ACC Basketball: N.C. State to host No. 1 Syracuse today
By Aaron Beard
RALEIGH ó C.J. Williams and his North Carolina State teammates were already excited about getting highly ranked Syracuse in front of a rowdy red-clad crowd. Having the Orange rise to No. 1 in time for todayís game only adds to that buzz.
ěAny time you play a top-five team, itís a great opportunity for you to make a statement,î Williams said Friday. ěAnd thatís what weíre looking to do. Weíre looking to show that weíre not just a team thatís going to compete with you.î
Itís hardly the first time N.C. State (6-3) has faced the nationís top-ranked team at home. After all, Atlantic Coast Conference rivals Duke and North Carolina are within a 30-minute drive of campus and have brought the No. 1 ranking here 11 times.
But this is only the second time a nonconference No. 1 will play in Raleigh. The other time came when Notre Dame edged N.C. State 53-52 in February 1979.
First-year coach Mark Gottfried said ěit seems like thereís a lot of pep in the stepî from his players in practice leading up to this one.
ěOne thing Iíve always tried to do is understand throughout a 27- to 30-game schedule, youíve got to treat them all the same,î Gottfried said. ěYour approach has to be the same. So I understand when a team becomes No. 1 in the country like they are, that raises the stakes. Outside of that, itís a good opportunity for our program but itís the next game on the schedule.î
Syracuse (10-0) hasnít played since taking over at No. 1 following road losses by Kentucky and Ohio State. It hasnít played since beating George Washington at home by 35 last weekend.
Itís also the first game for the Orange outside the state of New York.
ěIt is our first road game and a really good place to play, a tough place to play,î Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. ěThey are a team that could have won all the games that they lost. Itís going to be a great test for us.î
The Orange won last yearís meeting 65-59 in the Carrier Dome, though N.C. State led by six midway through the second half before Syracuse held the Wolfpack to two field goals in the final 10 minutes.
While most of the team returned from last year, no Wolfpack player has ever been a part of a win against a No. 1-ranked team. N.C. State is 5-25 all-time against No. 1, with the last win coming at home against Duke in 2004.
The Wolfpackís other two home wins against No. 1 both came against the Tar Heels in 1986 and 1995.
Williams, at least, has seen the Wolfpack succeed against highly ranked opponents. He was a freshman when N.C. State beat Wake Forest and a sophomore when the Wolfpack beat eventual national champion Duke, with both teams ranked seventh at the time.
The biggest change is that this No. 1 is a future ACC member, not a current one.
ěI donít think itís any different, though,î Williams said, ěbecause No. 1 is No. 1.î