After over a month of waiting, NC State could welcome back Jordan Vandenberg on Tuesday.
The 7’1 senior suffered a high ankle sprain in the preseason and has missed the team’s first four games. His absence has meant that freshmen Kyle Washington, Lennard Freeman and Beejay Anya have been thrown into the fire and asked to bear the entire front court burden.
So far, it’s been a learning process. Washington has struggled with the strength and physicality of the college game. Freeman has been strong enough, but is not advanced enough offensively. Then you have Anya who can hold his own defensively, but again, isn’t there offensively or conditioning wise.
So that leaves the Wolfpack with a gaping front court hole. Their two losses have both come on games where they have been out-rebounded. Their guard play has been surprisingly good, so getting a guy like Vandenberg back is definitely going to help. Here are a few reasons we can’t wait to see JV suit back up for the Wolfpack.
Making it tougher in the paint – You can make any argument you want as to why State needs Vandy back in the lineup, however I think the strongest would be his mere presence in the lane. The guy is 7’1 and you put him in the middle of the lane, all of the sudden interior shot trajectories change and players need to be aware of where he at all times. I’m not saying Jordan is going to be a savior, but I’m saying that he’s going to plug a hole that is currently leaking. State’s front line is usually 6’6, 6’8, 6’9. Not awful, but not intimidating. Add a 7 footer in there and you might have something.
Rebounding – State has been killed on the boards by good teams so far. NCCU and Cincy both took the Pack to school in the rebounding category. It’s not that they’re not fighting – they are – it’s that they aren’t strong enough and aren’t seasoned enough to be good on the glass yet. Adding Vandenberg will most certainly help against bigger, stronger teams.
Second chance points- Here is somewhere that NC State has been bad. While they are rebounding off their own misses (52 offensive boards on the season) they aren’t scoring them. Sure, Warren is saving State’s stats in this category and making them decent, but outside of him, there isn’t much to speak of. Vandy is going to be a huge help with this. While he’s not completely polished offensively, he is a big body and he does work hard on the offensive glass. He’ll need to be careful because he does like to go over the back when trying to hard, but his ability to clean up some of State’s mess will be welcomed.
Scoring in transition- I know this might come as a surprise, but JV is really good at running the break for a big. If you watched early in the season, he was the recipient of a lot of Tyler Lewis highlight reel plays. Vandy is in pretty good shape this year and he really likes the transition game (because, oh how he loves his dunks), so watch out for the fast break points to tick up when Vandy returns.
All in all, it will be nice to watch the Pack at full strength to get a real feel for their strengths and weaknesses. I guess the silver lining in all of this is that it has made State a deeper team. With Vandenberg down, Freeman stepped up, Washington played good minutes and Anya broke into the rotation. If he had never hurt himself, you may not have seen as much of these young guys. The minutes they received will certainly come back to to help State when foul trouble comes knocking during ACC season.
NC State’s Wes Moore is 1 of 15 on the Late Season Watchlist for the Naismith Women’s College Coach of the Year Award
NC State Women’s Basketball Head Coach Wes Moore is 1 of 15 on the Naismith Late Season Watchlist for the Coach of the Year Award.
The leader of our Pack 🐺🐺
— NC State WBB 🐺🏀 (@PackWomensBball) February 21, 2024
Currently, Moore has led NC State from being unranked in the preseason polls, to #6 currently. The Wolfpack are 23-3, and numerous publications project them to be a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Moore was a finalist for the Naismith Coach of the Year Award in 2020-21 and a Semifinalist in 2015-16.
NC State NET Rankings Report After Syracuse Loss
NC State lost to Syracuse 83-87 last night, and as a result, the Wolfpack fell 5 spots in the NET Rankings to #80. The Orange moved up 6 spots to #84.
NC State is now 9th in the ACC in the NET rankings.
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)
Thoughts on NC State’s 83-87 Loss to Syracuse
NC State’s (16-10/8-7) 83-87 loss to Syracuse this evening might have been the nail-in-the-coffin when it comes to the Wolfpack’s NCAA Tournament aspirations. They were barely on the bubble as it was, but this game and the next two games against Boston College and Florida State were “must wins.” On top of that, the Wolfpack probably needed to beat Pitt in the regular season finale, and beat either Duke or UNC.
With this loss, NC State will need a miracle. They will need to win the rest of their regular season games, which concludes with 3 consecutive Quad 1 games.
In regards to this evenings game, it’s hard to beat a team when you allow them to shoot 61.3% in the first half, and allow a guy who averages 11.3 points per game (Chris Bell) to sink 8 of 9 three’s at the halfway mark. Sure, you could make the excuse that they were just hitting everything they threw up, but the defense was lackluster, and they failed to adjust to a player with a hot hand.
What I’m about to say isn’t meant to describe a moral victory for NC State. With that being said, this team didn’t give up, and clawed back from a 15-point halftime deficit (16-point at one point in the 2nd half), to take a 1-point lead with 3:15 left in the game. That was the first time the Wolfpack had led since it was 2-0.
Senior DJ Horne was sensational once again, scoring 25+ points for the 5th straight game, matching what Cat Barber did back in 2015-16. Horne finished with 32 points, hitting 11 of his 20 field goal attempts, and an insane 6 of 8 from three.
Could you argue that Horne was fouled on the last play? I guess, but I wouldn’t have called it.
Three other Wolfpack players scored in double figures: Ben Middlebrooks (12), DJ Burns (12) and Jayden Taylor (10). Honestly, they all shot well. Middlebrooks had a double-double, with 10 rebounds.
Mohamed Diarra was solid with 7 points (3-6) and 8 boards.
Syracuse came back to reality in the second half, and ended up shooting 51% from the field, but the Wolfpack shot 47%. Both teams shot well. In fact, NC State actually scored more points off of turnovers, had more second chance points and had more free throws.
You simply can’t put yourself in a position to dig yourself out of a 16-point deficit. You can’t allow a guy to make 8 of 9 three’s in the opening half, with 6 of them being practically uncontested.
The Wolfpack have lost 3 of the last 4, and all 3 losses have been by 4 points or less. I wouldn’t say the Pack lost any of those three games due to a lack of effort. Rather, I would say it was primarily due to inconsistency, a lack of discipline and poor decisions in timely moments (Jayden Taylor’s TO with 1:13 left with the game tied).
With Wake Forest beating Pitt tonight, a Wolfpack win would have put them in 4th place in the ACC.
A big missed opportunity for the Pack this evening.