North Carolina State fans want you to know they take their third wheel status on Tobacco Road personally, though they’re not concerned with refuting the reputation.
After State’s 84-76 “upset” win over top-ranked Duke on Saturday, Wolfpack fans showed their true colors, rushing the floor and incidentally bowling over a person in a wheelchair at the center of the scrum. The demonstration confirmed what those familiar with the Triangle basketball scene long suspected: N.C. State still takes comfort in the role of endearing underdog, even in a season when the program is supposed to be the ACC’s top dog.
The Wolfpack, not Blue Devils, if you’ll recall, were the preseason ACC favorites; both the coaches and media had Duke slotted second. That reality didn’t penetrate the PNC Arena Saturday afternoon. Despite an offseason spent building up State’s return to prominence almost thirty years in the making, fans gushed onto the court like nothing had changed, patronizing their basketball team as if beating Duke was some sort of unlikely coup. Newsflash: it wasn’t.
North Carolina State players expected to beat Duke, or at least they should have. With a hobbled Seth Curry exiting the game late and Ryan Kelly out with an undisclosed foot injury, the Pack had the best team in the building Saturday, irrespective of what the rankings say. This wasn’t a luxury, season-satisfying win for Mark Gottfried’s team, as the court storming would suggest. The Pack needed to prove they belonged, to justify the lofty preseason hype.
Storming the court is part of the pageantry that makes college hoops so unique, so genuine and spontaneous. But like all things in life subject to overuse, this popular college basketball pastime has a time and place; otherwise, it becomes jaded. State fans overstepped that line.
More than celebrating a big time win, the scene in Raleigh on Saturday perpetuated a long-standing inferiority complex. Think the Cameron Crazies swarm Coach K Court if the roles were reversed? Of course not. Big wins at Rupp, Cameron, Phog and the Dean Dome end the same way, with fans streaming to the exits, not center court.