The Seton Hall Pirates will make their third straight NCAA Tournament appearance on Thursday as they will take on the NC State Wolfpack in Wichita, Kansas. Seton Hall (21-11) will look for its first tournament victory since 2004.
NC State (21-11) is back in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in three seasons in head coach Kevin Keatts’ first season leading the team. Both the Pirates and Wolfpack claim six victories against teams in the field.
NC State leads the all-time series against Seton Hall by a slight 3-2 advantage. This will be the first meeting between the two in 10 years.
Midwest Region: No. 9 NC State Wolfpack (21-11) vs. No. 8 Seton Hall Pirates (21-11)
Time: 4:30 p.m. (Thursday)
Where: INTRUST Bank Arena, (Wichita, Kan.)
Keys for NC State
The Wolfpack have five players on their roster that shoot 35 percent or better from beyond the three-point line. NC State averages 21 attempts from beyond the arc per game and as a team is shooting 37.2 percent from distance. The top gunners are Allerik Freeman (64 made 3-pointers, 36.8 percent) and Sam Hunt (51, 42.5) but 7-footer Omer Yurtseven (22, 51.2) isn’t shy of stepping out and firing it up from deep either.
On defense, it will be critical for the Wolfpack to hold their own on the glass considering rebounding (+0.6 margin) has been an issue throughout the season.
Keys for Seton Hall
The Pirates will look to take advantage of their size and control the boards. Angel Delgado (6-10) and Ish Sanogo (6-8) should both be productive on the glass and find ways to scores with either easy put-backs or dunks. NC State has a 7-footer in Yurtseven but he averages fewer than seven rebounds per game and can’t match Delgado in terms of strength and physicality. Seton Hall has been one of the better rebounding teams in the nation, ranking 50th in margin (+4.3).
On defense, the Pirates must make sure to guard the three-point line, since the Wolfpack aren’t shy of firing it up from long range. The players must not lose their assignment on pick and rolls and always make sure they have a hand in the face of the shooter.
The Seton Hall seniors have been waiting to get the program’s first NCAA Tournament win since the early 2000s, and this is their last opportunity to do so. As long as the Pirates can control the glass and limit NC State’s three-point opportunities, they will be in good shape.
While the Wolfpack returning to the tournament is a great story, the team is inexperienced in this environment, as shown in their early exit from the ACC Tournament. It should be a close game early, but Seton Hall's size and experience will likely prove to be too much for a young Wolfpack team.
Prediction: Seton Hall 68, NC State 59
— Written by Antwan Staley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and has extensive experience covering Florida sports teams. Staley has written for Bleacher Report, the Miami Herald and the Palm Beach Post and is a reporter for Pro Player Insiders. Follow him on Twitter @antwanstaley.
(Top photo courtesy of shupirates.com)