After his team struggled the past two years at the bottom of the ACC, North Carolina State coach Les Robinson thought it had cleared some major hurdles this season. A 75-71 home loss to 3-23 Florida Atlantic on Monday could change some of that thinking.
The Wolfpack led by as many as 17 points before losing "to a team we know we should have beaten," Robinson said.
"I probably made the mistake of substituting too freely too early," Robinson said. "It might have sent the message to the starters that, "Hey, Coach thinks we've got this one wrapped up.'
"This will not scar us. We will bounce back. We obviously haven't turned the corner, but we have made a lot of progress this season."
How much progress Robinson has made will be determined by N.C. State officials in the off-season, when they consider extending Robinson's contract, which has one year remaining.
A vote for Sura
FSU coach Pat Kennedy continued his late-season campaigning on behalf of Playboy All-American Bob Sura.
Sura, a second-team All-ACC selection last year, is in position to become FSU's first first-team pick. Doug Edwards (1992-93) and Sam Cassell (1992-93) were second-team selections, though FSU coaches thought at least one of them should have been a first-team pick.
Sura ranks in the Top 10 in the conference in six of the nine major statistical categories, and Kennedy hopes that will parlay into a first-team selection.
"He may be the single most valuable player for any team in the league," Kennedy said. "The most amazing statistic about Bobby is his rebounding. He averages eight rebounds a game, and at his size that's remarkable. I just hope Bobby can reap the awards after what he has done this season."
No one is questioning Sura's position among the league's elite players, but Kennedy fears that voters from Tobacco Road would omit Sura in place of a North Carolina or Duke player.
"I just can't see an All-ACC team without Bob Sura on the first team," Kennedy said.
Hope for the future
While Kennedy is hardly happy with his team's position right now, he can be happy that all but two players (guards Charlie Ward and Chuck Graham) will return next season, assuming Sura stays for his senior year.
Kennedy also will add two McDonald's All-Americans _ Miami Northwestern's Corey Louis and LaMarr Greer.
Louis and Greer were picked to the All-American squad this week, making this the most decorated recruiting class Kennedy has put together.
Duke's Grant Hill had his No. 33 jersey retired before Sunday's game with Temple. Duke leads the ACC with eight retired jerseys, two ahead of North Carolina and Virginia. North Carolina or Duke has won the past three and six of the past eight conference regular-season titles. Only N.C. State ('89) and Clemson ('90) interrupted the streak. For the first time in conference history, eight teams have won at least five league games. The ACC Tournament begins March 10 in Charlotte with a Thursday night play-in game between the No. 8 and 9 seeds.
_ JIM LAMAR