The No. 8 seed Wolfpack will open Thursday vs. No. 9 seed LSU in Pittsburgh. It is the first all-time meeting between the two schools. The NC State-LSU winner will advance to play the winner of Villanova-Lafayette on Saturday.
THE STARTING FIVE
Mark Gottfried has coached the Wolfpack into the bracket for a fourth consecutive year. NC State is the No. 8 seed in the East Region, playing in the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh against 9th-seeded LSU. NC State enters the Big Dance having won six of its last eight games, with four of those wins coming by double figures and a nine-point win at Louisville.
NC State will be making its 26th NCAA Tournament appearance all-time and its second appearance as a No. 8 seed. The Pack was also a No. 8 in 2013, when it was edged by Temple in Dayton, Ohio.
2. ‘March' Gottfried
Under Mark Gottfried, NC State has thrived in college basketball’s most exciting month. The Wolfpack is 17-9 in March under the fourth-year coach, including a 3-3 mark in the NCAA Tournament. Gottfried is one of three ACC coaches all-time (Roy Williams, Skip Prosser) to take each of his first four teams to the NCAA Tournament. NC State is also one of just 16 teams to appear in the Big Dance in each of the last four seasons. Gottfried, in his 18th seasons as a college head coach, is coaching in the tourney for an 11th time.
3. Prepared For The Big Dance
Few teams across the nation are as prepared as Mark Gottfried’s Wolfpack. NC State played the nation’s sixth-toughest schedule leading up to Selection Sunday, with its non-ACC schedule ranking 30th and its league schedule ranking 15th.
The Pack played 17 games against teams in the top 70 of the RPI and ended up with seven wins against top 70 teams (Duke, Louisville, Boise State, Pitt, Louisiana Tech, Richmond and UNC-CH, Syracuse) while losing only three times to teams worse than 100 in the RPI.
4. NC State-LSU Connections
There are two prominent connections between NC State and LSU. The first is the fact that Ralston Turner, NC State’s second-leading scorer, played two seasons and started 58 games at LSU (2010-12) before transferring to NC State in 2012. The second is the long-time friendship between the two head coaches.
LSU’s Johnny Jones served as an assistant coach to Mark Gottfried for the 2000-01 season at Alabama for a team that won 25 games and made the NIT semifinal.
5. We Have Cat Daddy
NC State will have starting point guard Cat Barber when it starts NCAA Tournament play. Barber was injured when he was blindsided by a screen in the second half of State’s ACC tourney game vs. Duke. That happened one night after Barber dropped 34 points against Pittsburgh on March 11. The sophomore posted 9-for-13 shooting and was 4-for-5 from 3-point range. He was also 12-for-12 at the foul line. Despite the injury, Barber was voted second team All-ACC Tournament.
PUT IN LENNARD!
NC State fares well when Lennard Freeman plays big minutes. The Wolfpack boasts a 10-1 record this season when Freeman plays at least 24 minutes. Freeman was a key piece to the win over Pittsburgh, chipping in with 9 points and 6 rebounds and playing his usual solid defense. Freeman averaged 30.3 minutes per game over NC State’s three March wins before its loss to Duke.
4-2 VS. HALL OF FAME COACHES
Mark Gottfried and the Wolfpack have claimed wins over four coaches currently in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. Gottfried has mentored the Wolfpack to wins over Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski, Louisville’s Rick Pitino, North Carolina’s Roy Williams and Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim.
Gottfried is the nation’s only coach this season to defeat four hall of fame coaches.
TREVOR AMONG THE ACC’S BEST
Trevor Lacey’s play is critical to the Wolfpack on the court. As a result, his name is littered all over the ACC leaderboards.
Lacey, a finalist for the Jerry West Award, currently ranks sixth in the league in scoring (15.8), third in 3-point percentage (.398), sixth in 3-pointers made (2.25), seventh in assist-turnover ratio (1.83) and fifth in minutes played (35.6).
NC STATE WHEN TREVOR GIVES BUCKETS
Trevor Lacey has produced eight outings with 20+ points, and NC State is 7-1 in those games. The only loss came on Dec. 20 to West Virginia, a game the Pack lost but got 24 points from Lacey. NC State owns a 6-2 record when Lacey makes seven or more field goals and 8-4 when he makes three or more 3-pointers.
BIGGEST SHOT OF THE YEAR
One could point to Trevor Lacey’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer in overtime at Georgia Tech on Jan. 31 as the turning point to NC State’s season. The Pack, 4-5 in ACC play at the time, trailed Georgia Tech 80-76 in the final moments before Lacey scored five points, culminating with a trey to win the game.
GOTTFRIED VS. LSU
Mark Gottfried played and coached at Alabama and recorded a 12-9 record vs. LSU as a head coach. As a Crimson Tide player (1984-87), Gottfried’s Alabama teams went 6-1 against the Tigers.
NC State tied for first in the nation by playing 20 home games, and Pack fans came out to PNC Arena in big numbers. Home attendance totaled 308,726, the highest mark since the 1999-00 season. NC State’s home attendance average of 15,436 ranked 12th in the country. When you only count State’s 18 games at PNC Arena, the game average is 16,565.
NC State is second in the ACC with 5.30 swats per game, trailing just Louisville (5.50). NCSU is led in this area by ACC blocks leader BeeJay Anya, who averages a league-best 2.64 rejections per game. This season, the Pack has 10 outings with seven or more blocked shots.
BEEJAY’S BLOCKS WATCH
BeeJay Anya is second on NC State’s single-season blocks chart with 87. State’s single-season blocks record is 95 by Thurl Bailey (1983). For his career, BeeJay has blocked 133 shots, fifth on NC State’s all-time career blocks list.
Ralston Turner and Trevor Lacey have both surpassed the 1,000-point marks for their careers this season. Turner hit the mark in the season opener vs. Jackson State and now has 1,433 career points. Lacey reached 1,000 points at Georgia Tech and now owns 1,153 career points.