Veteran sports writer Caulton Tudor is writing for WNCN.com during tournament play. Here is his analysis of N.C. State's win over Virginia Tech in the first round of the ACC Tournament.
A perfect example of exactly how focused N.C. State was for its Thursday's ACC Tournament opener was C.J. Leslie's free-throw shooting.
In an 80-63 win over 12th-seeded Virginia Tech, Leslie converted nine of 14 free-throw attempts -- almost 70 percent or roughly 10 percent higher than the 6-foot-9 junior forward shot at the line in regular season.
At no point during the game was Leslie a loose cannon. He dodged all the speed bumps that have turned his career in a roller coaster. There were no bad fouls, early fouls, technical fouls, casual defense, temper eruptions, silly shots or wasted time at the free-throw line.
Although Richard Howell (22 points, 12 rebounds) had a more dominant performance inside and Lorenzo Brown (12 assists, 9 points, 7 rebounds) was the obvious team straw, Leslie's work set a positive tone.
If Leslie can duplicate it against 4th-seed Virginia (21-10) in Friday's 2:30 p.m. quarterfinal, the 5th-seeded Wolfpack (23-9) should be back in Greensboro on Saturday for the semifinals.
If there were concerns Thursday, one was a late-game ankle injury sustained by reserve guard Tyler Lewis and the other was occasional defensive breakdowns when the Hokies (13-19) were able to spread the defense and create open shots by driving the lan and/or kick-out passes.
The Pack's depth is so marginal that any sort of serious injury to a top-seven rotation player would equate to an emergency.
But defending Joe Harris (17 points per game) and matching the Cavaliers' perimeter quickness actually could be easier than was the case against Virginia Tech.
Virginia is a far better team than the Hokies, of course. But playmaker Jontel Evans is hardly a great passer or penetrater and Harris normally needs a lot of screens to find open looks against foes with tall perimeters.
All and all, State could not have asked for a better day to start the postseason.