AUBURN, Ala. – When Auburn scheduled a road game at North Carolina State this year, it was all about opportunity. Head coach Bruce Pearl has said time and again that he's not afraid to play anybody or play anywhere, and that includes a trip to Tobacco Road to take on an NCAA Tournament from a year ago that is off to a 9-1 start this season.
The Tigers, also 9-1 and currently ranked No. 7, have a chance to make a statement and notch one of the better non-conference road victories by any SEC team on Saturday.
"If you look at the road wins in the league, there aren't that many great road wins in the league," Pearl said. "There are some great neutral-site wins. But this is a real opportunity for us, if we can take advantage of it. We'll have to play our best game. I would say Duke has been our best opponent that we've played, no criticism of anyone else, but I would say that NC State will be next."
"Coach said the other day in practice that this will probably be one of the biggest road wins for anybody in the SEC," added senior Bryce Brown. "So I feel like if we get this one, we have an edge over all the teams in the SEC."
It won't be easy, though. The 9-1 start from NC State is no fluke. The Wolfpack have already beaten Vanderbilt and Penn State in neutral-site games, and their only loss came at Wisconsin by four in a game that they led most of the way. They average 88.9 points per game and shoot 51.5 percent from the floor, which both rank in the top 10 nationally, and they have won 10 straight games at home dating back to last year.
"It's going to be a really good game," Pearl said. "That's exactly why we scheduled it. We want to be able to go to an ACC team. We want to be able to go to Tobacco Road."
"You know you have to bring it," Brown said. "You definitely have to bring it or it's going to show. You're going to be left behind. I'm going to come with everything I've got. I know my guys are, too."
The game is scheduled to tip off at 6 p.m. CT on Saturday from PNC Arena in Raleigh.