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Predicting NC State's potential Sweet Sixteen x-factor

Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

NC State has benefited from multiple x-factors this NCAA Tournament. Would the Wolfpack have survived opening weekend without Kyle Washington offering excellent minutes against LSU? Was Desmond Lee logging a quality 20 minutes against Villanova foreseeable as he sat on the bench in the regular season?

Point being, x-factors have assisted NC State thus far. Washington and Lee likely haven't received the minutes they've coveted this year, yet they've remained ready enough to contribute. Looking ahead against the size of Louisville, I anticipate Lennard Freeman having a critical role.

He's a bruising physical force who Wolfpack fans know comfortably, but the NC State spotlight typically goes to Cat Barber and Trevor Lacey. This has justification to it, no doubt. NC State's guards have been, dare I say, superb. But Freeman has been key in the paint.

After the Nova game, Freeman wasn't even asked a question despite sitting in front of reporters. The meat of inquiries went to Lacey and Abdul-Malik Abu. Don't worry, Lennard, if Wolfpack fans were running the media room, you would've been asked plenty of questions.

Nevertheless, Freeman should have turns on Montrezl Harrell, or he'll be blocking out against a behemoth like Mangok Mathiang. He and other NC State bigs, BeeJay Anya and Abu most notably, might have to help if Terry Rozier finds his way near the hoop.

Beyond Freeman, an x-factor subplot to the game will be Ralston Turner's shooting. Turner is too established to be the prototypical quiet x-factor coming out of nowhere, but recapturing his long-range consistency would benefit NC State tremendously. He's only 2-14 on three-point attempts the past two games.

For all I know, Freeman could do nothing, Turner might struggle, and the Wolfpack could still advance. But something tells me another Freeman double-double and a few Turner bombs would guarantee the Wolfpack a spot in the Elite Eight.