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Louisville-NC State preview: Cards looks to avoid first 0-3 conference start in 25 years

The high-scoring Wolfpack are also searching for their first ACC win.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: DEC 20 Lipscomb at Louisville Photo by Jeffrey Brown/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Louisville Cardinals (2-10, 0-2) at NC State Wolfpack (10-3, 0-2)

Game Time: 7 p.m.

Location: PNC Center: Raleigh, N.C.

Television: ACC Network

Announcers: Mike Corey (play-by-play) and Dan Bonner (analysis)

Favorite: NC State by 17.5

All-Time Series: Louisville leads, 14-11

Last Meeting: NC State won 79-63 on Jan. 12, 2022 in Raleigh

Series History:

Projected Starting Lineups:


Relevant Videos:

NC State’s Season to Date:

About NC State:

Picked to finish 10th in the conference before the start of the season, NC State has been one of the ACC’s more pleasant surprises to date. The Wolfpack went 10-1 in the non-conference portion of their season with neutral court wins over Dayton and Butler and a competitive loss to reigning national champion Kansas as their only blemish. Kevin Keatts’ team has had a more rough go of it in their start to league play, falling at home to Pitt and then taking a much more understandable road loss to Miami a week later.

NC State’s success starts with sophomore guard Terquavion Smith, who flirted with an early exit for the NBA last spring before ultimately deciding to return to Raleigh. Heading into Thursday night, Smith leads the ACC in both assists and made three-point field goals, ranks second in scoring (18.2 ppg), and is third in steals. There’s a reason he’s an early front-runner for ACC Player of the Year.

Smith and Ole Miss transfer Jarkel Joiner (16.6 ppg) have teamed up to form the ACC’s most lethal backcourt through the season’s first two months. They are the highest scoring guard tandem in the ACC, combining to average 34.8 points per game, while also combining to have the most assists (115) of any two players in the ACC. Smith and Joiner also have the most combined steals (43) of any two-guard tandem in the conference.

Casey Morsell, who played two seasons at Virginia before transferring to NC State last season, is also playing the best basketball of his college career to date. The 6’3 guard is averaging 13.4 ppg and shooting 46.6 percent from three, the fourth-best percentage in the ACC.

Where NC State has once again struggled at times this season is on the interior. Winthrop transfer D.J. Burns, who stands 6’9, 275-pounds, has been the team’s most reliable post presence. He’s coming off of a season-best 18-point, nine rebound effort against Vanderbilt last Saturday. La Salle transfer Jack Clark is technically listed as a guard, but the 6’8 senior is the team’s best rebounder at 6.8 rpg.

NC State plays at a faster pace than any team Louisville has faced so far this season outside of Arkansas. They thrive in transition and kill you off of turnovers and long rebounds, two areas where the Cardinals have been happy to help their opponents out so far this season. The Wolfpack aren’t an elite defensive team, but they’re much improved on that end of the floor compared to the last couple of seasons under Keatts. They are not afraid to gamble to try and get their transition offense going, and enter this evening ranked 20th in the country in steal percentage.

On paper this is a nightmare matchup for Louisville. Of course, there’s not really any matchup that is particularly agreeable for the Cardinals at the moment.


—This is the earliest in a calendar year that Louisville has ever reached double-digit losses.

—Louisville is 6-3 against NC State since joining the ACC in 2014-15.

—NC State head coach Kevin Keatts was an assistant at Louisville for three seasons (2011-14) when the Cardinals posted a 96-21 (.821) record, went to two Final Fours and won one national championship.

—Keatts is 2-3 as a head coach in games against Louisville.

—Louisville is looking to avoid an 0-3 start in conference play for the first time since the 1997-98 season. The Cardinals are 0-2 to start a league slate for just the second time since that ‘97-’98 campaign.

—NC State’s win over Vanderbilt on Saturday was Kevin Keatts’ 100th as head coach of the Wolfpack.

—Heading into Thursday night, NC State star Terquavion Smith leads the ACC in both assists and made three-point field goals, ranks second in scoring (18.2 ppg), and is third in steals.

—Louisville has a 52-18 record in the month of December over the last nine years.

—NC State has lost 10 of its last 11 ACC home games.

—Thursday is matchup of two of only five guards in the ACC to rank in the top-10 in both scoring and assists. The Wolfpack’s Terquavion Smith leads the ACC in assists (5.5 per game) and is second in the conference in scoring (18.2). Louisville’s El Ellis is fifth (17.3) in the ACC in scoring and seventh in assists (4.5).

—In two of its last three games, NC State’s bench has scored just two total points.

—Louisville is 218-13 over the last 20 seasons and 15-1 over the last three when scoring 80 points or more. The Cards have eclipsed the 80-point mark just once this season.

—NC State has outrebounded its opponent in 10 of 13 games this season.

—NC State is ranked second in the ACC in scoring at 81.0 points per game, while Louisville ranks dead last in scoring at just 61.2 points per game. NC State has only scored under 70 points in one of 13 games this season. Louisville has only scored 70 or more points in two of 12 games this season.

—Louisville is 14-0 over the past 10 seasons when limiting opponents to no more than one three-point field goal.

—Since 2004, Louisville is 128-0 when leading by more than 10 points at halftime.

—Louisville has won 162 consecutive games when holding an opponent under 50 points.

—Louisville has won 157 consecutive games when scoring at least 85 points in regulation.

Ken Pomeroy Prediction: NC State 81, Louisville 63