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March 21, 2013
DAYTON, Ohio — Thirty years ago, in this very tournament, Jim Valvano and North Carolina State made history, riding a swell of emotion and momentum to one of the most memorable championship runs in the history of the NCAA Tournament.
Coach Mark Gottfried, now in his second season, and the Wolfpack had their own special run last year, overcoming a late-season four-game losing streak to earn an at-large bid to the Big Dance, where they upset San Diego State and Georgetown to make their first Sweet 16 since 2005.
Although NC State failed to make the field in the five seasons leading up to his hire, Gottfried is no longer satisfied to simply make the tournament.
The Wolfpack, pegged as the No. 6 team in the country in both the Associated Press and USA Today coaches' preseason polls, finished 24-10 overall and 11-7 in the ACC.
After visions of conference titles and high seeds in the NCAA Tournament, the Wolfpack entered the field of 68 as an eight seed - with a potential matchup against No. 1 seed Indiana in the round of 32.
But Gottfried and company are looking at this as an opportunity for validation of this year's squad.
"The expectation rose really high [after last year], and that's nothing we're ever going to shy away from," Gottfried said. "Hey, that's where we were picked, and we didn't meet that this year, didn't meet it.
"And our guys have a lot of pride. I think they've done some amazing things in two years, but this year needs to be its own year, and they know that. Every team is different. This team is different than last year in a lot of ways. It's been different from the first day we got together, and I think they can draw on the experience, the veteran players, but they have to make their own history, this group.
"This is your time for this particular team ... These guys need to create their own mark, their own history, their memories from this particular team."
The Wolfpack kick off their tournament slate Friday afternoon vs. No. 9 seed Temple.
The Owls are 23-9 on the year and have proven they can hang with just about anyone in the country, having upset Syracuse 83-79 in December.
Temple senior guard Khalif Wyatt ranks No. 17 nationally in scoring, averaging 19.8 points per game, and the Wolfpack will definitely be keeping tabs on him.
"We know [Wyatt] likes to get it and go, and he's capable of making big‑time plays," junior forward C.J. Leslie said. "We have to be aware of him at all times on the court. That's the main thing."
"I think he's very crafty when he's dribbling the ball," added junior guard Lorenzo Brown. "He's one of the craftiest guys I've seen this year. My main goal when guarding him is to keep him out of the paint. I know he can shoot pretty well, but once he get in the paint, he can draw a foul or dish the ball to any of his players, and they're pretty good shooters. If I can do that, it would help our team out."
Gottfried is confident that Brown can match up with Wyatt defensively.
"Lorenzo isn't a big, thick, strong, heavy kind of guard, but he's very intelligent," Gottfried said. "He's got long arms. He's another guy that can find ways to get a deflection late in the game right when you need it or a steal. His size helps him, at 6-5.
"And he's had to guard some really good guards this year. We've played Marcus Smart at Oklahoma State and [Michigan's] Trey Burke and [Virginia Tech's] Erick Green and [Miami's] Shane Larkin. The list goes on and on of some awfully talented guards, and he's done a pretty good job against most of them. Obviously, he's got to do that again tomorrow."
Wyatt could cause problems for Wolfpack, but on the other end, NC State's size will surely be tough for Temple to handle.
The Owls' starting five boasts just one player taller than 6-6: sophomore forward Anthony Lee, and his status for the game is questionable after he fainted and had concussion-like symptoms during last weekend's A-10 Tournament.
N.C. State will look to get the ball inside to Leslie, senior forward Richard Howell and freshman forward T.J. Warren early and often.
"I think it's real big for us to take advantage of that," Howell said. "They definitely lack in size, and that's something we want to use to our advantage."
"We definitely want to be very aggressive on both ends of the court as far as with the height and size matchup from both teams," added Leslie.
Wolfpack Reflect On 'Survive And Advance'
The ESPN 30 For 30 documentary about N.C. State's 1983 championship run, entitled "Survive And Advance," broadcast earlier this week, and it has a lot of people talking about Wolfpack basketball
"There's been a lot of anticipation [for the tournament]," senior wing Scott Wood said. "The '30 for 30' segment got everybody excited and ready for the tournament. Especially on Twitter and social media sites, you see guys commenting on it and how excited they are for State basketball to be back in the tournament and hopefully we can bring success like they did."
"I think most of them watched the show that came out, the '30 for 30,' which was just fabulous," added Gottfried. "There's so much tradition and history and so much reference regularly around our school to 1983. Now this year it's different because it is a 30th year anniversary, but that was magical. It was magical for NC State.
"What Jimmy V. did and the run they had and how impossible it was and all the things that had to happen for them to win, it was an amazing thing. So our guys know about it. They watched the show. But I think they're interested in making their own history.
"They tasted it last year a little bit. They wanted to do something special. So they're certainly aware of all that, but I think they're interested in trying to make their own mark right now."