Busting Brackets

NC State vs Marquette: 2023-24 NCAA Tournament game preview, TV schedule

Mar 24, 2024; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Marquette Golden Eagles forward Oso Ighodaro (13) celebrates
Mar 24, 2024; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Marquette Golden Eagles forward Oso Ighodaro (13) celebrates / Robert Goddin-USA TODAY Sports

We’ll get Marquette facing off against NC State in a highly-anticipated Sweet Sixteen showdown; can the Wolfpack continue their wild run or do the Golden Eagles persist?

TV schedule: Friday, March 29, 7:09 pm ET. CBS
Arena: American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas

A postseason afterthought just two weeks ago, NC State (24-14) has been on just an incredible run. The Wolfpack won five games in five days to even make the Big Dance as ACC Tournament champions. It’s a stunning left turn after a rough end to their season, but NC State has kept winning in the NCAA Tournament, taking care of business against Texas Tech and Oakland.

Former Winthrop star D.J. Burns Jr. (12.8 ppg, 4.1 rpg) has been a star for the Wolfpack during this run and has been a force in the paint on both sides of the ball. NC State leans heavily on DJ Horne (16.7 ppg, 3.3 rpg) on the offensive end as well. Slender big man Mohamed Diarra (6.4 ppg, 7.7 rpg) is an impressive rebounder and shot blocker who’s made a certain impact in recent weeks, while Casey Morsell (11.4 ppg, 2.8 rpg) is a senior guard with plenty of experience and potential to wreak havoc this week.

The lowest seed left in the Big Dance, 11-seed NC State is down at #53 in the KenPom ratings, thirty spots below every other Sweet Sixteen team. The Wolfpack aren’t the type of team that’s going to beat you from long-range, but they take care of the basketball and have been playing on another level, especially on the offensive end. Can they continue this hot streak against yet another high-level opponent?

That particular opponent is Marquette (27-9), a fantastic Big East team that’s looked elite the last two seasons. The Golden Eagles have been ranked among the top teams in the nation for much of the year and have showcased their talent. They played without a few injured starters down the stretch, but came away with NCAA Tournaments win over Western Kentucky and Colorado last week.

Games were missed by Tyler Kolek (15.3 ppg, 7.9 apg), last year’s Big East Player of the Year who has become one of the nation’s most prominent point guards. The leading scorer for the Golden Eagles is Kam Jones (17.1 ppg, 2.9 rpg), whose brilliant play during Kolek’s absence helped keep this team afloat in early March. In the frontcourt the eyes will be on Oso Ighodaro (13.6 ppg, 6.8 rpg), a menacing big able to put up big numbers while fellow forward David Joplin (11.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg) is always a threat to pop off.

Marquette is just 13th in KenPom, with both their offense and defense in decent shape in the advanced metrics. The first two Tourney games have seen their interior offense doing most of the work, though Marquette’s outside shooting game has carried them to several wins this season. It’ll be interesting to see what kind of performance this defense gives against a Wolfpack team that’s playing inspired basketball with nothing to lose.

On paper, we always lean the obvious way in a matchup between a 2-seed and an 11-seed but it’s not as simple as that. There might not be a team on a hotter streak than these Wolfpack and they certainly aren’t playing like an 11-seed. At the same time, Marquette didn’t exactly put Colorado away until the very end of that game. It’s not crazy to think that Marquette could drop this game.

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NC State has to run out of energy and luck at some point, though they’ve had nearly a week of rest since last week’s festivities. Bringing the energy is only one part of this game. Marquette just needs to play smart, fluid basketball on both sides of the ball and they’ll be in the Elite Eight for the first time in over a decade. All eyes will be on how that interior offense fares against Burns and company, though we’re feeling that the Golden Eagles will find a way.

Prediction: Marquette 84, NC State 75