(8) N.C. State vs. (9) Temple
(8) North Carolina State Wolfpack
At this time last year, the Wolfpack (24-10, 11-7) was one of the hottest teams in the country. They ended up advancing to the Sweet 16, but with the vast majority of that team back and a great recruiting class coming in, the belief was that their potential would be even higher this year. Even though they have more talent, they’ve struggled against elite competition, which has tempered expectations for them going into this year’s big dance. The Wolfpack are a top 15 team in the country offensively, scoring 77 a night even without the three-point shot being a big part of their arsenal and being inconsistent at the free throw line. However, defensively they’re one of the worst teams in the field, surrendering 70 points on average. That was while playing the 36th most difficult schedule in the country, though. With C.J. Leslie, Richard Howell and T.J. Warren on the frontline, the Wolfpack will feast against smaller teams who don’t have the size to match up with them. While this team has the makings of one that could be a very tough out if they pick up their defensive intensity and shoot the ball well enough from outside, they cannot afford to get into any kind of serious foul trouble as they don’t have much depth.
(9) Temple Owls
At the end of the regular season, the Owls (23-9, 11-5) were one of the hottest teams in the Atlantic-10. They ended up getting upset in the first round of the conference tournament, but thanks to their 42nd ranked RPI and 4-3 mark against the top 50 they were able to get their 31st invitation to the big dance in school history. In senior guard Khalif Wyatt, who has steadily improved over the last four years, the Owls have one of the best scorers in the nation as he averages just under 20 a night to go along with his team high 4.1 assists. He leads an Owls’ offense that scores 79.2 a night, which was good for sixth in the country. They take good care of the basketball and make seven threes on average. The Owls strength of schedule ranked 62nd, but they know what it’s like to play against the elite as they faced off against Duke and beat Syracuse. For the Owls to play through the opening weekend for the first time since 2001 they have to execute offensively like they are capable of and try to avoid teams who can really hurt them on the inside.
HOOPSWORLD’s Pick: N.C. State. The Wolfpack have underachieved all season long, but we’re expecting the best out of them now that it’s tournament time.