Teams: Syracuse Orange (14-9, 7-5) vs. North Carolina State Wolfpack (15-8, 6-6)
Date & Time: Tuesday, February 11 at 7 p.m. ET
Carrier Dome, Syracuse
Odds: ESPN’s matchup predictor says Syracuse has an 66.2% chance to win against NC State.
Radio: Cuse.com, TK 99/105, WAER 88.3
Rivalry: 7-5, Syracuse
Current Streak: 2, NC State
First Meeting: The first match-up of these teams was back in 1990 with the Orange in the Big East. Syracuse would end up winning that match-up 86-79 on the back of a monstrous performance by Dave Johnson with 24 points and 17 rebounds. That team also featured Billy Owens and young Mike Hopkins and Adrian Autry.
Last Meeting: 73-58 loss. Gross. I was at the game last year, and it was ugly. We couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn, and NC State could do no wrong. I remember the highlight of the game being a surprise cameo from freshman Robert Braswell and he had something like three consecutive possessions with a steal. Other than that, I’d rather forget last year’s game ever happened.
Head Coaches: Syracuse - Jim Boeheim (44th year; 1,060-387 at SU) | NC State - Kevin Keatts (3rd year; 60-32 at NC State)
Coach Bio: Keatts is in his third season at NC State. Overall, he has led the Wolfpack to 60 wins, a fairly impressive feat for a typically tumultuous head coaching position. Keatts has four wins over ranked opponents including two wins over top 25 teams.
His coaching style is very offense-focused, and the results are impressive. In his first two seasons at the helm, the Wolfpack have averaged over 80 points per game, both top 25 nationally. They’ve also beaten the Orange both years, so hopefully we can buck that trend at least.
Last Year: The North Carolina State Wolfpack went 24-12 and 9-9 in the ACC and narrowly missed the NCAA Tournament. Many considerded it a snub. Seven different players led the team in scoring at least one game last year, but Torin Dorn and Markell Johnson were the clear leaders. They lost in the Quarterfinals of the NIT to Lipscomb 94-93 to end the season.
Last Game: The Wolfpack hit the road and picked up a win over Miami, 83-72. Miami is still missing Chris Lykes, which is a pretty huge loss for the Hurricanes. But a win is a win, and for a bubble team like NC State, it was another step in the right direction.
”Fear Me, I’ve Killed Hundreds of Timelords”: NC State is a bit of a “scoring by committee” kind of team, with four players scoring 11 points or more and eight different players averaging more than five points per game. Of the group, the most dangerous are Markell Johnson and C.J. Bryce.
Johnson is averaging 13.2 points and an ACC-best 6.6 assists per game. He also boasts better than a 2:1 assist to turnover ratio and is fourth in the ACC in steals at 1.9 per contest. Basically, he is a 6-foot-1 bundle of energy who makes plays and controls the game.
C.J. Bryce is the scoring and rebounding leader on the team at 13.7 and 6.3 respectively, while shooting 36 percent from three (he averages roughly one make per game). Bryce is a tough, 6-foot-5 senior guard and a veteran leader who has helped steady the ship for the Wolfpack. He brings an aggressiveness to both ends of the court that is infectious.
If Syracuse Wins: A quality win. NC State is no slouch. They have a shot at the NCAA Tournament themselves, so a win here helps us and hurts them. It’s not enough to push us over the hump, but it gets us one step closer to our goal.
If Syracuse Loses: Another fairly insurmountable obstacle. Obviously it’s not impossible to make the tournament with a loss here, but the odds are low. It would likely require us to beat one or both of Louisville/Florida State or make a deep run in the ACC Tournament.
Fun Fact 1: In 2016 on senior night, Mike Gbinije went absolutely bananas to the tune of 34 points in a 75-66 win over the Wolfpack including a career-best eight three-pointers.
Fun Fact 2: How can we top 34 points and eight 3-pointers on senior night? How about 43 points and NINE 3-pointers on the road in overtime! That’s right, less than one year after Gbinije went bananas, John Gillon went plantain-level, scoring 43 points, including 27 in the game’s final nine minutes with the team trailing by 16. It was one of the most epic come-from-behind wins in Syracuse history in my humble opinion.