March Madness: Will NC State's improbable run continue in the Sweet 16?

North Carolina State's Mohamed Diarra (23) celebrates after defeating Oakland in a college basketball game in the second round of the NCAA men's tournament Saturday, March 23, 2024, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Matt Freed)

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Can North Carolina State continue its win streak Friday night?

The No. 11 Wolfpack are the lowest seed in the Sweet 16 ahead of their matchup with No. 2 Marquette. No other double-digit seed made the Sweet 16 and 14 of the 16 teams still alive in the NCAA tournament are ranked at No. 5 or higher.

NC State’s NCAA tournament run is incredibly improbable, even by No. 11 seed standards. The Wolfpack finished 10th in the ACC with a 9-11 conference record and ended the regular season on a four-game losing streak.

The Wolfpack’s fortunes quickly turned in the ACC tournament, however. NC State became the first team to win five games in five days in the tournament as it took down Louisville and Syracuse in the first two rounds.

NC State then finished its tournament run by beating Duke, Virginia and North Carolina. All three of those teams made the tournament. The Wolfpack beat the Blue Devils by five, Virginia by eight and then North Carolina by eight in the ACC title game.

Without that ACC tournament win, NC State was staring straight in the face of an NIT bid. The ACC was set to be a four-bid league had the Wolfpack not won the tournament.

Like NC State, the ACC has overachieved in the postseason relative to its regular-season status. Virginia went out with a whimper in a 25-point First Four loss to Colorado State, but the other three ACC teams in the tournament are also in the Sweet 16 with the Wolfpack. Both No. 1 North Carolina and No. 4 Duke have played to their seed levels while No. 6 Clemson took down No. 3 Baylor in the second round.

But there’s a good chance that NC State’s run ends on Friday or Sunday. The Wolfpack are 6.5-point underdogs to the Golden Eagles on Friday night and +230 to win the game outright. Only San Diego State (+475 vs. UConn) and Clemson (+250 vs. Arizona) are bigger Sweet 16 underdogs.

That underdog status is reflected in the national title odds, too. The defending national champion Huskies are at +200 to win the title and Houston is the No. 2 favorite at +550. NC State, meanwhile, is the co-No. 15 favorite with Clemson at +10000. If you placed a $1 bet on NC State to win the national title, you’d win $100 if the Wolfpack are cutting down the nets.

NC State’s Final Four odds are similarly long. The Wolfpack are +1300 to win both their games this weekend and only ahead of San Diego State at +1400.

If NC State beats Marquette and either Houston or Duke in the Elite Eight, they’d become the sixth No. 11 seed to make the Final Four. No team seeded below No. 11 has ever made the Final Four; LSU was the first No. 11 to make the Final Four in 1986 and has been joined by George Mason in 2006, VCU in 2011, Loyola Chicago in 2018 and UCLA in 2021.

None of those five teams made the national title game, however. All five of the previous No. 11 seeds in the Final Four have come up one game short. Will it be different for NC State this season? With the way the Wolfpack have been playing since losing to Pitt on March 9, we wouldn’t be too surprised to see them in Phoenix.