N.C. State at Florida State 2 p.m., ESPN2

NC State's incentive: an extra day off

jgiglio@newsobserver.comMarch 8, 2013 

N.C. State’s path to a bye in the ACC tournament couldn’t be any clearer.

If the Wolfpack beats Florida State on the road on Saturday it won’t have to play in the opening round of the conference tournament on Thursday in Greensboro.

An extra day off, which the Pack hasn’t had in the ACC tournament since 2006, would be a big help, coach Mark Gottfried said.

“If your goal is to win the ACC tournament championship, obviously you want to play the least amount of games possible to do that,” Gottfried said.

“We’ve put ourselves in position, by winning six of the last seven, where now we’ve got an opportunity to potentially help ourselves.”

N.C. State (22-8, 11-6 ACC) has won six of its past seven games, with the past four wins all by double digits.

The Wolfpack still needed help to get to this point and got some, coincidentally, from FSU (16-14, 8-9) on Thursday. Senior guard Michael Snaer’s three-point play with 4.4 seconds left gave the Seminoles a 53-51 home win against Virginia. The loss knocked the Cavaliers to fifth place in the ACC at 10-7, a game behind N.C. State.

The Wolfpack could still finish as high as the No. 3 seed with a win against FSU, plus a Duke win at North Carolina on Saturday night.

In that scenario, N.C. State would have the tiebreaker with UNC based on the Wolfpack’s home win against Duke on Jan. 12.

If N.C. State and UNC win, the Tar Heels would be the No. 3 seed and the Wolfpack the No. 4 seed.

Miami and Duke have already clinched the top two seeds, respectively, and UNC has clinched an opening-round bye.

The Wolfpack would finish fifth if it loses on Saturday and then Virginia wins on Sunday at home against Maryland. The Wolfpack could also back into the No. 4 seed with a loss at FSU and a Virginia loss to the Terrapins.

Virginia owns the tiebreaker over N.C. State due to its home win over the Wolfpack on Jan. 29.

As the No. 5 seed, N.C. State would have to play the No. 12 seed on Thursday in Greensboro.

Since the ACC added a play-in round in 1993, the Wolfpack has had to play in the opening round 13 times in 20 seasons – the most of any ACC team.

While other major conferences have had teams win four, and even five, games in the conference tournament, no ACC team has won four games in four days for the league title.

N.C. State was the first ACC team, in 1997, to play four games in four days in the conference tournament, and it did it again in 2007. Both times, the Wolfpack lost to a fresher UNC team in the title game.

The Wolfpack was the No. 5 seed in last year’s tournament in Atlanta and beat Boston College and Virginia to improve its NCAA tournament resume.

“There’s a lot of ways to look at it,” Gottfried said. “Last year, we played on Thursday and it didn’t hurt us, it might have helped us, who knows.”

This year, Gottfried would prefer the path of least resistance which, after a late push and a little help, is under the Wolfpack’s control.

Giglio: 919-829-8938

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