NORTH CAROLINA STATE (20-13, 10-8 ACC)
4-8 vs. RPI top 50.
KEY WINS (RPI): Duke (5), @ UNC (12), @ Louisville (21), Boise State (44)
BAD LOSSES (RPI): Boston College (161), Wake Forest (145), Clemson (103)
LEADING SCORERS: Trevor Lacey (15.8 PPG), Ralston Turner (13.2 PPG), Anthony Barber (12.1 PPG)
That North Carolina State backcourt of Lacey and Turner should look mighty familiar to LSU fans. Turner spent two years as a Tiger, leaving along with Trent Johnson following the 2011-12 NIT season. He was a solid player who has blossomed in Raleigh into slightly more than the secondary option he was in Baton Rouge, helping the Wolfpack into the NCAA Tournament last year and now again this season. Lacey is an Alabama transfer who was a starter for the Tide two years ago. Together, they've been a dynamic duo who can really spread the floor.
This matchup is quite apropos, considering that LSU and NC State have been two maddening teams this season. They've got eight losses to 100+ RPI teams between them, yet also boast a combined eight top 50 wins, 5 of them on the road. These are teams with low floors and high ceilings, though I'd say LSU's still stretch to the extremes a bit more. Good luck trying to predict this game, much less whether or not these teams have deep runs in them.
This game should be played at a high pace and with some excitement, considering both teams average at least 70 points per contest. It's a contrast of strengths, since NC State relies on that backcourt and only plays three guys above 6-6 in the regular rotation, none above 6-foot-9. They don't have a ton of size, but it doesn't hurt them much on the glass, since they rebound very effectively by committee. On the other hand, LSU obviously has the Martin/Mickey pair down low, though they've been best when at least one of the guards is a primary scoring option. Whichever team can exploit its strength better will probably have the upper hand.
Overall, it's a decent first-round matchup — not a great team but one who is battle tested. The strength of schedule is elite and the Wolfpack, like LSU, are used to close games. Given that the ratings metrics all have NC State right around the No. 40 spot (not far from LSU), the matchup is all but a tossup.