NC State (21-13) vs. Xavier (21-12)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Tuesday, March 18, 9:10 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: University of Dayton Arena (13,409) -- Dayton, Ohio. Television: TruTV. NCAA Tournament Record: NC. State 34-21, Xavier 21-23. Series Record: First-ever meeting.
GAME NOTES: In an NCAA Tournament first-round matchup that will determine which team gets the 12th seed in the Midwest Region of the bracket, the ACC's NC State Wolfpack and Big East's Xavier Musketeers will battle it out for the vacant position Tuesday at UD Arena in Dayton.
The winner advances through the first round and will clash with the fifth- seeded Saint Louis Billikens.
NC State made some waves in the ACC Tournament over the weekend by defeating Miami-Florida and then Syracuse to advance to the conference's semifinal round. The Wolfpack were taken down by Duke, 75-67, and were considered one of the most on-the-fence teams when it came to the tournament's selection.
Xavier narrowly edged out Marquette in the Big East Tournament's quarterfinal round, but lost to Creighton, 86-78, in the semifinals. The Musketeers will need to prove their way into the field of 64.
This will be the first-ever meeting between NC State and Xavier. Each team has a deep history in the NCAA Tournament, however. The Wolfpack own a 34-21 all-time record in the tournament, and were present in last season's round of 64. Xavier comes in at 21-23 all-time, and made it to the Sweet 16 back in 2012.
NC State and Duke had quite the battle going in Saturday's ACC Tournament semifinal, as the Blue Devils had just a one-point lead over the Wolfpack at the end of the first half. But Duke's defense stepped it up in the second frame by holding the Wolfpack to 35.5 percent shooting from the floor as the Blue Devils ended NC State's quest for a conference title. T.J. Warren has been spectacular this season, and is now the program's all-time leader in a single season with 29 20-plus point contests. He had 21 with eight rebounds to lead the Wolfpack against Duke (his 17th consecutive 20-point game), while Lennard Freeman chipped in 13 points with nine boards and Anthony Barber scored 12 in the loss. N.C. State couldn't keep Duke from netting 57.1 percent of the team's shot attempts in the game.
Warren's beastly season has led to much acclaim as he could very well enter the NBA after this season, earning ACC Player of the Year. The athletic forward is averaging an astounding 24.8 ppg for the Wolfpack, proving to be the go-to scorer when a basket is needed. He also leads the team with a 7.2 rpg average, and adds 57 steals to his season resume. Ralston Turner is the only other player on the Wolfpack roster to average a double-digit point total, netting 10.2 ppg. Barber tops the squad with 124 assists, and BeeJay Anya leads with 40 blocked shots. NC State averages 70.8 ppg through 33 games played, and gives up 69.5 ppg to opponents.
Things looked bad for Xavier early on against Creighton in the Big East Tournament semifinals, as the Bluejays took a 45-33 lead into the intermission. But the Musketeers formed a comeback attempt in the second period, and started to cut into the lead as time went on. However, Creighton, behind the nation's leading scorer Doug McDermott and his 32-point effort, was able to fend off Xavier down the stretch. Forward Isaiah Philmore scored a career-high 23 points for Xavier, while Semaj Christon chipped in 18 points with six assists in the loss. Justin Martin added 12 points before he fouled out of the contest.
Christon, who has had his name mentioned in NBA talks as well, leads the Musketeers in scoring on the season with a 17.1 ppg average, netting 47.7 percent of his shots from the floor. He adds 138 assists on the year (second to Dee Davis's 147), and leads the team with 44 steals. Martin contributes 11.8 ppg for the Musketeers, and center Matt Stainbrook, who missed some time at the beginning of the conference tournament with a strained calf, adds 10.4 ppg with a team-leading 7.3 rpg mark. Xavier averages 72.2 ppg and allows 67.9 ppg to opponents.
This matchup is intriguing as two teams from power conferences collide for the first time in their histories. The Cincinnati-based Xavier team gets the home- state advantage, but it seems no one can contain Warren. He'll need some help to get past a solid offensive team like the Musketeers, but NC State (4-1 in its last six games) will rise to the challenge.
Sports network Predicted Outcome: NC State 76, Xavier 71
03/18 10:30:55 ET