During an appearance on CBS Sports Radio last week, Jon Rothstein said that No. 1 Villanova would have its hands full if it had to face NC State in the Round of 32. In fact, he said the Wildcats would get “extremely tested and extremely, extremely pushed to the wire.”
Well, Rothstein was right. No. 8 NC State handled the top-seeded Wildcats on Saturday, leading for much of the game and hanging on for a 71-68 victory.
“I was curious – and I said this to you guys last week watching the Big East Tournament – how the Big East would do against teams from other conferences that had comparable or better talent,” the CBS Sports college basketball insider said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “And I really thought that if there were no jerseys on the court when NC State played Villanova that people would think NC State was the better team. And I think watching that game, you see the level of separation between the fifth- and sixth-best teams in the ACC versus the best team in the Big East.
“And look,” Rothstein continued, “I have spent a lot of time the last couple of summers on the AAU circuit following players, and a lot of those players have wound up at NC State. Now, they were a mercurial team throughout the year, but I knew that they were capable, and I knew that they were exceptionally, exceptionally big.”
Indeed, Villanova had no answer for NC State forwards Lennard Freeman and Abudl-Malik Abu, who both recorded double-doubles. Freeman had 11 points and 12 rebounds, while Abu had 13 points and 12 rebounds.
“I thought the key to that game was Abdul-Malik Abu’s ability to stay on the court defensively,” Rothstein said. “The freshman was quick enough on defense not to get beat when Villanova went small. Mark Gottfried, who has a couple of times in his career saved his best for the NCAA Tournament, has NC State in the Sweet 16.”
The Wolfpack (22-13) will face No. 4 Louisville (26-8) this Friday at 7:37 p.m. ET.
NC State beat then-No. 9 Louisville on the road, 74-65, on Valentine’s Day. Louisville was out-rebounded, 47-37.
“The Cards are a different team than they were obviously probably three weeks ago,” Rothstein said. “I was texting with Rick Pitino last night after the Cards beat Northern Iowa, and he said the biggest difference right now in Louisville has been Quentin Snider, the freshman point guard. Remember: Chris Jones was kicked off Louisville’s team about a month ago. Quentin Snider, a highly touted freshman – but an unproven freshman – stepped in.”
Snider has played 72 minutes in the NCAA Tournament. He has 26 points on 10-of-19 shooting – including 4-of-7 from three point range – to go with nine rebounds, three assists and just two turnovers. He scored double figures against both UC Irvine and Northern Iowa.
“All of a sudden right now, Montrezl Harrrel (and) Terry Rozier have another guy that can score,” Rothstein said. “And he’s not turning it over.”
Friday’s winner will advance to the Elite Eight to play the winner of No. 3 Oklahoma versus No. 7 Michigan State.