolfpack already lost to this year.

This year would mark the third year for NC State without the NCAA Tournament. Unfortunately, the 2020 season sits as an unknown due to COVID-19, and Wolfpack fans were never able to find out if last year’s bubble team would have made the tournament.

But in a strange year for college basketball, NC State had some shining moments that shouldn’t be forgotten. For the first time since 2013, the Wolfpack was able to grab a home-court win against rival UNC-Chapel Hill, with a huge performance by freshman guard Shakeel Moore, a first-year who shows promise for future Wolfpack success.

Also showing a potential bright future for NC State was fellow freshman guard Cam Hayes, another first-year who got ample playing time and experience, while saving a year of eligibility and still holds four more years to develop here as a member of the Wolfpack.

The biggest advantage for NC State going forward into next season may be the pandemic, for COVID-19 has given all athletes the opportunity to return to the NCAA next season, granting this season a free year of eligibility. This poses a huge question to all our seniors, specifically redshirt senior guard Devon Daniels, who suffered a torn ACL halfway through the season.

Daniels left as NC State’s leading scorer, carrying the Wolfpack to many victories this season, including the upset win over the Tar Heels with 21 points. With a free year of eligibility, it is possible Daniels may want to return for more preparation for the NBA draft, instead of jumping right into the process after a huge hiatus due to injury and surgery.

Of course another bright spot for NC State men’s basketball will always be recruits and future newcomers and the potential they hold. Signing letters of intent for next year’s freshman class are four-star recruits Terquavion Smith and Ernest Ross, who are ranked in the top 100 nationally and will add on to the already deep and talented squad.

While we may not be watching NC State fight for the national title this March, this squad is slowly creeping in the right direction. With the chance of our veteran players returning for another year and the already young talent continuing to improve, it is going to be an exciting time to support the Pack.