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Looking back at a rollercoaster of a season

There are only a few college basketball teams left in the country right now whose seasons haven’t ended yet. Sadly, the NC State Wolfpack aren’t among them. But as a fan, I can say I enjoyed this season overall, even if it didn’t turn out how I expected it to.

At the beginning of the season, the focus was all on learning the new players on the roster. There were only three players returning from the year before, so basically it was like getting to know an entirely new team. It was kind of fun giving new people nicknames just to remember them better. (Okay, I admit, I liked calling DJ Funderburk as “Thunderburk” whenever he was having a good game. Feel free to judge me all you want.)

The season started off great, going 12-1 against nonconference opponents. That one loss came in a close game on Wisconsin’s home court. The wins were good confidence boosters for the young team, but they were all arguably “cupcake” games against some of the worst teams in basketball. That ended up hurting the Wolfpack in the end, so I’ll be interested to see who NC State schedules for next year’s matchups. Will they tweak their schedule strength or simply try to get even better results with the same kind of teams? We shall see.

As much as I enjoyed the wins during the first part of the season, the conference games are where things really started to heat up… and at times, go off the rails like a malfunctioning rollercoaster. There were some nice, competitive wins and a few decent, competitive losses.

Then star player Markell Johnson got hurt playing against Pitt. This is the same game, you may recall, where Wyatt Walker got ejected after only two minutes of play for grabbing a guy’s ankle and pulling him down. After all that, however, NC State still got the win. It was a weird day all around, and I think pretty indicative of their season in a nut shell: good things and bad things, sometimes simultaneously.

Markell Johnson missed a few games, most notably the first one against Wake Forest who had been underperforming all season. It was not a game the Wolfpack should have lost.

He was back, however, for the now infamous game against Virginia Tech where the team made (the wrong kind of) history by scoring on 24 points the entire game. I was actually at that game, and I’ll tell you it was a surreal experience. It was the kind of game where you turn to the person next to you and ask “is this really happening?” like you’re trapped in some sort of weird dream.

All I could do, honestly, was laugh about it afterwards.

But I had a lot of fun watching the team play each game all season long, no matter the outcome. Even though they didn’t end up making it to the “big dance” this year, they made a good run in the NIT. Those handful of post-season games were actually some of the most thrilling I’d watched all season. (I would like to publicly apologize to my dog for scaring him when I screamed for joy at the TV during the final few seconds of the NC State-Harvard game.)

I could pull up plenty of stats, talking about areas where the team overperformed or underperformed. But now that the season’s over, I don’t really care about the numbers. I care about the experience, which is what any fan of any team likes, right? I’ll forget the number of games we won or lost, but I won’t forget moments like walking around PNC Arena with my dad at the UNC game as he pointed out several former basketball players we passed by, or watching TJ Warren’s jersey get hoisted to the rafters to hang alongside others that are honored.

It certainly was a rollercoaster of a season. It always seems to be like that for us Wolfpack fans. But that’s okay. A lot can happen during the off season, and I’m already looking forward to when the games begin again.

Holly Taylor is a Staff Writer at Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact her at holly.taylor@r-cnews.com or 252-332-7206.