In a season full of almosts and could have beens, N.C. State does have one signature win this season. An 82-76 win over Wake Forest.
These schools will clash again on Thursday, but this time Wake is the one with something to prove... and they'll have a chance prove it on their home court...
Wake Forest (20-5, 7-5 ACC) is looking to prove to the nation that they are still the same team that started the season 16-0, earning them the nation's #1 ranking on January 19. Over a month later, the Deacons are only 4-5 in their past nine, including a 6-point loss at N.C. State.
But proving the naysayers wrong isn't Wake's only motivation right now. They are fighting for one of the ACC's coveted top four spots, which would mean a first round bye in the conference tournament. And right now, those spots are wide open:
North Carolina State (15-10, 5-7 ACC) has had a disappointing season, with close losses to Davidson, Marquette, and Florida. They have played arguably their best basketball of late, winning three of their last four, including a win at Georgia Tech, just their second road win of the year. Their only previous road win came as their first game of the year, against New Orleans.
Wake, meanwhile, has been tremendous at home this season, where they have only lost once all year. Wake has also tended to rebound from losses well this year, and they are coming off a loss at Duke last Sunday.
Despite their ability to rebound from losses well, Wake still doesn't rebound the basketball as well as they should, especially given their size. If the Demon Deacons can prevent Wolfpack offensive rebounds and play their style of fast-paced up and down games, then expect revenge to be served on Thursday night.
N.C. State, who prefers a much slower tempo, will need to focus on protecting the basketball and finding someone who can step up and be a leader on the road. State's leading scorer (Brandon Costner) averages just 14.3 PPG, lowest of any team's leading scorer in the ACC.
It will be a battle between the Wolfpack's versatility and depth against the Demon Deacons' size and speed. We've already seen Wake avenge a road loss once this season, beating Georgia Tech by 18 on February 18. And with an ACC tournament bye on the line, expect a repeat performance.