NC State will get a fresh start today against San Diego State in the NCAA Tournament.
The coaches have been diligently preparing for the Aztecs, and admit it's nice to play someone new. The Wolfpack won't know everything about the Aztecs, but that's an equal trade-off to being somewhat of an unknown as well.
"It's going to be a lot different," NCSU sophomore point guard Lorenzo Brown said. "Just coming out and seeing a team that you've never seen before, and I haven't even seen them on TV. I hear they are pretty good. You can't take anybody lightly."
The conference battles create a different dynamic. NC State played North Carolina three times before bowing out in the ACC Tournament semifinals last Saturday. San Diego State lost to New Mexico for the second time out of three games in the Mountain West Conference Tournament title game.
NC State won't know San Diego State like New Mexico does, but then the Aztecs won't know the Wolfpack the same way the Tar Heels did.
"You get into your league tournament, by then, as soon as they call a play, we are calling out the play to our team before they get the call past half court, and vice-versa," NC State coach Mark Gottfried said.
NC State believes one of the by-products of escaping ACC action will be a faster-paced game. San Diego State finished fourth in the Mountain West Conference with 71.2 points per game, while allowing 63.2. Opponents shot only 40 percent from the field against the Aztecs. NC State averaged 73.6 points per game and 46.3-percent shooting.
NCSU senior shooting guard C.J. Williams is looking forward to getting out and running, and playing someone new. He'll likely be tasked with chasing around San Diego State junior shooting guard Chase Tapley, who ranked second in the MWC with a scoring average of 15.7 points per game.
"You come in and you might not see this team at all during the year, but you might have one common opponent," said Williams, who watched San Diego State play Boise State in their league tournament on TV. "That is part of the NCAA Tournament, just surviving and advancing."
Gottfried pointed out that every team in the ACC knows to pick up junior small forward Scott Wood as soon as he gets off the team bus. No doubt Wood will be a point of focus for the San Diego State players, but maybe there will be a few slip-ups because of unfamiliarity.
"I think where that helps you is a guy like [junior small forward] Scott Wood right now," Gottfried said. "It's a little bit like getting out of jail. He's free to move around. They don't necessarily know everything we are doing like everybody in our league does. That will be positive."
Williams and the Wolfpack have gotten used to playing close, contested games, and expect another battle Friday.
"By this time of the year, it's who has more of a will to win," Williams said. "Who can make a play down the stretch, and who cuts down on their mistakes. Everybody has seen everybody a little bit."
San Diego State preview
No. 11 seed NC State (22-12) vs. No. 6 seed San Diego State (26-7)
Game time: Friday, March 16, 12:40 p.m. — Nationwide Arena, Columbus, Ohio
PG — 2 Lorenzo Brown (6-5, 189, Soph., 12.7 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 6.4 apg, 1.8 spg)
SG — 21 C.J. Williams (6-5, 224, Sr., 10.6 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 1.8 apg, 1.1 spg)
SF — 15 Scott Wood (6-6, 175, Jr., 12.5 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 1.7 apg)
PF — 5 C.J. Leslie (6-8, 209, Soph., 14.6 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 1.1 apg, 1.1 spg, 1.6 bpg)
C — 1 Richard Howell (6-8, 250, Jr., 10.7 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 1.1 apg, 1.0 spg)
San Diego State
PG — 2 Xavier Thames (6-3, 195, R-Soph., 10.3 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 4.2 apg, 1.0 spg)
SG — 22 Chase Tapley (6-3, 195, Jr., 15.7 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 2.2 apg, 1.8 spg)
SF — 11 James Rahon (6-5, 210, R-Jr., 8.8 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 0.8 apg)
F — 21 Jamaal Franklin (6-5, 195, Soph., 17.2 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 1.5 apg, 1.0 spg)
C — 10 Tim Shelton (6-7, 240, Sr., 5.3 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 1.6 apg)
Scouting San Diego State
Location: San Diego, Calif.
2010-11 record: 34-3 overall, 14-2 MWC
2011 postseason: Lost 74-67 to UConn in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament
Coach: Steve Fisher 442-241 overall (21st year) and 258-159 at San Diego State (13th year)
Series: First meeting
San Diego State notes
Franklin was named the Mountain West Player of the Year, and finished first in the league in scoring and fourth in rebounding. The 6-5, 195-pounder has averaged 23 points and 10.3 rebounds over his last six games, and has 12 double-doubles for points and rebounds this season (including nine in his last 14 games). He hit the game-winning shot against both UNLV and Boise State this season, with the latter in the Mountain West Conference tournament … Tapley is the lone returning starter from last year's team. He finished second in the league behind Franklin in scoring (15.7), and third in steals (1.8). The 6-3, 195-pounder has hit at least two three-pointers in 22 of his last 35 games. He had a career-high 28 points and went 8 of 10 from three-point range in a 77-67 loss at Baylor on Nov. 15. Tapley has scored at least 20 points in nine games, and had five three-pointers and 25 points against New Mexico on the Mountain West Conference title game March 10. He earned second-team all-MWC honors … The 6-3, 195-pound Thames, a Washington State transfer, averaged 10.3 points and 4.2 assists per game in his first season for the Aztecs. He is also is a great free-throw shooter, averaging 83.3 percent overall and 90.7 in league games. Thames scored a season-high 22 at New Mexico on Jan. 18 in SDSU's lone victory against the Lobos in three tries. He struggled in the MWC title game, going 1 of 6 from the field for four points and added four assists … Redshirt junior wing James Rahon transferred in after a successful first year at Santa Clara. The 6-5, 210-pound three-point shooter averaged 8.8 points and 2.7 rebounds per game, and is averaging 32.5 percent from beyond the arc this season. He shot 43.4 percent from three-point land last year off the bench for the Aztecs. Rahon had a season-high 22 points in a 69-67 home win over UNLV on Jan. 14, and has reached double figures in 12 games … Senior Tim Shelton has battled knee issues, but was first-team all-defense in the Mountain West Conference. The 6-7, 240-pounder averaged 5.3 points and 4.7 points per game … San Diego State defeated No. 15-seeded Northern Colorado and No. 7-seeded Temple last year, before falling to eventual national champion and third seed Connecticut in the Sweet 16 … Coach Steve Fisher has guided SDSU to three Mountain West regular season titles and four conference tournament championships. He was named the 2011 and 2012 Mountain West co-coach of the year … San Diego State has won 69 straight games when leading with five minutes to play. The Aztecs have allowed one opponent over its last 50 games to shoot at least 50 percent from the field.