ACC Tournament 3rd Round
NC State vs. Syracuse
7pm | Greensboro, NC | ESPN/ACCN
This is the game Pack fans had been eyeing. As the season played out, it was obvious that the Wolfpack’s best chance to get into the big dance was to finish with a 7th seed in the ACC. That would net them a game against a lower seed (which ended up being Miami) and then a rematch with Syracuse (who they feel they can beat.)
The Orange is a team that is hard to read right now. They have lost four of their last six and are still ranked #11. This would be the signature win the Pack has been needing. Let’s take a closer look at this matchup:
Last meeting with the Orange
One huge factor in the first game was the play of TJ Warren. Usually we talk about his scoring, but in this one it was his defense that was the key for State. He held CJ Fair to only 11 points and really kept him off balance all night. They need to focus on that again, but this time out the Pack should make sure Jerami Grant (who went for 12 pts and 14 boards last time) and Rakeem Christmas (14 points, 12 boards) don’t get off. Those two guys were monsters in the paint and were the real reason Syracuse stayed in the game (oh, and also the massive FT discrepancy in the 2nd half).
I tried to get through this without mentioning the need for Warren’s scoring, but it’s not possible. State needs Warren to be big tonight on the offensive end. He needs to get inside that zone and knock down mid-rangers. He’s got the perfect game to attack this ‘soft in the middle’ zone. This is likely Warren’s last go-round so you can believe he’ll be out there going 110%.
Attack the zone
Last time out the Pack did a great job of getting to the middle of the Syracuse zone. They used Kyle Washington to get in the middle and create havoc. He finished with a huge game that night, scoring 14 points and grabbing 10 boards. They’ll need that again, however it’s likely that Syracuse will pinch in a little and try to make Washington a little more uncomfortable. This will open up some shots from the arc, an area that State has been constantly improving late in the season.
They key for State should still be to infiltrate that zone and score in the paint, but knocking down a few 3s certainly wouldn’t hurt. They only shot 29% from the arc in the last meeting.
Rebounding is key
Syracuse is huge and they can really hurt you on the glass, but last time out State matched their physicality and their will in the paint. In the end the difference between the teams was only 1 rebound. Vandy is coming off a big game, so State will certainly welcome that, but the key today is whether or not Washington and Warren can replicate what they did last time out.
We mentioned that Syracuse has lost 4 of their last 6 games, but they did just smash FSU to close their season. In that game they were animals on the boards and CJ Fair did whatever he wanted. Fair actually has been really good as of late, scoring 50 over his past 2 games. Ennis, Grant, Christmas and Cooley have all been off and on. State does matchup well with this team, but can not afford to come out soft or come out cold.
Gottfried is a great late season coach and the team was fired up yesterday. With a possible tournament bid on the line tonight, you should expect this team to come out with a ton of fire and thirst for redemption.
NC State NET Rankings Report After Syracuse Loss
NC State lost to Syracuse 83-87 last night, and as a result, the Wolfpack fell 5 spots in the NET Rankings to #80. The Orange moved up 6 spots to #84.
NC State is now 9th in the ACC in the NET rankings.
For a refresher on how the NET Rankings are calculated:
Using the quadrant system, which was in its fourth season in 2020-21, the quality of wins and losses will be organized based on game location and the opponent’s NET ranking.
Quadrant 1: Home 1-30, Neutral 1-50, Away 1-75
Quadrant 2: Home 31-75, Neutral 51-100, Away 76-135
Quadrant 3: Home 76-160, Neutral 101-200, Away 135-240
Quadrant 4: Home 161-353, Neutral 201-353, Away 241-353
The number of Quadrant 1 wins and Quadrant 3/4 losses will be incredibly important when it comes time for NCAA tournament selection and seeding. (NCAA)
Thoughts on NC State’s 83-87 Loss to Syracuse
NC State’s (16-10/8-7) 83-87 loss to Syracuse this evening might have been the nail-in-the-coffin when it comes to the Wolfpack’s NCAA Tournament aspirations. They were barely on the bubble as it was, but this game and the next two games against Boston College and Florida State were “must wins.” On top of that, the Wolfpack probably needed to beat Pitt in the regular season finale, and beat either Duke or UNC.
With this loss, NC State will need a miracle. They will need to win the rest of their regular season games, which concludes with 3 consecutive Quad 1 games.
In regards to this evenings game, it’s hard to beat a team when you allow them to shoot 61.3% in the first half, and allow a guy who averages 11.3 points per game (Chris Bell) to sink 8 of 9 three’s at the halfway mark. Sure, you could make the excuse that they were just hitting everything they threw up, but the defense was lackluster, and they failed to adjust to a player with a hot hand.
What I’m about to say isn’t meant to describe a moral victory for NC State. With that being said, this team didn’t give up, and clawed back from a 15-point halftime deficit (16-point at one point in the 2nd half), to take a 1-point lead with 3:15 left in the game. That was the first time the Wolfpack had led since it was 2-0.
Senior DJ Horne was sensational once again, scoring 25+ points for the 5th straight game, matching what Cat Barber did back in 2015-16. Horne finished with 32 points, hitting 11 of his 20 field goal attempts, and an insane 6 of 8 from three.
Could you argue that Horne was fouled on the last play? I guess, but I wouldn’t have called it.
Three other Wolfpack players scored in double figures: Ben Middlebrooks (12), DJ Burns (12) and Jayden Taylor (10). Honestly, they all shot well. Middlebrooks had a double-double, with 10 rebounds.
Mohamed Diarra was solid with 7 points (3-6) and 8 boards.
Syracuse came back to reality in the second half, and ended up shooting 51% from the field, but the Wolfpack shot 47%. Both teams shot well. In fact, NC State actually scored more points off of turnovers, had more second chance points and had more free throws.
You simply can’t put yourself in a position to dig yourself out of a 16-point deficit. You can’t allow a guy to make 8 of 9 three’s in the opening half, with 6 of them being practically uncontested.
The Wolfpack have lost 3 of the last 4, and all 3 losses have been by 4 points or less. I wouldn’t say the Pack lost any of those three games due to a lack of effort. Rather, I would say it was primarily due to inconsistency, a lack of discipline and poor decisions in timely moments (Jayden Taylor’s TO with 1:13 left with the game tied).
With Wake Forest beating Pitt tonight, a Wolfpack win would have put them in 4th place in the ACC.
A big missed opportunity for the Pack this evening.
NC State 83 Syracuse 87: BOX SCORE
DJ Horne is Looking to Continue His Streak of 20+ Points or More
NC State is trying to stop a 6-game losing streak to Syracuse tonight, but Senior Wolfpack Guard DJ Horne is trying to continue a streak.
Currently, Horne has scored 20+ points in 5 straight games, which is tied with what Terquavion Smith did last year. If Horne scores 20+ points tonight, his 6-game streak will be the longest since 2015-16, when Cat Barber strung together 7 straight games of 20+ points.
Horne also has scored 25+ points in 4 straight games. If he does so again tonight, he will be the first player to do so since Barber did so in 2015-16, when he scored 25+ in 5-straight games.
What Horne has done in his coming home campaign has been nothing short of remarkable. He is shooting 43.4% from three, which ranks 2nd in the ACC. In his last 18 games, Horne is shooting 46.6% from deep. In ACC play, Horne is averaging 19.3 points per game, which ranks 2nd in the conference.
Here’s what Horne’s numbers look like over his 5-game streak of 20+ points: 26.6 points/51.8 FG%/48.8 3PT%.