5 NCAA Tournament games NC State fans should care about during coaching search

If NC State fans are going to pass the time watching the NCAA Tournament anyway, they might as well watch coaches that might be in Raleigh soon, right?

Charles LeClaire—USA Today Sports
Virginia Commonwealth Rams head coach Will Wade reacts with fans leaving the court after defeating the Richmond Spiders in overtime at the PPG Paints Arena. Virginia Commonwealth won 87-77 in overtime.

The Mark Gottfried era is over. The [insert coach’s name here] era is about to begin.At this point, however, we have no idea who that next head coach will be. From talking to NC State officials in Brooklyn during the ACC Tournament, I can confirm that the top options are still playing basketball in March. That seems obvious, but let’s all remember that Gottfried was with ESPN before being hired.While NC State could be setting up coaching interviews next week, many of the candidates will be active in the NCAA Tournament in the coming week. Here is a look at a few games NC State fans should care about with the pending coaching search in Raleigh.No. 7 Dayton vs. No. 10 Wichita StateThis one is going to be high on every NC State fan’s list. Both head coaches in this game are somewhere near the top of Debbie Yow’s pecking order and deservedly so after great seasons at their schools.The first is obviously Archie Miller, who has Dayton in the Big Dance for a fourth straight year after winning the Atlantic 10 regular season title. Miller has made an Elite Eight run and advanced out of the first round twice, so there is little left to prove at this point. But one way to generate more excitement in Raleigh — and maybe drive up the asking price — would be another deep run.On the other bench is Gregg Marshall, who many NC State fans wanted to see in Raleigh during the last coaching search. Since that point, Marshall has built his resume with copious Missouri Valley Conference titles — five in the last six years, to be exact — and is yet again in discussions for the Wolfpack job. With wins in the last four NCAA Tournaments, two Sweet 16s and one Final Four, another run would have Pack fans teeming with excitement about the prospects of Marshall coaching in red and white.No. 7 Saint Mary’s vs. No. 10 VCUThe coach to watch here is VCU’s Will Wade, who currently has the Rams at 51-19 in his two years at the helm. Despite finishing with a better record ahead of the NCAA Tournament at 26-8 (14-4 A-10) than the previous year, Wade is in a familiar spot as a No. 10 seed.VCU’s program is known for making deep runs, and Wade helped continue that win a win in the opening round last season. Facing a 28-4 Saint Mary’s team in the first round, a win would prove Wade is capable of pulling off upset wins, something the previous coach made a habit of in his first four years.No. 5 Virginia vs. No. 12 UNCWCould we be seeing a future matchup of ACC head coaches in the first round in Orlando? After taking No. 4 seed Duke to the wire last year in the first round, Kevin Keatts has another tough matchup with UNCW taking on the country’s No. 1 defense against Virginia.This time around, Keatts might have the upperhand with a lineup that is a year older and includes the most consistent big man in the country in Devontae Cacok. Keatts assembled the offensive-minded lineup UNCW will roll out on Thursday, but the focus might be on the Seahawks’ defense against a meager UVA offense.No. 7 South Carolina vs. No. 10 MarquetteThis one’s a little off the beaten path, but South Carolina’s head coach Frank Martin is another potential candidate to watch in the NCAA Tournament. He has an early matchup with Marquette and former Duke point guard and assistant coach Steve Wojciechowski.Martin has rebuilt the Gamecocks into a competitive team in the SEC with two straight seasons with 22 wins or more. After making the NCAA Tournament four out of five seasons with Kansas State, and transforming the South Carolina program, maybe restoring NC State to national prominence is next on his checklist.No. 6 Cincinnati vs. No. 11 Kansas StateMick Cronin isn’t a sexy pick, but he’s another consistent coach who leads a strong Cincinnati program into a seventh straight NCAA Tournament. He’ll face off with a team that was one of the last four to make the Big Dance with his team’s season on the line.Cronin has already matched the most wins in program history at 29-5 this season heading into March Madness, but has just one Sweet 16 to show for his seven tourney appearances. Stringing together a few wins this week could turn into a stepping stone for Cronin to a job in the ACC.