NO. 8 NORTH CAROLINA STATE VS. NO. 4 LOUISVILLE
■ SITE: Carrier Dome, Syracuse, N.Y.
■ TV: 4:37 p.m., TBS (7)
■ LINE: Louisville -2½; total 130
■ STORYLINE: The Sweet 16 has a distinct Atlantic Coast Conference flavor to it, so perhaps it’s fitting that Louisville and North Carolina State are meeting with an Elite Eight bid at stake. Six ACC schools gained entry to the NCAA Tournament and went a combined 11-1 during the first weekend, with only Virginia falling short. Louisville advanced to the regional semifinals for a program-record fourth straight time with Sunday’s 66-53 victory over Northern Iowa.
“I couldn’t be more pumped up, more excited because we beat such a great team. (The Panthers are) a shooting version of Virginia in terms of the way they play, and that’s the highest compliment I can give a team,” Cardinals coach Rick Pitino said.
The Wolfpack also made history last weekend, ousting No. 1-seeded Villanova for their first victory over a top seed since accomplishing the feat twice during their last national championship season in 1983. N.C. State prevailed in its only meeting against the Cardinals this season, gaining a 74-65 victory at Louisville on Feb. 14 that ended a 1-5 slump and ignited the Wolfpack’s current 8-2 stretch.
■ ABOUT NORTH CAROLINA STATE (22-13): The Wolfpack received clutch play by two young forwards in the upset of Villanova, getting double-doubles by freshman Abdul-Malik Abu (13 points, 12 rebounds) and sophomore Lennard Freeman (11 points, 12 rebounds), more than doubling their season averages in both categories. “They were relentless rebounding the basketball; that was the difference for us offensively,” coach Mark Gottfried said. Anthony Barber (12.3 points, 3.7 assists), who Pitino credited for “dominating the game” after scoring 21 points during the teams’ Feb. 14 meeting, is averaging 15.8 points in his last 13 games after failing to reach 16 in all but three of his first 21 games.
■ ABOUT LOUISVILLE (26-8): Freshman Quentin Snider (3.8 points) has replaced suspended senior guard Chris Jones in the starting lineup and averaged 13 points and 4.5 rebounds during the Cardinals’ two NCAA Tournament wins. “I don’t know what we expected from Quentin Snider; we didn’t expect this, to be honest with you. He doesn’t get nervous at all, he’s a cool customer … and he’s gotten a lot better defensively,” Pitino said after the Northern Iowa victory. Leading scorers Terry Rozier (17.2 points) and Montrezl Harrell (15.4) were held to seven points apiece Feb. 14 — the only game this season in which both players were held to single figures.
1. This game marks the fourth ever contest between ACC schools during the NCAA Tournament and the first since Duke defeated Maryland in the 2001 Final Four.
2. N.C. State has won the last three times it has faced Louisville, but dropped each of its last three games in the Sweet 16.
3. Louisville is 51-9 all time in the NCAA Tournament as the higher seed.
■ PREDICTION: N.C. State 70, Louisville 63