After winning two straight games in the conference, the Syracuse Orange return home tonight and look to extend the win streak against a fellow ACC bubble team. The North Carolina State Wolfpack come into the Carrier Dome on a two game skid after recently falling to Virginia Tech and North Carolina. The Wolfpack are coached by first year head coach Kevin Keatts, who came to NC State by way of UNC Wilmington, truly traveling far and wide to land in Raleigh.
After an auspicious start to his head coaching career at UNC Wilmington, Keatts parlayed his back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances in 2016 and 2017 to a head coaching gig at NC State. In his first season at state Keatts has the Wolfpack on the precipice of an at-large bid. Jim Boeheim, of course, knows this and had some strong praise for Keatts on Monday’s ACC Coaches Teleconference.
“Well he’s done an unbelievable job,” Boeheim said of the first year coach “I think he’s done as good of a coaching job as anybody in the country. He’s just completely turned them around in terms of how hard they play, their defense. I just think he’s done an unbelievable job with this team, their effort, their approach to the game.”
A complete turnaround is somewhat of a stretch, but Keatts has State at 16-9 overall and 6-6 in the conference which includes impressive wins over Arizona, Duke, Clemson and North Carolina. Two wins over instate rivals in the research traingle aint half bad and serve as proof the pack can beat top opponents en route to its first tournament bid since 2015.
North Carolina boasts one of the better offenses in the league to boot, good for over 80 points per game with four players averaging over double-figures. It ranks No. 43 in offensive efficiency per Ken Pom, averaging 114.8 points per 100 possessions.
“I think that they’re one of the better offensive teams in the league. They come at you with a lot of different weapons. They’re really a well balanced team and a they’re a really well coached team. Difficult team to play against,” Boeheim finished.
NC State has six players who average over 8.0 points per game and could have more if senior Abdul-Malik Abu didn’t sprain a ligament in his knee during a preseason practice.
One of those players — Omer Yurtseven — was a former Syracuse recruit and has hit double-figures in all but two ACC contests. He’s really come into his own this season and now represents a huge challenge for the Orange with limited front-court depth.
Syracuse will have to do a good job abating NC State inside and staying out of foul trouble tonight should it want to win. This game represents a double-edged sword.
Win and you add to your NCAA Tournament resume while also adding another head-to-head win over a fellow bubble team (Read: Virginia Tech). Lose and you hand NC State another Quadrant 1 win while talking another loss to a fellow bubble team (Read: St. Bonaventure). This game could hold significant weight come Selection Sunday. Jim Boeheim knows this.