UNC Asheville and Morehead State both played in the NCAA basketball tournament last year. N.C. State did not.
That's as clear of a message as new Wolfpack coach Mark Gottfried needs to get his team's attention for its first two games of the season.
The Wolfpack hosts UNC Asheville, the Big South champions, today at the RBC Center and Morehead State, the Ohio Valley winners, on Sunday.
"We're going to get challenged early and I think it's something that this team needs," Gottfried said.
Gottfried inherits a team that went 15-16 last season under Sidney Lowe and hasn't been to the NCAA tournament since 2006.
The Bulldogs return four starters from a team that won 20 games last season, including one in the NCAA tournament. Coach Eddie Biedenbach is a former N.C. State assistant and an All-ACC guard for the Wolfpack in the mid-1960s.
The Bulldogs open the season with the Wolfpack today and a visit from No. 1 North Carolina on Sunday, the first game at the new Kimmel Arena.
For UNC Asheville guard Josh Seligson, a redshirt sophomore from Raleigh, it's a dream start to the season.
"It's a big opportunity for us," said Seligson, a walk-on for the Bulldogs from St. David's in Raleigh. "We had a great season last year and we feel like we have a chance to do something special this year."
The Bulldogs, led by guards J.P. Primm and Matt Dickey, beat Arkansas Little Rock 81-77 in overtime last year in the "First Four" of the NCAA tournament before losing to top-seeded Pittsburgh.
Morehead State beat Louisville in its opening-round game of the NCAA tournament last March. The Eagles have to replace forward Kenneth Faried, a first-round pick, and guard Demonte Harper but return three starters from a team that won 25 games.
N.C. State beat Flagler College 102-61 on Monday. The Wolfpack returns three regular starters from last season and four of its top six scorers.
Gottfried hasn't coached since the middle of the 2008-09 season at Alabama. He worked the past two seasons as an analyst for ESPN.
Gottfried, who was hired in April, has gotten off to a fast start on the recruiting trail. Three top 75 players - guard Tyler Lewis, guard Rodney Purvis and forward T.J. Warren - signed on Wednesday.
Gottfried has been cautious about expectations for his first N.C. State team but said after Monday's game that he was excited for the season to begin.
"I could be sitting on the other side over there, eating popcorn and calling the game for TV, so I'm fired up about it," Gottfried said. "I think we are ready to play a game."