Wolfpack take on Golden Bears in first round of NCAA Tourney
(Sports Network) – In what figures to be a close game from start to
finish, the seventh-seeded California Golden Bears and 10th-seeded NC State
Wolfpack will battle in the first round of the NCAA Tournament’s Atlanta
Regional. The winner will face either second-seeded Texas or 15th-seeded Penn
in the second round. NC State is making its fifth consecutive NCAA Tournament
appearance and is in search of its third National Championship. Achieving that
goal does seem a bit unlikely at this point, as the Wolfpack limp into
this event with a four-game losing skid. The club was bounced from the ACC
Tournament by Wake Forest in the semifinal round, and the Demon Deacons
were the lowest-seeded team in that tournament.
California is 18-13 all-time in the NCAA Tournament, and it is happy to be
back in the “Big Dance” after failing to earn a berth the last two years.
The Golden Bears have 20 victories to their credit and advanced to the
championship game of the Pac-10 Tournament. On a down note, they were
handled rather easily by UCLA in the title matchup and now must bounce back
strong. Cal eliminated NC State from the NCAA Tournament in 2003, and that
game marked the first-ever meeting between the two teams.
NC State does not have a star on its roster, but there are a number of capable
performers who provide the lineup with a balanced effort. Cameron Bennerman
leads the Wolfpack in scoring with 13.9 ppg, and Cedric Simmons is second with
11.8 ppg on 59.9 percent shooting from the floor. Simmons does much more than
just score, as he has blocked 77 shots and is pulling down 6.4 rpg. Engin
Atsur is posting 11.4 ppg on 41.1 percent shooting from three-point range, and
he is tops with 107 assists and 51 steals. Rounding out the double-digit
scorers is Ilian Evtimov with 10.9 ppg on 42.1 percent efficiency from behind
NC State is netting 75.7 ppg on 46.7 percent shooting from the floor, and it
is limiting opponents to 67.7 ppg on 41.1 percent overall efficiency. Gavin
Grant scored 24 points in the ACC Tournament loss to Wake Forest, and the
Wolfpack would benefit tremendously if he can come through with another
strong offensive showing tonight.
California forward Leon Powe has NBA scouts drooling, as the 6-8 sophomore
appears to be fully recovered from a devastating injury that caused him to
miss all of last season. Powe currently leads the Pac-10 in scoring (20.7 ppg)
and rebounding (10.0 rpg), and he was named the MVP of the conference
tournament despite the fact that the Golden Bears lost the championship game.
Powe racked up 22 points and 20 rebounds against USC to set the tournament
rebounding record, and he then broke the scoring record with a 41-point
outburst versus Oregon.
While Powe is clearly the team’s best player and one of the nation’s elite
performers, he does not have to carry the load alone. Ayinde Ubaka is an
All-Pac-10 performer who is contributing 14.8 ppg, and the 6-4 junior guard is
a solid passer. Keep an eye on Richard Midgley tonight, as he has come through
in pressure situations in the past for the Golden Bears.