NC State gets a shot at No. 1 Syracuse

C.J. Williams and his North Carolina State teammates were

already excited about getting highly ranked Syracuse in front of a

rowdy red-clad crowd. Having the Orange rise to No. 1 in time for

Saturday’s game only adds to that buzz.

”Any time you play a top-five team, it’s a great opportunity

for you to make a statement,” Williams said Friday. ”And that’s

what we’re looking to do. We’re looking to show that we’re not just

a team that’s going to compete with you.”

It’s hardly the first time N.C. State (6-3) has faced the

nation’s top-ranked team at home. After all, Atlantic Coast

Conference rivals Duke and North Carolina are within a 30-minute

drive of campus and have brought the No. 1 ranking here 11

times.

But this is only the second time a nonconference No. 1 will play

in Raleigh. The other time came when Notre Dame edged the Wolfpack

53-52 in February 1979.

First-year coach Mark Gottfried said ”it seems like there’s a

lot of pep in the step” from his players in practice leading up to

this one.

”One thing I’ve always tried to do is understand throughout a

27- to 30-game schedule, you’ve got to treat them all the same,”

Gottfried said. ”Your approach has to be the same. So I understand

when a team becomes No. 1 in the country like they are, that raises

the stakes. Outside of that, it’s a good opportunity for our

program but it’s the next game on the schedule.”

Syracuse (10-0) hasn’t played since taking over at No. 1

following road losses by Kentucky and Ohio State. It hasn’t played

since beating George Washington at home by 35 last weekend.

It’s also the first game for the Orange outside the state of New

York.

”It is our first road game and a really good place to play, a

tough place to play,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. ”They are

a team that could have won all the games that they lost. It’s going

to be a great test for us.”

The Orange won last year’s meeting 65-59 in the Carrier Dome,

though N.C. State led by six midway through the second half before

Syracuse held the Wolfpack to two field goals in the final 10

minutes.

While most of the team returned from last year, no Wolfpack

player has ever been a part of a win against a No. 1-ranked team.

N.C. State is 5-25 all-time against No. 1, with the last win coming

at home against Duke in 2004.

The Wolfpack’s other two home wins against No. 1 both came

against the Tar Heels, in 1986 and 1995.

Williams, at least, has seen the Wolfpack succeed against highly

ranked opponents. He was a freshman when N.C. State beat Wake

Forest and a sophomore when the Wolfpack beat eventual national

champion Duke, with both teams ranked seventh at the time.

The biggest change is that this No. 1 is a future ACC member,

not a current one.

”I don’t think it’s any different, though,” Williams said,

”because No. 1 is No. 1.”

AP Sports Writer John Kekis in Syracuse, N.Y., contributed to

this report.