NC State vs. NC Central
7PM | RSN | Raleigh, NC
The Wolfpack may not have blown out Campbell last week, but they continued to improve and answered serious questions on who and what they’ll be.
Tonight vs. Central they’ll need to keep that up. TJ Warren and Tyler Lewis have been as advertised, so there is only so much we can say about them. They’ve been great, the heart and foundation of the team this season. However, after those two there was nothing but questions coming into the season.
Dez Lee was the first to step up and make a stand. The Juco transfer has made it absolutely clear that he’s going to be a factor this season. His ability to score in transition, create his own shot and defend the opponent’s top scorer has him locked in as one of Gottfried’s top guys. Then you have Cat Barber who took a big step forward against Campbell. He has continued to improve on shot selection, game management and decision making and will soon be a superstar for this team. Ralston Turner is also a guy who we’ve seen inching closer and closer to being ready. He’s scoring ability is there and his defense is pretty good, however Gottfried is teaching him shot selection and how to know when a good time is to just pull up during an offensive set.
Then there are the bigs. This is an area currently under construction. Who will step up, who will get minutes? So many questions. As of now we know that Freeman is in the rotation. The guy is a ball of energy on the blocks. He may not be polished but he is strong and he fights. The battle for minutes is heating up between Beejay Anya and Kyle Washington. Early on it looked like Washington had the gig won out, but an inability to rebound and defend on a high level has opened the door for Anya who seized the opportunity against Campbell. His lane presence was phenomenal and he’s slowly but surely rounding into shape.
With that said…here is what we’re looking for in today game:
1) Can Barber continue to show floor leadership?
I’d like to see State get a big lead and sit Lewis for a bit. Lewis is the starting PG and State is only going as far as he and Warren will take them, but they need Cat badly and they need him ready. The more time he can get with training wheels off (Lewis out of the game), the better he’ll be. He needs to learn how to run this team when Lewis is in foul trouble or out for any reason.
2) Who is the real Beejay Anya?
Is it the slow guy who seemed lost in the first few games or the dominant rim defender from last time out. I think he’s coming around and I think we’re just seeing the tip of the iceberg, but I guess we’ll learn more tonight.
3) Will we see the defense take a step up?
The first few games are for comfort. Start to get a feel for this big stage, get back in the rhythm of the season, learn your roles. All that happens, but after a while it becomes business time. No more playing around with lineups, no more flashy highlights, no more taking plays off. It’s starting to get to that point and NC State needs to show their identity. With the scrappy bunch they have I think you may see this team morph into a defensive team. They have the athletes, the have the on the ball defenders, they just need to learn to play team defense. I’ll be watching tonight to see if they get this concept. Is everyone either on the ball, in deny or in help defense? Are they talking/communicating? Are they taking pride in that part of the game? It’s time to start focusing on where you’re going to make your money. Who is this team and what will they be known for? I’ll be looking to get that answer sometime soon.
Notes on Central: They are 2-1 with a win over Campbell (by 19) and a loss to Cincy by 13.
NC State vs. UMES: BY THE NUMBERS
NC State defeated Maryland Eastern Shore 93-61 on Wednesday night. Here’s a look at the Wolfpack victory BY THE NUMBERS.
NC State dominated in all 4 Factors that lead to victory. They shot better, won the turnover battle, grabbed more offensive boards and got to the free throw line more.
Six NC State players scored in double figures. Last time that happened? March 6, 2020.
Junior Jayden Taylor led the Wolfpack in scoring with 21 points, shooting an impressive 8 of 11 from the field, and 3 of 5 from three. Over the past 2 games, Taylor is shooting 68% from the field and 63% from beyond the arc. Taylor has now led NC State in scoring in 3 of their 8 games, and is averaging a team high 14.9 points on the season. He is also shooting an insane 50% from deep, which is obviously a team high. What makes that number so impressive, is the fact he shot 32.6% from three last year at Butler.
Senior DJ Burns had 15 points, and was back to his normal self, shooting an efficient 7 of 9 from the field. Over the prior two games, Burns had made only 40% of his shots, which isn’t like him.
Senior Casey Morsell had 12 points on 4 of 8 shooting (1-4 3PT) and 5 rebounds. Morsell is shooting 36.1% from three on the year.
Sophomore MJ Rice made his NC State debut, and made the most of his 10 minutes of playing time, scoring 11 points and grabbing a team high 6 rebounds (2 offensive boards). He shot 5 of 6 from the field.
Sophomore LJ Thomas continued to provide a spark for the Pack, and like Rice, maximized his playing time, scoring 10 points in 9 minutes of play. He also had a team high 3 steals.
Senior DJ Horne had 10 points, shooting 4 of 7 from the field, and 2 of 5 from three-point land. Horne also led NC State with 4 assists, and now leads the team in assists on the year.
Junior Ben Middlebrooks picked up his first start of the season. Middlebrooks and Junior Mohamed Diarra ended up playing equal minutes (14). Diarra was seemingly more productive, with 8 points and 5 boards (averaging a team high 6.9), compared to Middlebrooks’ 2 points and 4 boards. Before you write off Middlebrooks’ impact in his first game as a starter, NC State was +23 with him on the court, which was a team high, compared to Diarra’s +7.
The Wolfpack will be back in action next Tuesday night in PNC Arena, against UT Martin at 7pm.
NC State’s NET Ranking After Defeating Maryland Eastern Shore
NC State defeated Maryland Eastern Shore 93-61 last night, improving to 6-2 on the season. Ironically, they fell one spot in the NET Rankings, from 51st to 52nd.
NC State’s two losses were against #1 BYU (!) and Ole Miss (#89). BYU was a Quad 1 loss, and Ole Miss was a Quad 2 loss.
The Wolfpack currently rank 7th in the ACC.
ACC Teams in NET Rankings
52) NC State
71) Virginia Tech
91) Boston College
105) Wake Forest
107) Florida St.
159) Georgia Tech
212) Notre Dame
For a refresher on how the NET Rankings are calculated:
Using the quadrant system, which was in its fourth season in 2020-21, the quality of wins and losses will be organized based on game location and the opponent’s NET ranking.
Quadrant 1: Home 1-30, Neutral 1-50, Away 1-75
Quadrant 2: Home 31-75, Neutral 51-100, Away 76-135
Quadrant 3: Home 76-160, Neutral 101-200, Away 135-240
Quadrant 4: Home 161-353, Neutral 201-353, Away 241-353
The number of Quadrant 1 wins and Quadrant 3/4 losses will be incredibly important when it comes time for NCAA tournament selection and seeding. (NCAA)
Kansas Transfer MJ Rice Makes Quite the Impression in his NC State Debut
We’ve seen a lot of new faces on the NC State Men’s Basketball team this season, but one face we haven’t seen yet is Kansas Transfer Guard/Forward M.J. Rice (6’5″/215)…until tonight.
Rice stepped away from the program for personal reasons earlier this Fall, and when he returned, he had a little catching up to do. It wasn’t until today during shoot around that Rice and Keatts both knew that tonight would be his debut.
“He’d been practicing for the last couple of weeks, and you know, I was just trying to figure out when he was ready. He and I, we talked a little bit after shoot around today and I said ‘MJ you ready to go tonight?'” said Kevin Keatts. “and he had this big huge smile on his face. He’s like ‘You sure you ready?’ He’s like ‘Ask me some plays.’ So he and I sit over there on the scores table at the Dale and we went over plays and I was like ‘You know what, you are ready to play.'”
Out of all the transfers Keatts brought in this offseason, Rice might have the highest ceiling. Rice was a 5-Star prospect in the 2022 recruiting class, and ON3 ranked him as the #24 overall prospect nationally. He committed to Kansas, where he played in 23 games for the Jayhawks as a Freshman in 2022, averaging 2.2 points in 7.6 minutes per game. Rice was a huge pickup in the Transfer Portal, ranked as the #2 player in the Portal, with three years of eligibility remaining.
Rice also isn’t new to the area either, playing high school ball at Durham Academy, before heading off to Oak Hill Academy and Prolific Prep.
In a short sample size, Rice gave us a glimpse of what the hype is all about tonight. He scored 11 points in 11 minutes of play, also grabbing 6 boards. Rice was 5-6 from the field, and hit the only three he took. In the most electrifying play of the night, Rice took it coast-to-coast, finishing with a soaring dunk.
“He gives us another dimension. We’ve been playing with six of our new dudes. Now we added the seventh and I’m happy for him. He’s going to help us. He’s going to be really good for us.” said Keatts. “I said this on the radio just now…we’ve got some older guys, but two really good young players in Dennis Parker Jr. and also MJ Rice. It was good for MJ to see the ball going in. I think he played 10 minutes had 11 points. He made a three. He had a big time dunk, so I was excited for him.”
“He gives us the ability to play a little bit more small ball. If we have to, we can play him and Dennis Parker both at the three and four. Really good defender at that position and can rebound the basketball,” said Keatts. “It’s going to take time. I’m trying to figure out how to kind of put him into the rotation, and now we’ve added another really good exciting piece to it, but it was good to have him back out there.”
Welcome to the Pack MJ! We’re glad you’ve arrived!