The Orange will play its first game as the No. 1 ranked team in the country as it travels to North Carolina to play the Wolfpack on Saturday night.
COACHING CHANGES: There has been some skepticism at NC State with the hiring of Mark Gottfried to replace the outgoing Sidney Lowe. For starters, Gottfriend wasn’t the first choice to head the team. That honor went to VCU’s Shaka Smart before Smart removed his name from consideration. Then, there was Gottfried’s last head coaching job at Alabama, where he resigned in the middle of the 2008-09 season following the controversial mid-season depature of star guard Ronald Steele and two straight years of missing the NCAA tournament. But Gottfried has had success in his coaching career, including two SEC West titles and a spot on Jim Harrick’s coaching staff when UCLA won the national championship in 1995. So far, Gottfried’s return to coaching has been mixed, with losses to Stanford, Indiana and Vanderbilt. But all three teams are expected to be dancing come March, and the Wolfpack did defeat Texas on Nov. 21.
SCOUTING THE WOLFPACK: NC State is a balanced team, with six players averaging 9.8 points or more. Keep an eye out for 3-point specialist Scott Wood, who to date has shot 56.8 percent from downtown. There’s also sophomore CJ Leslie, who briefly toyed with the idea of declaring for the NBA draft last season. The former McDonald’s All American is the team’s leading scorer at 12.8 points a game.
IN NORTH CAROLINA STATE’S LAST GAME: The Wolfpack snapped a two-game losing streak by edging North Carolina Central 65-60 on Sunday. Although NC State never trailed, and led by as many as 15, the Eagles pulled to within three points with eight seconds left. But NC State hit its free throws to hang on.
HISTORICALLY SPEAKING: Syracuse last played NC State on Dec. 4, 2010, with the Orange winning 65-59 at the Carrier Dome. Rick Jackson paced SU with 16 points, eight rebounds and four steals. This will be the fifth meeting between the two teams, with the Orange currently holding a 3-1 record.
GAME INFORMATION: Saturday, Dec. 17, 6:30 p.m. Raleigh, NC. TV: ESPN2.