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Know Thy Enemy: NC State

We spoke to our friends (frenemies) over at Backing The Pack to discuss the huge tilt tonight at the Joel between Wake Forest and NC State.

Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

As we said earlier in the week, this is virtually a must-win for both teams. Here at BSD, we have building this game up as a do-or-die match-up for our NCAA Tournament chance. Our dearest friends in Raleigh have said the same as well.

To gain a greater perspective on what NC State thinks about this colossal game between two bitter rivals, we brought in our friend Will Thompson (follow here) from Backing The Pack. He dissected the Wolfpack's team this year and the significance We spoke to our friends (frenemies) over at Backing The Pack to discuss the huge tilt tonight at the Joel between Wake Forest and NC State.of tonight's game.

1. Cat Barber, now averaging 20 points and 5 asts per game, is the bonafide star and All-ACC candidate. What makes him so lethal with the ball in his hands?

Cat's quickness, first and foremost. When he can get into transition, he's one of the best guards in the ACC. He's also rebounding really well this season, and he can easily turn a missed shot into a quick run up the court for two. State has needed him to deliver, particularly with Terry Henderson out for the indefinite future, and for the most part this season he has.

2. Because of Ralston Turner's graduation and Trevor Lacey's surprising declaration for the draft, NC State lost their top two scorers from a Sweet 16 team. Outside of Barber, who has stepped up and how have these losses trimmed the Wolfpack depth?

Abdul-Malik Abu is playing really well, and has had several double-doubles this season. I'd like to see him be even more aggressive around the rim, however.

The Martin twins have also stepped up, in particular Caleb Martin, though he has been a bit streaky. Due to the injury to Henderson, Maverick Rowan has had to play significant minutes this season. The kid has no fear, I'll give him that, though sometimes he can take some pretty poorly timed shots. But, all of this playing time he's getting now will be incredibly valuable later in his career.

3. Right now, Wake Forest's most dominant and consistent player is center Devin Thomas, who leads the ACC in double-doubles. How do the Wolfpack defend the physical and nifty senior in the paint and on the glass?

Definitely to try and frustrate him. Though he's been much better about it this season, Thomas has a tendency to lose his cool sometimes. If State can get under his skin with some aggressive defense from BeeJay Anya and Abu, that should bode well for the Pack. If they allow Thomas to get going early and establish himself in the paint, well, it's going to be a long evening in Winston-Salem for the team in red.

Though they ultimately lost to Louisville, State rebounded the ball very well in that game, despite the fact that it seems like everyone on the Cardinals is 6'8" or taller, and State only played 7 guys. That should help them be prepared for Thomas, who's an absolute monster on the glass.

4. NC State and Wake Forest are both in a similar position. They are in the middle-tier of a deep ACC and opened conference play 0-2. Given the talent throughout the conference, do you think it's fair to characterize this game as a "must-win" for both sides to reach the NCAA Tournament?

In all honesty, if State loses this game, they're pretty much toast when it comes to the NCAA Tourney, if they aren't already. The one thing that both teams have going for them is that the ACC seems to be real weird this year. Hell, UVA has lost back to back conference games to VT and GT. Who saw that coming? Given the stretch that State has coming up after this game (FSU, @UNC, @Pitt, Duke), it's imperative that the Pack win this game, absolutely. Wake also has a difficult stretch of games coming after this one, with 3 of 4 on the road, so they really need this win, too.

5. PREDICTION TIME: How do you see this game playing out and what's your prediction?

It's been a real weird season for State so far. Losing Henderson early in the year has been pretty devastating to the offense and to the overall depth of the team. If Cat Barber isn't on 100% and getting some help from someone else, it's real hard for this team to win. Wake's played some great games this season, and Danny Manning has done a lot to get this team pointed in the right direction after the titanically bad Bzdelik era. I like Devin Thomas to have a big game, and I think these two teams will keep it close early before Wake ultimately pulls away. Deacs win, 74-68.