|N.C. State, Seton Hall battle in first round|
Seton Hall takes a veteran team into the NCAA Tournament looking to break through in the postseason.
North Carolina State didn't appear to have postseason credentials when the campaign began, but the Wolfpack figured out things in the first season under coach Kevin Keatts.
The teams will meet in Thursday's first round at Intrust Bank Arena in Wichita, Kan., with quite a bit still left to prove.
"To go from being preseason picked 12th in the ACC to an at-large selection for the tournament is a great accomplishment," Keatts said. "It has been a very rewarding season, but we still have a golden opportunity to build on it."
Seton Hall (21-11) is seeded eighth in the Midwest Region and N.C. State (21-11) is slotted ninth. Both teams have six victories against teams in the NCAA Tournament field, though both also were one-and-done in their respective conference tournaments.
N.C. State is back in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in three years. Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard has his team in the tournament for the third straight year.
"We're very focused on the fact to take the last two experiences and learn from them," Willard said. "These guys know how good North Carolina State is. I think that experience has helped them understand that anyone you play in the tournament is going to be really good."
N.C. State enters the tournament with losses in two of its last three games. But along the way, the Wolfpack have knocked off highly regarded teams such as Arizona, Duke and North Carolina.
"Our body of work is pretty good when you think about what we've done in a short amount of time and look at winning," Keatts said. "You know, I'm excited for these guys for the opportunity. (This tournament is) going to be the last time that the seniors get a chance to play together."
The only common opponent is Louisville. Seton Hall won a road game Dec. 3 against the Cardinals, while N.C. State closed the regular season March 3 with a home victory against Louisville.
N.C. State relies on a pressing defense and the Wolfpack also have been strong in 3-point shooting at times in addition to using the presence of sophomore post player Omer Yurtseven.
"Their guards are so good," Willard said. "They play four guards. Handling their pressure (will be critical)."
This is the third time Seton Hall has been a No. 8 seed, winning the other two times in the first round. Last year, the Pirates with a No. 9 seed, fell to Arkansas in the opening round.
Senior guard Khadeen Carrington said he hopes that a steady diet of clashes with Big East Conference teams, including No. 1 seeds Villanova and Xavier, prepared the Pirates for various styles.
"I think we've seen every type of team we can see so I think that's going to help us," Carrington said.
N.C. State is 3-2 all-time against Seton Hall, though the teams haven't met in 10 seasons.
This marks Seton Hall's first ACC opponent in the NCAA Tournament other than Duke.
The winner meets top-seeded Kansas or Pennsylvania in Saturday's second round.