On Friday afternoon the ninth-seed Temple Owls will tangle with the eighth-seed NC State Wolfpack in the East Region's second round of the NCAA Tournament at the University of Dayton Arena.
The Owls have become rather comfortable in the NCAA Tournament as they are one of eight teams (Duke, Gonzaga, Kansas, Louisville, Marquette, Michigan State and Wisconsin) making their sixth straight appearance in the event. Temple has made 31 total appearances in the tournament with a pair of Final Four runs (1956, 1958) and seven trips to the Elite Eight. This season the Owls are sporting a 23-9 overall record after having won seven-straight games to close out the regular season before being upset by Massachusetts in the A-10 Tournament.
The Wolfpack are making back-to-back trips to the NCAA Tournament after a five-year hiatus. Despite the at-large bid, NC State didn't live up to expectations this season as it was the favorite to win the ACC title. However, a stretch in which the team lost five of seven in January sank those hopes. The Wolfpack began to pick up the pace down the stretch with wins in five of six games before an 81-71 setback against eventual champion Miami in the ACC Tournament.
NC State won the first six meetings with Temple, but the Owls finally got in the win column in the last meeting, a 76-54 rout in 2003. The winner of this game will take on either top seed Indiana or 16th-seed James Madison in the third round.
Against UMass, Temple fell behind 65-64 with 5:22 left in the second half and just could not reclaim the advantage as the Owls lost a tightly contested battle. The Owls hit just 36.7 percent from the field after halftime while the Minutemen made good on 54.5 percent from the floor.
Poor shooting from Khalif Wyatt really hurt the Owls against UMass as he hit just 4-of-19 shots from the floor. The Owls will need Wyatt (19.8 ppg, 4.1 apg), who was the A-10's leading scorer and Player of the Year, to find his stroke on Friday if they hope to advance. Wyatt can knock down shots from anywhere on the floor and is really the only player that can create his own shot. Scootie Randall (11.8 ppg, 6.1 rpg) is a solid second option, while Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson (8.9 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 3.2 apg) is an extremely versatile forward. Leading rebounder Anthony Lee (10.0 ppg, 7.0 rpg) is suffering concussion-like symptoms heading into the tournament but is expected to play.
Despite 21 points and six 3-pointers from Scott Wood, the Wolfpack didn't have enough to upset Miami in Saturday's ACC semifinals. NC State suffered a 37-27 deficit on the boards in the contest and allowed the Hurricanes to put in 15 points off 14 turnovers.
Getting the ball in the basket has been no issue for NC State this season. The Wolfpack rank fourth in the nation in field-goal percentage (.494) and rank among the top 15 teams in the country in scoring (77.5 ppg). The Wolfpack have enjoyed production up and down the roster as the only team in the country to have five players scoring at least 12 points per game. Leading the way is forward C.J. Leslie (14.9 ppg, 7.4 rpg) who despite his thin frame has no issue getting into the paint and producing. Lorenzo Brown (12.1 ppg, 7.2 apg) holds the keys to the high-octane offense at the point, while Richard Howell (12.7 ppg, 10.7 rpg) is a double-double waiting to happen. Wood (12.7 ppg) adds to the scoring deluge and is a lethal shooter from long range.