Busting Brackets

Texas Tech vs NC State: 3 keys to NCAA Tournament 1st round matchup

After earning the autobid, NC State looks to keep the win streak going, taking on Texas Tech in a 6 vs 11 matchup in the South Region of the NCAA Tournament.
North Carolina v NC State
North Carolina v NC State / Greg Fiume/GettyImages

After earning the autobid, NC State looks to keep the win streak going, taking on Texas Tech in a 6 vs 11 matchup in the South Region of the NCAA Tournament.

TV schedule: Thursday, March 21st, 9:40 pm ET (Approx). CBS
Arena: PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

One of the "bid thieves" from last week was NC State (22-14), who went from nearly losing to Louisville in the first round of the ACC Tournament to winning five straight games to win the ACC Tournament a trip to the Big Dance. They're back in Pittsburgh (went 0-2 against the Pitt Panthers in the regular season) to take on Texas Tech (23-10), a team who after missing the NCAAT a year ago, reworked the coaching staff and the roster to have a bounce-back year.

With the Red Raiders having won 4 of its last 5 games, both teams have plenty of momentum heading into this Round of 64 matchup. Here are the keys to this game that could help decide a winner.

1. DJ Burns and the health of Warren Washington

One of the early March stars is D.J. Burns, a 6'9 and 260-pound big man from NC State, who is second on the team with 12.4 ppg and 4.0 rpg. The senior center had some big games as of late, including 19 points against UVA and 20 points and seven assists to beat UNC in the ACC Tournament.

Texas Tech does have a good post defender to counter him, if he's healthy. 7'0 center Warren Washington (9.9 ppg and 7.4 rpg) has missed the last few games, including the Big 12 Tournament. If he doesn't play, 6'7 forward Robert Jennings would get most of the minutes at the 5-spot and he's not much of a match for Burns. Currently a "game-time decision" we'll see if Washington plays tomorrow.

2. NC State's newfound defensive groove

For most of the season, NC State was a fairly below-average defensive unit and downright poor in the final weeks. But after getting into a shootout with Louisville, the Wolfpack have been much better on that end, giving up 69 or fewer points in three straight games in the ACCT.

Texas Tech averages 76.4 ppg on the season, ranking in the top-5 of the Big 12 in most offensive categories. They're a good offensive unit that NC State needs to take seriously. We'll see if this tough defense remains for NC State.

3. Streakiness of DJ Horne and Pop Isaacs

Both teams are led by a star scoring guard who can singlehandedly win games for their respective teams. Isaacs averages 15.9 ppg and 3.5 apg for Texas Tech, with nine games of 20+ points. One of them was a 32-point outing against BYU. At the same time, he shoots just 35% from the field and 30% from deep, coming off a 6-point effort against Houston.

Next. Top 20 players from the East Region. Top 20 players from the East Region. dark

Horne produces 16.9 ppg on 41% shooting from three-point range and dropped 29 points in the title game win over UNC. He had a six-game run with 24+ points and dropped 32 versus Syracuse. He also has a trio of games with eight points or fewer and is vulnerable to an off-game as well.

Whichever one can avoid a bad game will have their teams in a good spot.