Prior to last season's ACC men's basketball tournament, North Carolina State coach Mark Gottfried left little doubt about how he thought his team looked alongside Virginia coach Tony Bennett's squad when comparing NCAA tournament resumes.
In an interview last March with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Gottfried said he thought his team would've been ranked in the top 25 if it had played a schedule like the one U.Va. had. Of course, U.Va. wasn't in the top 25 entering the conference tournament.
Despite losing 67-64 to N.C. State in the ACC tournament quarterfinals, U.Va. made Gottfried's comments moot by earning a spot in the NCAA tournament, where it lost in the second round to Florida. N.C. State earned a spot in the NCAA tournament, too, and advanced to the regional semifinals.
Now Gottfried's words are ancient history. Still, with U.Va. (14-5 overall, 4-2 ACC) preparing for an important home game Tuesday night against surging N.C. State, Bennett has put the comments in the past, but he hasn't forgotten them.
"Oh, I remember. … That's the first time I've thought about," said Bennett, whose team has won three consecutive games. "I think Mark was just trying to make a case for his team that they … had a strong chance to get in, and obviously, they went to the Sweet 16.
"Look, we got in (to the NCAA tournament). We limped in a little bit at the end, but we got a chance to get in there and got that experience, didn't do particularly well. … I'm sure (the comments were) blown out of proportion."
With No. 19 N.C. State (16-4, 5-2) already boasting a Jan. 12 win against then-No. 1 Duke, and a victory this past Saturday against North Carolina that snapped a 13-game losing streak to the Tar Heels, Bennett realizes his energy is better focused on more pressing matters.
U.Va., which is led by guard Joe Harris' 14.8 points per game and has gotten huge contributions of late from freshmen Justin Anderson, Evan Nolte and Mike Tobey, comes into Tuesday's game with an 11-game home winning streak. Though N.C. State is the only ACC team without a win in John Paul Jones Arena, Bennett's teams are only 5-12 against ranked opponents in his four seasons in Charlottesville.
U.Va.'s strength is well-known, with a scoring defense (51.1 points per game) ranked second in the nation, but N.C. State will present a challenge to the Cavaliers' defense. N.C. State leads the ACC with an average of 79.8 points per game, and it's hitting a conference-best 50.9 percent of its shots from the floor.
Forward C.J. Leslie leads N.C. State with an average of 15.4 points per game, while guard Lorenzo Brown is contributing 13.2 points and an ACC-best 7.2 assists per game and forward Richard Howell is chipping in 12.8 points and 11.1 rebounds per game.
"I think offensively you have to execute at a high level (against U.Va.)," Gottfried said. "I think if you don't, if you don't make sharp cuts and good screens and you're taking quick shots and bad shots, then I think they win out."
As stout as U.Va. continues to be on the defensive end, the Cavaliers have gotten it done on the offensive end of late, too. After shooting 51 percent from the floor last Thursday in a win at Virginia Tech, and 56.3 percent in Saturday's win against Boston College, U.Va. has shot greater than 50 percent in back-to-back ACC games for the first time since 2005 against Clemson and Tech.