On Tuesday night, the NC State Wolfpack faced off against the Xavier Musketeers for the honor to move on to the Round of 64 and serve as potential bracket busters as a No. 12 seed. Based on the exceptional performance that the Wolfpack put in during a 74-59 victory, it is clear the team is set to make a run to the Sweet 16.
Ot was obvious that NC State was the superior team to Xavier as guards Tyler Lewis and Ralston Turner set the tempo of the game right from the get-go. On the interior, Jordan Vandenberg had a magnificent game as he blocked four shots and generally ensured that Xavier was held to the outside while shooting the ball.
And to add icing on the cake, ACC Player of the Year T.J. Warren had a predictably dominant game, picking up 25 points, five rebounds, three steals and two assists, taking over the game in the second half when NC State most needed it.
While beating up on Xavier is not exactly something to write home about, this performance builds on a trend of NC State showing up when things count the most. The Wolfpack had to win four out of their last five games just to make it to the NCAA tournament, and a victory over Syracuse in this stretch showed the world that they can keep up with even the best team, especially when Warren is dominating the scoreboard.
As NC State prepares to face off against St. Louis, there is no doubt that Warren will ultimately be the deciding factor in whether the team remains competitive or not. However, it is hard to bet against the sophomore and the Wolfpack at this point.
Warren has now averaged 30.2 points per game over the last six games, and after watching their destruction of Xavier, it could be argued they are the favorite heading into the Round of 64 game. This is one team you don’t want to face right now.