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March 1, 2013

Home court dominance rules college basketball



NC State coach Mark Gottfried watched his fans storm the court after upsetting then No. 1-ranked Duke on Jan. 12 at PNC Arena.

Gottfried and the Wolfpack have also been the victims of court storming, which happened at both Maryland on Jan. 16 and at Wake Forest on Jan. 22. Gottfried also was at Alabama where the SEC set up fines for court rushing. He has strong thoughts on the subject.

"I wish the SEC had never ever banned storming the court," Gottfried said. "I just wasn't a fan of it at all. I think it's the difference between the NBA and college."

Virginia fans stormed the court again Thursday night after defeating No. 3-ranked Duke 73-68. Coach Mike Krzyzewski and the Blue Devils have had four games where fans stormed the court this season.

"I thought Virginia did a phenomenal job, and must have had 50 guys in yellow coats that kind of took four steps off the sideline," Gottfried said. "They made a pathway for the players to shake hands. I thought they did an unbelievable good job."

Gottfried acknowledged that a tricky situation could evolve. Safety for the players and coaches is the No. 1 priority following the game.

Gottfried hopes that it will continue to be allowed in the ACC.

"I think it adds to the college game, the atmosphere, being a student, and I'm hopeful that our league never adopts what the SEC did," Gottfried said.

Home fans in the ACC, and also nationally, have had a lot to cheer about this season. Road wins have been so tough to come by that only two teams in the ACC have a winning streak of longer than one game - UNC has a four-game streak and Virginia has a two-game streak.

"I think our league from top-to-bottom is as good as any league in the country," Gottfried said. "Somebody may argue that the Big Ten is better."

Gottfried the four teams at the bottom of the Big Ten - 9-18 Penn State, 13-16 Northwestern, and Nebraska and Purdue, who are both 13-15 - would have trouble against the ACC squads below .500.

"The gap between the bottom and the top in this league, the ACC, is narrow," Gottfried said. "The proof of that, Boston College loses against Miami by one [Jan. 16]. They've got two shots to beat Duke and both don't go in [Feb. 10].

"Wake Forest beat Miami. Virginia Tech defeated Oklahoma State and Iowa early. They play everybody tough, Virginia Tech has. Georgia Tech is really good.

"I can look around the other BCS conferences and see two or four teams that just aren't very good. Our league doesn't have that."

NC State has gone 15-1 at home and 7-1 in ACC home games this season. The Wolfpack, who are 2-6 on the road, play at Georgia Tech at 6 p.m. Sunday. The Yellow Jackets are 11-5 at home this season, including a 76-68 win over Maryland last Wednesday.

Highly ranked opponents have been losing on the road all across the country, which creates added opportunities to storm the court. Just this past week, Minnesota beat No. 1 Indiana and Tennessee edged No. 8 Florida on Tuesday, Penn State shocked No. 4 Michigan and USC defeated No. 11 Arizona on Wednesday.

Both No. 7 Georgetown and No. 9 Kansas were pushed to the brink in overtime games against UConn and Iowa State respectively, but pulled out the victories. The Hoyas needed two overtimes.

"You have a lot of good teams and no dominant team," Gottfried said. "We have proven this year, for the most part, that we can play with anybody. I believe that with all my heart. It's encouraging for everybody because everybody has a chance to do something."

The ACC Tournament and NCAA Tournament are both played on neutral courts, though some fan bases will turn out more in Greensboro, N.C., for the former event than other fan bases.

Finding energy from within is always the key on neutral courts.

"There are a lot of good teams in our league," Gottfried said. "When I took the job and you talked about the RPI and the league's RPI, the message inside the coaches' meetings in the spring were the teams that had been on the top, they were kind of taking care of business.

"The teams that hadn't been, and we were one of them, NC State, we all have to get better. I think everybody in the league has improved."



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