NC State Wolfpack headed to women's Sweet 16, aiming for first title
A sleeping giant is ready to awaken and crash the party of blue bloods at the NCAA Women's Tournament.
The NC State Wolfpack aren't completely unknown commodities — they are a No. 1 seed, after all — but their recent résumé doesn't carry quite the same prominence as those of the other top seeds.
This is NC State's first 1-seed in tournament history. The other three No. 1 seeds in the field — UConn, South Carolina and Stanford — have been on the top line before, and all boast national championships.
The Gamecocks have one (2017), the Cardinal have a pair (1990, 1992), and, well, the Huskies are in a universe of their own with a record 11 titles.
Meanwhile, NC State's closest taste to national glory came in 1998, when the team made the Final Four as a 4-seed under legendary head coach Kay Yow.
Yow took over the program in 1975-76 and cemented herself as one of the game's greatest coaches of all time during her tenure in Raleigh, North Carolina.
She steered the Wolfpack to a 680-325 record, winning five ACC regular-season titles and four ACC Tournament championships across a career that resulted in her enshrinement in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2002.
The Wolfpack made the Sweet 16 a total of 11 times under Yow before the icon died on Jan. 24, 2009, after a battle with breast cancer.
NC State hit a rough patch the following four years under head coach Kellie Harper.
Harper's team made the NCAA Women's Tournament in her first season, but the Wolfpack were bounced in the first round.
Subsequent seasons resulted in a 10th-place finish in the ACC in 2010-11, ninth in 2011-12 and tied for seventh in Harper's final year at the helm before her dismissal.
Enter Wes Moore in 2013.
Since his arrival, Moore has NC State back to its winning ways, never finishing below .500 and posting 20 or more wins in seven of his eight seasons as head coach.
Moore has the Wolfpack back on track and headed to their third consecutive Sweet 16.
As the top seed in the Mercado Region of this year's tournament, held in San Antonio, the Wolfpack breezed through their opening-round matchup against No. 16 North Carolina A&T.
No. 8 USF gave NC State more trouble in Tuesday's clash, with the Bulls holding a one-point lead, at 36-35, heading into halftime.
Moore's women found their groove after the break.
Led by stars Elissa Cunane and Jada Boyd, who found their respective scoring touches, and a stifling team defensive effort in the third quarter, the Wolfpack clamped down to secure a 79-67 win.
The victory booked passage to the Sweet 16, marking the 14th time in history that the Wolfpack have made it that far.
However, the next stage in the tournament has been a hurdle for the Wolfpack — even dating to Yow's heyday.
Despite their 14 Sweet 16 appearances, the Wolfpack have progressed to the next round just once, during that magical Final Four run in 1998.
Now, they're set to take on fourth-seeded Indiana, a team that demolished No. 12 Belmont 70-48 on Wednesday.
With a trip to the elusive Elite Eight on the line, will the Wolfpack announce that they belong back among the upper echelon of women's college hoops?
We'll find out at 3 p.m. ET Saturday.