One of these teams is about to be 0-4 in the ACC.
The media pegged both Florida State (10-5, 0-3) and NC State (10-6, 0-3) as contenders for that middle-of-the-pack in the ACC, but both teams are off to 0-3 starts in conference play. FSU, for their part, has played the 2nd most difficult schedule in the early going, but the Wolfpack do not have the same excuse, as their strength-of-schedule is No. 9. They have road losses at Virginia Tech and Wake Forest, with a home loss to Louisville sandwiched in between.
This came after a disappointing out of conference slate which began with a home loss to William and Mary. That loss would have been very concerning even if it didn't include losing starter Terry Henderson to torn ankle ligaments seven minutes into his season.
Now the Wolfpack are trying to right the ship, and they host Florida State in a game that is nearly a must-win for each team.
NCSU basically has a 7-man rotation, led by junior PG Cat Barber. Barber - the consensus No. 25 recruit in the nation - is averaging 22.9 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 5.0 assists per game, and he's playing more minutes than any other high major player in the nation. He's the 2nd best player in the conference at getting to the line, drawing 7.2 fouls/40 minutes. Seven times this year he's attempted 11 or more in a game, with a high of 22. He also might be the quickest player FSU sees this season.
Top-50 Freshman Maverick Rowan scores 12.9 per game. He attempts nearly seven 3s per game, but makes less than 33%. At 6-7 he's able to shoot over a lot of perimeter players.
Sophomore Malik Abdul Abu (another top-50 recruit) provides some bulk on the interior that FSU will have a hard time matching without Phil Cofer, who is out for the year. Abu, at 6-8 240, is big and physical, scoring 11.9 per game.
They also have the Martin twins (both top-75 recruits), and Caleb is scoring 11.9 per game. The 6-7 sophomore takes even more 3s than Rowan, and makes 33.6%.
The good news, on the 3-pt front, is that Rowan, Barber (31%) and Caleb Martin are the only players who really shoot them. Those three have accounted for over 96% of NCSU's attempted 3s.
The Wolfpack have a weird offense, and are 247th in 3-pt% and 278th in 2-pt%. But they don't turn the ball over (15th nationally), are great on the offensive glass (18th), and get to the line (51st). This all adds up to the 63rd ranked offense in the nation.
Defensively, they've been a bit of a mess (105th), largely because they don't force turnovers (300th), and are only an average defensive rebounding team (139th).
The key for FSU is not to let the first three losses cost them another game. They've been tight at the beginning of games, and really need to get off to a good start in order to build their confidence.
The game tips at 9 PM and will be broadcast regionally on the ACC network. Check your local listings. NCSU is a 2-point favorite in Vegas, while Pomeroy has NCSU by 3.