Syracuse-NC State Preview
Off-court issues have not caused Syracuse to stumble. A bigger challenge could be its upcoming first true road test.
Back atop the AP poll for the first time in two seasons, the Orange look to remain undefeated when they take their initial trip out of the state of New York on Saturday night to face North Carolina State.
With an 85-50 victory over George Washington last Saturday coupled with losses by then-No. 1 Kentucky and No.2 Ohio State, Syracuse (10-0) earned its first No. 1 ranking since a one-week appearance late in the 2009-10 season.
"We're proud to be No. 1 in the country,'' coach Jim Boeheim said. "It's an honor but obviously in today's world you could only be there until your next game if you're not careful.
"We have played well but we have to play better. It's a great challenge and we're looking forward to it.''
The Orange continue to brush aside any potential distraction stemming from the investigation of former assistant coach Bernie Fine, alleged to have molested two former ball boys.
"Young kids constantly have different things going in their lives,'' Boeheim said. "They have the ability to focus on things they have to do and they get it done."
Boeheim's squad has averaged 80.1 points while winning its first 10 games by an average margin of 22.8. Seven players are averaging at least 6.7 points, led by senior forward Kris Joseph's 13.7 per game.
"We have really good balance," Boeheim said. "I think that's important to have a great team. Hopefully we'll get better.''
Key reserve Dion Waiters, averaging 11.9 points per game, had 19 as the Orange starters played limited minutes against George Washington. Syracuse went 32 of 64 from the field while holding the Colonials to 30.6 percent shooting and forcing 18 turnovers.
The Orange should have a tougher time Saturday. The only other occasion Syracuse left campus was last month when it beat Virginia Tech and Stanford at Madison Square Garden to win the NIT Season Tip-Off.
"We know we'll have a bull's-eye on our back," senior guard Scoop Jardine said. "It's going to be tough."
Jardine had 23 points, six rebounds and six assists to help Syracuse improve to 3-1 all-time against North Carolina State with a 65-59 home win last December.
Though the Wolfpack (6-3) have dropped six straight games against ranked opponents, they were victorious the last time the nation's No. 1 team visited Raleigh - 78-74 over neighboring ACC rival Duke on Feb. 15, 2004.
Syracuse is the first top-ranked non-conference opponent to play at N.C. State since 1979, when Notre Dame beat the Wolfpack 53-52.
"Definitely excited for the Syracuse game," junior forward Scott Wood told N.C. State's official website. "We need to come out strong."
The Wolfpack avoided a third straight loss and improved to 5-1 at home with a 65-60 win over North Carolina Central on Sunday. C.J. Williams scored 21 points and Wood added 19 as N.C. State overcame a season-low 37.0 percent shooting effort and 16 turnovers.
Leading scorer C.J. Leslie (12.8 ppg), who was held to a season-low three points Sunday, had 13 with 11 rebounds at Syracuse a year ago. Wood scored 18 in that contest.
The Orange and Wolfpack will be regular opponents when Syracuse joins the ACC.