Syracuse Orange vs. NC State Wolfpack Pick & Prediction MARCH 13th 2024

WASHINGTON — North Carolina State is still alive in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament after beating Louisville on Tuesday behind the stellar play of Casey Morsell.

Now, the 10th-seed Wolfpack face seventh-seeded Syracuse on Wednesday in the second round.

NC State (18-14) trailed 15th-seeded Louisville by as many as 12 points. But the Wolfpack opened the second half with a 12-4 run to take a seven-point advantage, then grew that lead to as many as 10 points. DJ Burns Jr. scored five of his 12 points during the crucial surge, while Morsell — who finished with 25 points — swished a 3-pointer.

The Wolfpack won despite allowing Louisville’s Skyy Clark to score a career-best 36 points. Clark connected on 7 of 9 3-point attempts.

While NC State won, Wolfpack coach Kevin Keatts wasn’t impressed with his side’s defensive effort.

“Neither team played any defense. We just happened to score 94 points,” Keatts said.

Keatts did, however, like the defensive punch he got from Ben Middlebrooks. The junior forward subbed in for Burns, who started but saw just 11 minutes of action.

Middlebrooks had 11 points, four rebounds, two assists and two steals in 25 minutes off the bench.

“He’s just a hard-nosed dude. He rebounds the basketball,” Keatts said of Middlebrooks. “They’re completely different. So when you get a chance to play — when I need defense, I’m typically going to go with Ben. If I need some offense, some scoring, I’ll go with DJ.”

NC State will likely need everyone to play well — and on both ends of the floor — if it wants to beat Syracuse (20-11). The Orange are motivated to boost their resume for the NCAA Tournament.

The Orange beat the Wolfpack twice this season, 77-65 at home on Jan. 27 and 87-83 in Raleigh, N.C., on Feb. 20.

Before dropping their regular-season finale at Clemson, the Orange had been surging under first-year coach Adrian Autry, winning four in a row.

“They want to win,” Autry said recently about his players. “I think they have stayed together. They don’t let anything get between them. We have some losses, and sometimes teams don’t get back from those, but this group is resilient.”

Judah Mintz leads Syracuse with averages of 18.7 points and 4.5 assists per game. He was recently selected to the All-ACC second team.

–By Mitchell Northam, Field Level Media

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