Florida State’s Bacon vs. N.C. State’s Smith: must-see TV

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Two of the Atlantic Coast Conference’s marquee players

will collide Wednesday night at the Donald L. Tucker Center when North Carolina State visits No. 14 Florida State.

In one corner, there is the Seminoles sophomore guard Dwayne Bacon, the catalyst for Florida State’s amazing season who leads the team in scoring and highlight-reel plays.

In the other corner, N.C. State counters with freshman guard Dennis Smith Jr. He is the fifth-leading scorer in the ACC at 19.1 points per game and has been one of the only bright spots for the Wolfpack (14-10, 3-8 ACC).

Just behind Smith? Bacon at No. 9 with an average of 17.6 points a game for Florida State (20-4, 8-3).

Seminoles coach Leonard Hamilton said his team is very aware of how dangerous Smith is.

“The guys with his kind of ability come along once a decade,” Hamilton told the school’s official website. “He has the whole package. The strength, the quickness, the speed, the ability to create his shot, create for others. And (he) is also athletic enough to take it to the basket and finish.”

Hamilton could just as easily be talking about Bacon, who has a 33-game double-figure streak going dating back to last season and is a finalist for the Julius Erving Award. He is 42 points shy of becoming one of the fastest players in Florida State history to reach 1,000 career points.

Bacon tied his career high of 29 points his last game out when Florida State routed Clemson 109-61 at home Sunday, running their string of home wins to 15 in a row this season and 18 in a row dating back to last season.

Bacon hit six 3-pointers in the win against the Tigers, and he was pulled from the game with just under five minutes to play and the result in hand.

“I knew it was going to be a special day,” said Bacon, who has hit 46 3-pointers already this season, 14 more than he had all of last season. “I was feeling it from deep all game.”

Both Bacon and Smith are expected to be NBA Draft lottery picks after the season, with some draft analysts predicting Smith could go as high as top five. However, their teams enter this game headed down different paths: Florida State has won two straight, while the Wolfpack have dropped three in a row.

For Florida State, the game is a chance to stay in the top of the ACC standings, while for N.C. State, it is another opportunity to pull an upset and add to the list of surprising wins the Wolfpack already have against Virginia Tech and Duke.

N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried thinks his team is just a few plays from being a lot better than its record.

“We’re a team that is playing hard, we’re competing hard. And we’ve got to figure out how to get over that hump,” Gottfried said. “It’s not catastrophic. We’re right there, and our guys competed really hard. But we’ve got to be able to make some plays in all those areas that will give us a chance to have a different outcome.”

Wednesday will mark the only meeting of the season between the two teams, with Florida State having won their most recent matchup 77-73 on Feb. 1, 2016.

N.C. State leads the all-time series 30-24.