Another buzzer beater in March Madness ensued Thursday night as Beejay Anya's lefty hook hit off the rim but stayed true for the 66-65 thriller. The gargantuan big man came off the bench to progress the Wolfpack to the Round of 32. However, they'll face the most versatile team in the nation on Saturday.
Villanova, as expected, routed in-state foe Lafayette a game after winning their first Big East Tournament in 20 years. With the contest out of reach at the half, the Wildcats continued the onslaught en route to a 93-52 victory. As expected, the balance 'Nova has displayed all season was in effect Thursday. Six scorers reached double figures with Dylan Ennis adding a game-high 16.
Here are a few factors fans can expect to witness come Saturday, as both teams look to advance to the Carrier Dome next week.
1. Backcourt Production for NC State
The trio of top scorers for the Wolfpack can hang with the perimeter threats for Villanova. Trevor Lacey and Ralston Turner, both transfers, have added scoring production while giving NC State that boost to make it to the tournament. Lacey's college journey started at Alabama but has the opportunity to cap off his career with a signature victory. He leads the team in scoring with 15.6 points per game.
Turner, averaging a career high 13.1 points per game, matches up against against Dylan Ennis and Josh Hart covering the wings. The Muscle Shoals product will need to bring the muscle against the Wildcats on the glass while stopping drives to the rim in order to complete the NC State upset.
2. Villanova on the Boards
Jarell Martin and Jordan Mickey dominated on the boards in NC State's win over the LSU Tigers on Thursday. Lacey can not lead the team in rebounds for the second straight game if the Wolfpack look to advance. The Wildcats rely on the tandem frontcourt of JaVaughn Pinkston and Daniel Ochefu to provide length, interior production and toughness.
Out of the eight man rotation Villanova utilizes, just Ochefu and Pinkston are true post players. NC State averages four more rebounds per game and second chance opportunities could be aplenty for the Wolfpack. Whether it be a collective effort or from their duo, 'Nova has to control the rebound battle to hang with NC State and advance to the Sweet Sixteen.
3. Who Emerges From the Flames
Before their convincing victory of Lafayette in the second round, Villanova was 1-4 in their last five NCAA Tournament games. The Wildcats haven't been to the second weekend of March Madness since 2009. As the heavy favorites, Villanova has their best team since the 2009 Final Four push. The third round defeat at the hands of the would-be champion UConn Huskies, last year, is an afterthought to what to expect from this year's version of the Wildcats.
The pressure falls on NC State to complete a monumental upset. Similar to 'Nova, the Wolfpack are looking to advance to the Sweet Sixteen for their first time since their run in 2012. Mark Gottfried hopes to make that breakthrough, but controlling Villanova is as hard of a task to perform as their is in college basketball. The Wildcats are versatile, but the Wolfpack have the necessary talent to make some noise.