Greensboro, NC (SportsNetwork.com) - The 11th-ranked Syracuse Orange make their debut in the ACC Tournament on Friday, as they take on the seventh- seeded NC State Wolfpack in quarterfinal action at Greensboro Coliseum.
The winner of this game will take on either Duke or Clemson in Saturday's semifinals.
One of four teams that earned double-byes into the quarterfinals, Jim Boeheim's squad earned the second seed in this event. The Orange were the top team in the country for a few weeks, getting off to the best start in school history at 25-0. However, the team faltered down the stretch with four losses in the last six games to finish 14-4 in its first season in the ACC, two games behind league champion Virginia.
Mark Gottfried's Wolfpack needed back-to-back wins to close out the regular season just to finish at .500 in the ACC (9-9). NC State used that momentum and the benefit of a first-round bye to knock off the defending ACC champion Miami Hurricanes in Thursday's second round, 67-58.
These two teams met a the Carrier Dome on Feb. 15 in a memorable matchup that Syracuse won in the waning moments, 56-55. Syracuse has won five of the six all-time meetings with NC State.
Scoring wasn't a problem for the Wolfpack this season at 71.2 ppg on .458 shooting (fifth in the league in both categories, thanks in large part to the explosiveness of ACC Player of the Year T.J. Warren. The 6-8 youngster finished the regular season fourth nationally at 24.8 ppg. Unfortunately, there wasn't much offensive depth behind Warren, with Ralston Turner having the only other double-digit average at 10.0 ppg.
It was a tight game late, but NC State was able to create some distance from the Hurricanes and earn the nine-point win on Thursday. Warren was right on his average, going 9-of-18 from the floor to finish with a game-high 24 points. Turner had a huge game as well, hitting five 3-pointers, en route to 22 points.
Marquee victories over the likes of Villanova, North Carolina and Duke certainly justify Syracuse's standing as one of the favorites coming into this postseason. Syracuse's defensive reputation carried over from the Big East to the ACC, as the Orange dominated for the most part at that end of the floor, limiting foes to just 59.3 ppg, on .411 shooting. The team also played very disciplined basketball, averaging just 9.0 turnovers per game and boasting of a +4.5 turnover margin. Balance has been the key, with four of the team's five starters making significant contributions. First-Team All-ACC honoree C.J. Fair leads the way with 16.9 ppg, getting help along the frontcourt from Jerami Grant (12.0 ppg, 6.8 rpg). The backcourt tandem of sniper Trevor Cooney (12.5 ppg) and playmaker Tyler Ennis (12.4 ppg, 5.5 apg) is equally productive.