Never mind the result, N.C. State would just like to play the way it did against Louisville during the regular season.
The Wolfpack was in control from start to finish on Feb. 14, in a 74-65 road win, one of its most complete efforts this season.
N.C. State (22-13) faces the Cardinals (26-8) again Friday night as it pursues its first Sweet 16 win since 1986.
The Wolfpack came close to duplicating that type of effort in its 71-68 upset of No. 1 seed Villanova in the Round of 32.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Charlotte Observer
"I think our team is confident," N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried said. "I think they have a swagger to them. You have to have some of that to go into Louisville and win or got to Carolina and win or beat Duke or beat Villanova. I like that about our team."
Those wins are examples of the Wolfpack at its best. But there are moments, stretches, where N.C. State comes down with the case of the "blahs."
"It's not mental," N.C. State senior Ralston Turner said. "It's like we're not engaged."
That was the case against Duke in the ACC tournament quarterfinals on March 12.
The Blue Devils jumped to a 42-17 lead by the 4:03 mark of the first half. That N.C. State won the last 26 minutes, 36-35, didn't matter.
In the Round of 64 in the NCAA tournament, LSU built a 42-26 lead at 18:23 in the second half. The Tigers looked like they were in a "dunk contest" is how N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried put it.
But the Wolfpack rallied for a 66-65 win, outscoring LSU 40-23 over the final 18 minutes.
"We got to another gear," Gottfried said. "We were more aggressive."
Gottfried said he doesn't have a good answer for his team's ups and downs. The same team that beat Duke and Villanova, two of the four No. 1 seeds, dropped a 16-point game at Boston College on Feb. 28 and no-showed for the first 18 minutes of a 68-57 home loss to Clemson on Jan. 28.
"Some of that is youth," Gottfried. "Some of that is … I don't know the answer. I wish I did then you can avoid some of those where we've had some of those tough ones this year."
It's also not something Gottfried has been able to predict. He thought his team was a little "starry-eyed" in the first half of the LSU game, its first in the NCAA tournament, caught up a bit in the moment and stage, he said.
But he said that's not something he can tell will happen based on the practices leading up to the game.
"It's not something that I've been able to foresee, to say, 'Boy, we're not really engaged today,'” Gottfried said.
Junior guard Trevor Lacey said the players understand they can't afford any more flat stretches.
"There's more at stake now," Lacey said. "I hope that is all in the past."
No. 8 N.C. State vs. No. 4 Louisville
When: 7:37 p.m.
Where: Carrier Dome, Syracuse, N.Y.
TV/Radio: TBS, 101.5-WRAL
Projected starting lineups
N.C. State (22-13)
G Cat Barber 12.3 ppg, 3.7 apg
G Trevor Lacey 15.7 ppg, 3.5 apg
G Ralston Turner 12.8 ppg, 3.3 rpg
F Lennard Freeman 3.6 ppg, 5.7 rpg
F Abdul-Malik Abu 6.4 ppg, 4.7 rpg
G Quentin Sinder 3.8 ppg, 1.5 rpg
G Terry Rozier 17.2 ppg, 5.2 rpg
G Wayne Blackshear 11.1 ppg, 4.4 rpg
F Montrezl Harrell 15.4 ppg, 9.2 rpg
F Mangok Mathiang 2.5 ppg, 4.6 rpg
1. More “Cat Daddy,” less “Cat Crazy”
Point guard Cat Barber had one of his best games of the season in the Wolfpack's win at Louisville. He had 21 points but more importantly he handled Louisville's press. Earlier in the season, Barber struggled against aggressive man pressure. Expect Louisville to copy Duke's strategy from the ACC tournament and double-team Barber in the backcourt to get the ball out of his hands.
2. Find Blackshear
Terry Rozier and Montrezl Harrell do most of the heavy lifting for the Cardinals. They're certainly capable of carrying the team to a win but it's when a third option, usually senior wing Wayne Blackshear, gets going that the Cardinals are their most dangerous. Blackshear had 19 points in Louisville's Round of 64 win over UC-Irvine.
3. Seize the moment
N.C. State hasn't won a Sweet 16 game since 1986. This is only the Wolfpack's fourth trip back to this round since beating Iowa State 29 years ago. With No. 1 Villanova already behind them, the opportunity is there for N.C. State to make a little history. Chances like this don't come around very often.