N.C. State looks to test top-ranked Syracuse

Feb. 15, 2014 @ 11:17 AM

Duke, North Carolina and N.C. State are each in Atlantic Coast Conference action Saturday. No. 8 Duke hosts Maryland, UNC welcomes No. 25 Pittsburgh and N.C. State visits top-ranked Syracuse.

A look at five things to watch in the ACC this week:

GAME OF THE WEEKEND: North Carolina State at No. 1 Syracuse. Behind ACC scoring leader T.J. Warren, the young Wolfpack (16-8, 6-5) have been one of the league's hotter teams, winning five of six while pushing themselves onto the NCAA tournament bubble. Syracuse (24-0, 11-0) needed a Tyler Ennis 35-footer at the buzzer against Pittsburgh to remain unbeaten. While the top-ranked Orange's 2-3 zone has been completely unfamiliar for many of its new conference mates, N.C. State has faced it twice in the previous three seasons.

LOOKING AHEAD: They'll try to play the league's top rivalry — Duke-North Carolina — again on Thursday night after the game was postponed due to a severe winter storm that dumped snow, ice pellets and freezing rain throughout the Triangle. Both teams play twice before then, with the No. 8 Blue Devils (19-5, 8-3) taking on Maryland and Georgia Tech and the Tar Heels (16-7, 6-4) facing No. 25 Pitt and Florida State.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Ennis not only saved Syracuse's undefeated start against Pitt, he's been a key for the Orange all season. The four-time ACC rookie of the week leads the league in assists (5.7) and steals (2.2) and is second in assist-turnover ratio. And then there was the 35-footer that kept the Orange perfect — a miracle shot that earned a congratulatory phone call from Vice President Joe Biden and of which teammate C.J. Fair said he "came up with a play to go down in history."

INSIDE THE NUMBERS: Virginia's unexpected rise might have been the league's biggest success story — had Syracuse not won its first 24 games. With a victory Saturday at Clemson, the 17th-ranked Cavaliers (20-5, 11-1) will match their best start to ACC play since the 1981-82 team also opened 12-1 behind Ralph Sampson. Coach Tony Bennett's team also will match a school record with 16 straight home wins if they beat Notre Dame on Feb. 22.

ON THE WOMEN'S SIDE: The three top-10 ACC teams behind front-runner Notre Dame square off against each other. No. 3 Duke plays No. 9 Maryland and No. 10 N.C. State in the next seven days. The Blue Devils, who are coming off an 11-point loss to rival North Carolina, host the Terrapins on Monday night and the Wolfpack on Thursday night.