NC State improved to 6-2 with their win over Boston University on Saturday.
While it was another win in the books, it wasn’t exactly pretty. There is certainly a lot to be excited about with this Wolfpack team, but as conference play approaches there are still a lot of improvements that need to be made. With that being said, let’s go over both the good and the bad as we lay out the takeaway from this matchup:
Torin Dorn producing at an elite level…
Dorn was the player of the game once again as he dropped 22 points and added 11 boards. This is becoming an every game thing for Dorn. So how is he doing it? For one, he’s playing without fear. By that I mean he catching the ball and heading straight to the rim. Not many dribble moves or crossover to create space. He doesn’t need it. He may use a jab step or a slight juke, but it’s enough to give him the half-a-step he needs. From there he attacks his defenders shoulder. Once he has the angle he goes through his defender, not around. He invites this contact and finishes through it. This is why he’s been so good. He’s playing strong and playing with extreme confidence. They need the rest of their roster to play with the energy and strength that Torin is showing right now.
Dennis Smith Jr is putting up stats, but NC State needs more from him…
Is it is unfair to ask more of Dennis Smith Jr at this point? Maybe the answer is yes, but maybe it’s no. He did have another good game on paper with 15 points, but it’s not the numbers that are a problem. Let’s look closer at what we mean.
It’s not Dennis Smith Jr’s fault that the pundits dubbed him a possible lottery pick before the season even began. But, they did and this has changed expectation around Raleigh. Maybe it’s not fair, but it’s true. Smith isn’t completely controlling games as many Wolfpack fans expected, but he is leading the team with 18ppg and 5 assists. One might look at that and think it’s completely unreasonable to ask anymore from a freshman with no college experience. But I think if NC State wants to reach their full potential it’s not the gaudy stat line that they need from Smith, it’s the intangibles that a star point guard brings. Smith hasn’t been a bad leader, but he’s at times shown frustration in his body language. He has shown spurts of being a lock down defender, but has also too often sold out for the steal to get the break started. It’s hard to put your finger on it, but he just has seemed hesitant to attack on offense. Again, maybe that is unfair, and maybe it’s asking too much for him to be showing signs of a veteran PG, but the difference between Smith and any other freshman is that we think Smith is capable of being that guy. We think within him is a true leader, a lock down defender, and guy that can literally take over all aspects of a basketball game.
I think its fair to wonder if Dennis Smith is still not 100% trusting his knee. If you watched him in high school you saw violent cuts, reckless abandon and a physicality that most other guards couldn’t match. Right now Smith is not inviting contact. He’s not driving through defenders and it could be why he’s frustrated. Those were parts of his game that made him elite. You still see flashes when he gets space, but this is a guy who could, and likely soon will, be able to do all of this in traffic.
Again, this might seem unfair for a kid who is averaging 18 and 5, and maybe it is, but we believe Smith hasn’t even begun to show his true talent yet. This is not about pointing blame, it’s about examining where you might expect NC State to improve in the coming games.
Terry Henderson’s shooting is a game changer…
Like Ralston Turner and Scott Wood before him, Gottfried always likes to have a lights out 3 pt shooter. This season it seems to be Terry Henderson. While Henderson is capable of much more than Wood and Turner, he has been serving the role of outside shooter recently, and with Smith Jr and Dorn in the mix, it might be where he is best utilized. Against Boston U. Henderson dropped 23 points on 8-14 shooting.
State missing Rowan’s versatility…
State is struggling in the half court, and it’s honestly not surprising. This is a team that is built for speed and who makes their money in transition. However, if they are going to be successful they are going to need to convert in the half court. That is where Maverick Rowan comes in. The sophomore wing has been out for 3 weeks now with a concussion and the loss has been felt. While the 6’7 shooter isn’t known as versatile in the traditional sense, he is the one guy that is able to really score from anywhere on the court. He can shoot from deep, he can pull up in the lane and he even has a little post game when he has a mismatch underneath. Right now this team is either making layups or hitting 3s, there isn’t much in-between. And that’s where a healthy Rowan becomes very important.
Upperclassmen bigs simply not pulling their weight…
You hate to have to point it out, but NC State’s upperclassmen bigs (Anya and Abu) were the ones you thought, coming into the season, you wouldn’t have to worry about. In fact, it’s been the opposite. Anya’s offseason weight issues only got worse and it’s showing on the court. This is an uptempo team that really doesn’t need to be anchored down by a big who is struggling to make it back past half court after a few minutes of play. Couple that with his inability to stay out of foul trouble and you have a guy who isn’t helping you very much despite being your lone senior getting minutes.
The bigger surprise however has been the play of Abu (5 points, 6 boards in 17 minutes in this one). After almost throwing his hat in the NBA draft Abu is back, but he’s seemingly lost his fire. With a body and the athleticism that he possesses, he should be a physical monster in the post. For some reason, instead of getting more aggressive and more hungry on the blocks, he’s shying away from contact, settling for jumpers and at times simply deciding not to challenge guys attacking the rim.
Is he hurt? Is he trying to stay out of foul trouble? Has his NBA aspirations turned him into a tweener who wants to show off his jumper and doesn’t want to get hurt going hard int he paint? Who knows? But if this is Abu’s final form then NC State is in trouble. This is a guy who has NBA-level ability. They need him to get dirty. They need him playing with reckless abandon on the boards and attacking the rim on offense. His jumper is bonus, and at times has been decent. His stat lines aren’t bad at all, but again, if they want to win in the ACC they need an Abu that plays with an anger and one who thrives off of the physicality on the blocks.
Attacking the zone…
This team has athleticism that is off the charts. They can go one on one with almost anyone in the league, but opposing coaches aren’t going to let that happen. State is going to start seeing a lot more zone as the season progresses. This means they need to figure out a way to attack it. Teams are pressing up on the guards and drooping down on the blocks in their 2-3. This is leaving the middle wide open. The method of attack here is to drop it to the middle and the high post guy either hits a short jumper or dumps it down to the blocks if the lower defender leaves and comes up to contest. This is a major vulnerability in the 2-3, but NC State as of now, does not have a guy that can consistently make the right plays from that spot. What you need is a big who can shoot, pass and make good decisions. You’d think Abu would fit well there at this point, but he has struggled from that spot. Catching the ball and hesitating to make decisions, before making a less than confident one. He either needs a few more reps or NC State just has to wait for Yurtseven to get eligible. The 7 footer seemingly would slot well here. A good shooter, a great passer and someone who can dive in for an easy bucket if the opportunity presents itself.
Boston U got turnovers and poor shots all day out of NC State from this simple 2-3 zone. Luckily the Wolfpack guards bailed them out with good perimeter shooting down the stretch. If NC State wants to reach their full potential they’re going to have to be surgical in how they attack these zone defenses.