Well, now comes proving that Saturday wasn't a fluke. Now comes legitimizing your place in the standings. Now comes the real work - going on the road and picking up wins against teams looking to knock the Pack off its pedestal. Mark Gottfried acknowledge as much, mentioning the importance of winning at Maryland in his post-game interview even as fans were celebrating behind him.
As Joe Giglio of the News & Observer noted on Tuesday, the Pack has not done well with this sort of success in the past. Following regular season wins over Duke or North Carolina, the Pack is just 1-12 over the last 20 years in its next conference game. It's winless on the road after a win over either team. The lone win came over a Matt Doherty-led North Carolina squad, which the Pack beat after knocking off No. 3 Duke in 2003.
How the Pack plays on Wednesday night will say as much about this team's ceiling as anything it's done to this point. The Pack proved it could handle adversity, bouncing back from its debacle against Oklahoma State that could have easily derailed a promising season. But this is the Pack's first truly big win of the season – if they can come off that sort of emotional high and win then perhaps they really are the favorites in the ACC. Lose on Wednesday night, though, and the same questions that came up after the loss to Oklahoma State will rise back to the surface.
The Pack has to go on the road to College Park, in front of the nastiest fan base in the ACC (this is not a compliment), and play a desperate Maryland team that presents some real match-up problems. The Terrapins have lost two straight ACC games after a promising 13-1 start, cratering with a 47-point performance in a loss to Miami on Sunday night.
But, for all their troubles, the Terps remain a dangerous team for the Pack. Their length on the interior has caused problems all year long for teams, with opponents shooting just 38% inside the arc against Maryland – that figure ranks second among all Division I defenses. The Pack have also struggled on the defensive glass all season, and Maryland has one of the nation's best offensive rebounding teams – pulling down over 40% of its own misses.
Alex Len, the 7-1 sophomore, will be a particular problem for the Pack frontcourt. They've yet to run into anyone with Len's mixture of length and skill – the big man could provide a real challenge for both C.J. Leslie and Richard Howell. It wouldn't be a surprise to see Gottfried go to Jordan Vandenberg some in this game in an attempt to make things tougher on Len.
The Pack has the firepower to outscore anyone on its schedule however, Maryland included. What this game will come down to, as much as anything, is how well the Pack can put Saturday's game behind them and move on to the next game.
Great teams win games like this one. NC State still has to prove it's a great team.