Before this season, Louisville and NC State hadn’t faced each other in a game since 1988. The coaches at that time were Denny Crum and Jim Valvano.
Thanks to ACC expansion, the two met during the regular season this year, and thanks to the glut of teams in the ACC and other power conferences, league games in the NCAA Tournament may becoming a regular occurrence.
Five ACC teams remain in the field, but that number is guaranteed to shrink by one on Friday when Louisville faces NC State at the Carrier Dome.
After upsets of No. 1 Villanova and No. 2 Virginia, the East Region is wide open as the first region in 11 years to lose both its No. 1 and No. 2 seed. Despite roster limitations (Louisville) and inconsistent play (NC State) this season, both teams are realistic contenders for a Final Four.
Other Sweet 16 Previews
No. 8 NC State vs. No. 4 Louisville
Region: East (Syracuse, N.Y.)
Time: Friday, 7:37 p.m. ET
Announcers: Verne Lundquist and Jim Spanarkel
Line: NC State by 2
Matchup to Watch: Louisville’s Terry Rozier vs. NC State’s Cat Barber
Louisville and NC State need these two guards to flourish for both of them to advance in the Tournament. In the only meeting between these two teams this season, Barber had 21 points, in part because of a 10-of-13 performance from free throw line, on Feb. 14. With eight field goals and seven assists, Rozier was responsible for 15 of Louisville’s 22 buckets against Northern Iowa.
Tournament Surprise: Louisville holding it together without Chris Jones
Rick Pitino admitted that this team would be much better if the Cardinals did not have to dismiss point guard Chris Jones from the team. That’s true, but credit Louisville for not folding, especially in a tight game against UC Irvine and against a dangerous Northern Iowa team. Wayne Blackshear has scored in double figures in seven of the last eight games, and Quentin Snider has scored 26 total points in two games in the Tourney.
NC State will win if...
The Wolfpack’s bigs can turn this into a perimeter game. BeeJay Anya is a standout shotblocker, but he isn’t the only big body who will try to counter Montrezl Harrell. Anya, Abdul-Malik Abu, Kyle Washington and Lennard Freeman all stand 6-8 or taller. Louisville ranks 308th in 3-point shooting (30.8 percent), so NC State will try to make this a perimeter game.
Louisville will win if...
The Cardinals can shut down the NC State guards. Trevor Lacey, Ralston Turner and Barber all average more than 12 points per game. No forward averages more than 6.7. NC State might not be able to survive an off night by one or two of their standout guards.
Athlon Staff Predictions
David Fox: Louisville 77-74
Braden Gall: NC State 68-64
Mitch Light: Louisville 66-60
Jake Rose: NC State 64-62