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Sophomore wing Jakia Brown-Turner attacks the basket against Pittsburgh on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021 at Reynolds Coliseum. Brown-Turner recorded 14 points and five rebounds as the Wolfpack won 83-53.

In its quest for a three-peat this year, two-time defending ACC champion NC State women’s basketball team is starting No. 5 in the AP preseason poll, the highest of any ACC team. While its conference schedule won’t prove too difficult for the Pack, NC State will take on three preseason top-10 teams in its nonconference schedule, including No. 1 South Carolina, to kick off the season. 

Nonconference opponents

No. 1 South Carolina, Nov. 9: South Carolina finished last season at No. 6 in the AP poll, with a 26-5 record. The Gamecocks won the SEC Tournament and went on to lose in the semifinals of the NCAA Tournament. As South Carolina is No. 1 in the preseason AP poll, this will be a challenging start to the Wolfpack’s season. NC State is on a two-game winning streak against South Carolina, beating the Gamecocks early last season 54-46. 

No. 4 Maryland, Nov. 25: Maryland had a record of 26-3 last season and finished No. 7 in the AP poll. The Terrapins claimed a second-consecutive Big Ten Tournament championship title and made it to the third round of the NCAA championship before falling to Texas. The Wolfpack is on a three-game winning streak against Maryland, with the last matchup coming in 2019. 

No. 8 Indiana, Dec. 2: The Hoosiers finished last season No. 12 in the AP poll with a 21-6 record. Indiana did not make it very far in the Big Ten Tournament, but did knock NC State out of the NCAA Tournament in the third round only to lose in the quarterfinals.The Pack will look for redemption against the Hoosiers this season. NC State has not seen the Hoosiers in the regular season since the 2016-17 season and the Pack took the victory in that game. 

ACC matchups

NC State starts ACC play with a break from its high-ranked nonconference opponents, but with the Pack holding the highest preseason ranking out of the entire conference and only four other teams being ranked in the preseason, the Wolfpack should once again have a strong hold on the top spot in the ACC. 

“It's the best conference, especially with all the transfers, like you don't really actually know who's on the team anymore,” senior center Elissa Cunane said. “So it's gonna be different, playing every team this year is going to be different. And now that we won back to back, there's gonna be a bigger target on our back.”

Pitt, Dec. 10: Pitt should prove to be an easy opponent to kick off conference play for the Pack. NC State has a six-game winning streak against Pitt, beating the Panthers 83-53 last season. Pitt finished last season with a record of 5-14 (3-12 ACC), and was knocked out in the first round of the ACC Tournament. 

Clemson, Dec. 30: Clemson finished last season 12-14 (5-12 ACC) and was knocked out in the quarterfinals of the ACC Tournament. NC State has won its last 12 games against Clemson, including a win last season, 86-65. 

UNC-Chapel Hill, Jan. 6: UNC went 13-11 (8-9 ACC) last year. The Tar Heels were knocked out in the first rounds of both the ACC Tournament and the NCAA Tournament. NC State won its last game against UNC last season, 82-63.

Chapel Hill poses a threat to NC State, having defeated the Pack in Carmichael Arena in each of the last two seasons. However, the Pack should feel a little more confident given that UNC lost its top three scorers from last season and has a young roster.

Duke, Jan. 16: Duke canceled the remainder of its season after only four games due to COVID-19 concerns, but went 3-1 (0-1 ACC). The last time NC State played the Blue Devils was in 2020, when the Pack lost 65-70. 

No. 6 Louisville, Jan. 20: Louisville will most likely be the most difficult ACC opponent for NC State this year, according to its preseason rank and the fact that it finished last season at No. 8. The Cardinals finished their season 26-4 (14-2 ACC) and made it to the quarterfinals in the NCAA Tournament. However, Louisville lost to the Pack twice last season, once in the regular season and again in the finals of the ACC Tournament.

Louisville doesn’t have Dana Evans this season, but it got two amazing transfers. Emily Engstler from Syracuse and Chelsie Hall are going to add several new dimensions to this team and will give the Pack a formidable opponent.

No. 24 Virginia Tech, Jan. 23: Virginia Tech went 15-10 (8-8 ACC) last year. NC State knocked the Hokies out of the ACC Tournament in the quarterfinals and then Virginia Tech was knocked out in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The Pack split its two games against the Hokies in the regular season last year. 

It will be fantastic to see Cunane square off against Elizabeth Kitley once again, with both hailing from Summerfield, North Carolina. Every matchup between the two is must-watch basketball and this season will be no different.

“Yeah, it's so cool,” Cunane said at the ACC Tipoff. “Literally like two people from Summerfield, North Carolina. Half y'all probably don't know where Summerfield is. Honestly. So I think just being from there, like being best friends since high school, and both of us being like the top centers in the nation, I think it's just like, it's amazing, you know? Like a dynamic duo.”

No. 16 Florida State, Feb. 3: Florida State finished last season 10-9 (9-7 ACC) and made it to the quarterfinals of the ACC Tournament. The Seminoles were beaten out in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. NC State is on a three-game winning streak against Florida State, playing them last in the 2019-2020 season. 

This season will see the return of head coach Sue Semrau, who took off the 2020-21 season and will return all five of its starters. FSU has been one of the teams to beat in the last few years and this season will be no different.

No. 17 Georgia Tech, Feb. 7: NC State will play its 17th annual Play4Kay game against Georgia Tech, which finished last season with a record of 17-9 (12-6 ACC). The Yellow Jackets lost to NC State in the semifinals of the ACC Tournament and then got knocked out in the third round of the NCAA Tournament. The Pack is on a three-game winning streak against Georgia Tech, beating it in the regular season last year and in the ACC Tournament. 

Boston College, Feb. 10: Boston College went 7-12 (2-11 ACC) last season. It lost to Syracuse in the second round of the ACC Tournament. NC State is on a nine-game winning streak against the Golden Eagles and beat them last season, 76-57. 

Syracuse, Feb. 20: Syracuse went 15-9 (9-7 ACC) last season. It lost to Louisville in the semifinals of the ACC Tournament and was knocked out of the NCAA Tournament by UConn in the second round. NC State has beaten Syracuse four times in a row, including a victory of 68-61 at the end of last season.