The looming Saturday matchup with #25 Missouri is going to be a huge test for this young Wolfpack team. This is their first run in with a ranked opponent and will be playing their first game after a week long layoff for Christmas.
This is also a huge game here at PackInsider.com. See, my wife is a Missouri grad and a die-hard Tigers fan. After years of rooting for Missouri as my second favorite college team, I will be turning my back on them this weekend.
The good news, however, is that I’m going to be able to give you the most in-depth Missouri preview possible, thanks to the fact that I’ve watched every minute of nearly every game over the past 4 season. With that said, let’s get into it.
– Players to Watch
You might remember this team from last year. They were powered by the do-it all point guard Phil Pressey, who has since left for the NBA. This year they’re back with a tandem of dangerous guards in Jabari Brown and Jordan Clarkson. These two guys are both big, fast scoring guards. Clarkson (6’5, 193 lbs) leads the team in scoring at 19 ppg, while Brown (6’5, 215lbs) adds 18 ppg.
Clarkson is a Tulsa transfer who loves to slash. He is taller than most point guards and is very quick for his size. He makes a living slashing and scoring at the rim. He’s very good in transition, but he’s not a deadly outside shooter. State is going to be outmatched size-wise, but can still slow Clarkson by keeping him out of the lane and making him settle for 3s.
Brown, on the other hand, is more of a shooter. He’s hitting 42% of his 3s (which is the same as Ralston Turner for State) and he’s shooting a lot of them. This guy is a lot more physical than Clarkson and has the ability to drive and attack when he wants to. Brown will likely draw Dez Lee, who will need to go over top of screens to stop open looks from the perimeter, but will need the bigs to hedge and help because he’s almost as dangerous when he catches the ball going towards the rim.
– Style and Pace
This is a Frank Haith team. You probably remember Haith from his days at Miami, where he was always running out a lot of good athletes, but year after year his teams lacked discipline. Well, not much has changed. This Missouri team is as talented as they come, but if they’re not hitting their shots, they can get sloppy. They like to play at a pretty hectic pace and would rather not set up in the half court if they can avoid it. The same can be said about NC State, so be ready for a track meet when these teams collide on Saturday night.
– A Look at the Numbers
Missouri and NC State are really pretty even when you look at the numbers. Missouri averages 78 ppg to NC State’s 77 ppg. The Tigers are a little better on the boards, pulling down 40 rebounds per game to the Wolfpack’s 37. Both teams average 5 steals per game, and State averages 5 blocks to Mizzou’s 4. These teams are only 2 assists apart per game with the Pack at 14 and the Tigers at 12. Both teams also shoot 49% for the season.
Here are a few areas where the numbers differ and how they could affect the game:
• Missouri is a better shooting team from beyond the arc and from the free throw line. They shoot 37% from 3 and 71% from the line, while NC State only shoots 31% from 3 and 66% from the line.
It’s very likely that this basketball game comes down to the team that has the better role players. Sure, Brown and Clarkson will get theirs, but who steps up after that?
Saturday, 8pm | PNC Arena Raleigh
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!
NC State 93 UMES 61: BOX SCORE
Pack Insider’s Highlight Reel of NC State’s Win Over BC
Ready to watch NC State’s Men’s Basketball team play in the ‘old barn’ tonight against Maryland Eastern-Shore? Well, until 7pm, go ahead and get yourself hype by watching Pack Insider’s Highlight Reel of the Wolfpack’s ACC opening win over BC this past Saturday. Check it out above.