NC State hopes to close out the regular season with three-straight wins, followed by some kind of run in the ACC Tournament to reach 20-plus victories.
Such a scenario would ensure an NIT bid, but will leave NC State squarely on the NCAA Tournament bubble. NC State coach Sidney Lowe also knows that none of that matters if the Wolfpack don't defeat Maryland tonight at the RBC Center. The 7:30 p.m. will also air nationally on Fox Sports Net.
"There are different ways to get it [making the NCAA Tourney] done, but we try to win every game anyway," Lowe said. "Certainly doing that will help us, but we still need to take one game at a time. It certainly would be nice to win out, but we have to get the first one."
NC State hung tough with No. 13-ranked Wake Forest on Thursday before falling 85-78. WFU out-rebounded NC State 44-31, including 13-7 on the offensive end. Lowe doesn't think the sting of falling to the Demon Deacons will affect the Wolfpack today against the Terrapins.
"I feel good about our team," Lowe said. "I think we are playing well. Our last few games, we've been playing well, executing offensively, defensively we've been doing good. Now, we have to go back and get a win at home against a tough ball club. I feel good that when we take the floor, we are pretty much ready to play."
Maryland has been inconsistent throughout the ACC season, but has bee playing better of late, winning three out of its last five games, including a shocking 88-85 win over North Carolina on Feb. 21.
The Maryland lineup will be in sharp contrast to NC State's recent "big" lineup. The Terrapins essentially start two point guards in Greivis Vasquez and Eric Hayes, shooting guard Adrian Bowie, small forward Landon Milbourne and power forward Dave Neal.
Neal will likely guard NCSU center Ben McCauley, but then Milbourne will face power forward Tracy Smith, and perhaps either Vasquez or Bowie will go against 6-foot-9 Brandon Costner.
Whether Maryland adjusts its personnel or NC State does could be the game within the game.
Maryland (17-10, 6-7 ACC) at NC State (15-11, 5-8 ACC)
Game time: Today, March 1, 7:30 p.m. — Raleigh N.C.
Television: Fox Sports Net
PG — 10 Javi Gonzalez (5-11, Soph., 5.8 ppg, 1.8 rpg, 3.1 apg, 1.1 spg)
SG —4 Courtney Fells (6-6, Sr., 11.7 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 1.5 apg, 1.1 spg)
SF — 33 Brandon Costner (6-9, R-Jr., 14.1 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 2.3 apg, 1.1 bpg)
PF — 23 Tracy Smith (6-8, Soph., 9.7 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 0.6 apg)
C — 34 Ben McCauley (6-9, Sr., 12.4 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 2.0 apg, 1.0 spg)
PG — 21 Greivis Vasquez (6-6, Jr., 16.7 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 4.7 apg, 1.4 spg)
SG — 5 Eric Hayes (6-4, Jr., 9.7 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 3.3 apg, 1.2 spg)
G — 22 Adrian Bowie (6-2, Soph., 9.5 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 2.7 apg, 1.2 spg)
F — 1 Landon Milbourne (6-7, Jr., 12.7 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 0.7 apg, 1.2 spg)
C — 35 Dave Neal (6-7, Sr., 7.5 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 0.8 apg)
Location: College Park, Md.
2007-08 record: 19-15 overall, 8-8 ACC
2008 postseason: Lost to Syracuse 88-72 in the second round of the NIT
Coach: Gary Williams, 31st season overall (621-351) and 20th season at Maryland (414-225)
The all-time series with NC State: NC State leads 72-70
Last meeting: Maryland won 84-70 on Feb. 9, 2008, in College Park, Md.
Maryland: Milbourne scored 19 points in the Terrapins' loss to Duke last Wednesday, the third time in the last four games he has led the team in scoring … Maryland has hit at least one three-pointer 347 consecutive games … The Terrapins have won at least 19 games in 12 consecutive seasons … Vasquez scored a career-high 35 points and recorded the third triple-double in school history in the upset overtime win over North Carolina on Feb. 21. He had 11 rebounds and 10 assists, and scored eight of Maryland's 12 points in overtime … Vasquez has scored in double figures in 50 of his last 54 games … Hayes has shot 13 of 30 (43.3 percent) from three-point land in his last seven games … Bowie scored a career-high 23 against Miami on Jan. 14, and he had 17 against Virginia on Jan. 20.
North Carolina State: Smith is averaging 12.1 points per game and Fells 14.1 since the Wolfpack switched to a big lineup that inserted Smith at power forward and Fells back to his old shooting guard position. Smith has averaged 15.2 points and 8.2 rebounds per game over the last five games … NC State has shot over 50 percent in 11 of its last 21 games, and 53.5 percent (116 of 217) over the last four games … Gonzalez is averaging 12.3 points and is shooting 72 percent from the field (18 of 25) over the last four games … Freshman C.J. Williams has provided a lift off the bench, averaging 8.6 points while shooting 15 of 28 from the field and 9 of 18 from three-point range over his last five games … Three different players have combined for 14 double-doubles this season, which is third-best in the ACC. McCauley has eight double doubles, Costner has four and Smith has two.