You wanted more upsets? You got a big one. The first No. 1 seed has fallen in this year’s tournament.
Villanova was uncharacteristically awful from the field on Saturday night, and No. 8 NC State took advantage. Mark Gottfried’s team earned the win, 71-68, holding on despite a late rally from the abnormally erratic Wildcats.
As a result, the Wolfpack move on and will play in the Sweet 16 next Friday in Syracuse, NY. NCSU will meet the winner of Louisville-Northern Iowa, who will play on Sunday in Seattle.
The Wildcats, who some thought weren’t deserving of a No. 1 seed, take on just their third loss of the season here. A team that was so good on offense couldn’t find its groove against the Wolfpack. VU averaged 76 points, 16 assists and 47 percent shooting this season. But on Saturday night, NC State rattled Villanova to 31 percent shooting from the field and just seven assists.
And Gottfried’s team still controlled everything even though it only turned Villanova over five times. The rebounding performance between the two teams was stark. And even though Villanova clawed toward getting a lead back in the final three minutes, in truth NC State didn’t muck itself up. It made big plays, hit a few key shots — Cat Barber, Abdul-Malik Abu and Trevor Lacey all made about six huge plays apiece in the second half — and never let Villanova take over the game.
It was extremely impressive.
For the Wolfpack, an incredible run here. NCSU was picked 10th in the ACC in the preseason. It had bad losses (Clemson, Wake Forest, Boston College) but also proved it could beat the best when it knocked off Duke on Jan. 11 then won at North Carolina on Feb. 14.
And now it’s going to be one of the final 16 teams standing — at least.