Well, the preseason is over and it’s on to ACC play this Saturday when the Pack takes on Pitt at home. So far the season has been a big win for Gottfried and company. State was just an afterthought when the season began, but now there’s a little buzz around them and people around the nation are starting to take notice. We discussed the reasons why and as a staff came up with this report card:
Team Chemistry: A
In prior years NC State would be lucky to receive a ‘C’ at best in this category. It’s been a struggle for the coaches in Raleigh to get a talented yet cohesive group together. There’s always been one ego too many or too many guys with their own agenda. This year, however, I think that’s changed and it’s started from the top. Gottfried has been good for this program because he’s put a premium on family and togetherness. He’s recruiting talented team guys and he’s getting the buy in he’s been looking for. As for the players, I think this turnaround can be credited to TJ Warren. Warren is going to be the guy that teammates look to as a leader. He’s carrying this team in scoring every night and he’s really working hard to become a great all around player, but his best asset is his ability to do all that and still be a team first guy. Warren is a lock to play at the next level, but he’s not mailing in his college career. He’s out there trying to win and the rest of the guys see that. It’s refreshing to see this with such a young team because this is how programs grow. You need a good group of veterans to pass this down to the newcomers. The young guys then realize that this is the type of basketball played at NC State and feel obligated to carry the torch. Then when the next class comes in, they teach just as they were taught. Right now NC State is on a pretty nice trajectory in the chemistry department.
We’ve been bullish on Gottfried his opening press conference. But how much weight does that hold? We were bullish on Sidney Lowe after his first season and we all saw how that turned out. I do think Gottfried is different though. Him and his staff are working their tails off to bring in a certain brand of player. They aren’t just going after talent, they’re going after high character talent (something NC State has not seen consistently over the past 10 years). These guys coming in are team first guys with big time talent that are choosing the Wolfpack over other high profile programs. But recruiting is only the beginning. I’ve been impressed with player development since this staff has taken over. Just look at Richard Howell, now Vandenberg and Warren. These guys have completely changed their bodies under this staff. That shows that 1) They’re being told what it takes to be great, and 2) They’re actually buying in and making these changes. This season I do feel as though this staff has done a lot right. I think bringing Dez Lee to Raleigh and being ok with the Purvis departure was a very good move. I think giving major minutes to Lennard Freeman from the get-go was smart and I think relying heavily on these freshmen will end up paying off in years to come. I think moving Cat Barber to the starting role and bringing Ralston Turner off the bench was another good move. The reason I’m giving coaching an A- and not an A is because of the Lewis situation. I think that will eventually work itself out, I do think Lewis is struggling big time with confidence right now and I think the staff could have eased him into the backup role a little easier. Other than that, what can you complain about? Here is a team that many thought would be a bottom 3 team, and Gottfried has people talking about a contender.
I didn’t want to go lower than a B because of the numbers (41st in the nation in FG%), but I think it was only fair since offense is definitely an area for improvement. I think the last two games really exposed a few flaws for this team. Sure, Warren is probably one of the nation’s 10 best scorers and Cat Barber and Dez Lee are both very dangerous scoring guards, but even with that, this team struggles at times to get quality shots. One problem is that there really is not post presence. Vandy, Freeman, Washington and Anya have pretty much earned their keep on the defensive end, but none of them (outside of a few spurts by Washington) have been able to get it going offensively. They lack a true back to the basket option. Although Gottfried really doesn’t rely on post play all that much thanks to the UCLA high post offense, it would be nice to see a guy who they could dump is down to and let him go to work in the paint when the guards are struggling.
When this team is on the break they are very, very dangerous, but they have shown that they struggle shooting the ball from beyond the arc and sometimes rush too much and settle for quick shots in their half court sets. They have yet to show that they can dominate a 2-3 zone, and until they do, teams will be throwing that at them night in and night out.
Defense and Rebounding: B
With Cat Barber and Dez Lee at guard, this team shouldn’t have much problem with opposing backcourts, however there are still times when defensive lapses by these guys lead to easy buckets. That being said, these two guys have shown flashes of being lock down defenders. Warren has become a much better defender and is really exerting himself on this end of the floor while Vandy and Anya have been absolute monsters in the paint. Vandy is constantly altering shots and Anya has stretches where he doesn’t even let the opposition get shots off in the paint before blocking them into the stands. And we didn’t even mention Lennard Freeman who has literally earned his playing time on the boards. If I was projecting these categories, I would likely give NC State an A, because I think when all is said and done, this team will be a dominant defensive group. They are, however, still young and are learning. They currently rank 52nd in FG% defense, but with the ACC season around the corner and bigger, stronger athletes on every team, we’ll really see what this Wolfpack D is made of. All in all, State gets a high grade here because I don’t think anyone pegged them as a team that could lock you down and out-rebound you.
State has good but not great depth. When they do bring guys off the bench they are young but talented guys who really have defined roles. This team doesn’t really have that do-it-all 6th man that ramps up the energy on demand…yet. I think Kyle Washington is budding into a real threat. He’s still finding his niche and learning his role, but slowly but surely he’s gaining confidence. He brings good energy, physicality and the ability to score from 15 feet. They also have a 3 point threat in Ralston Turner. This guy is another one that is learning to settle into his role. Turner could certainly be getting more minutes if he got a little better with shot selection. Too often he’s taking 3’s off-balance and not in the flow of the offense. If he tones it down a bit, plays within the flow of the game, and doesn’t take shots while blanketed by defenders, he’ll certainly be earning more minutes because he can shoot. You also have another young guy in Beejay Anya. The guy is massive and has shown that he can take over games in the paint on the defensive end. He still struggles on offense a bit and his stamina is still a work in progress, but it’s nice to have a backup center that can impact a game. Then you have Tyler Lewis. We hit on him yesterday in an article about his season so far, but he’s a guy that I feel NC State really needs. Barber is your starter for sure and he’s the real deal, but State needs that ball control, change of pace PG for those moments when momentum changes and the team needs to take a step back, calm down and run their sets.
So there are our grades. Do you agree, disagree, think we missed anything? Let us know in this forum thread.
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.
NC State 83 Syracuse 87: BOX SCORE
DJ Horne is Looking to Continue His Streak of 20+ Points or More
NC State is trying to stop a 6-game losing streak to Syracuse tonight, but Senior Wolfpack Guard DJ Horne is trying to continue a streak.
Currently, Horne has scored 20+ points in 5 straight games, which is tied with what Terquavion Smith did last year. If Horne scores 20+ points tonight, his 6-game streak will be the longest since 2015-16, when Cat Barber strung together 7 straight games of 20+ points.
Horne also has scored 25+ points in 4 straight games. If he does so again tonight, he will be the first player to do so since Barber did so in 2015-16, when he scored 25+ in 5-straight games.
What Horne has done in his coming home campaign has been nothing short of remarkable. He is shooting 43.4% from three, which ranks 2nd in the ACC. In his last 18 games, Horne is shooting 46.6% from deep. In ACC play, Horne is averaging 19.3 points per game, which ranks 2nd in the conference.
Here’s what Horne’s numbers look like over his 5-game streak of 20+ points: 26.6 points/51.8 FG%/48.8 3PT%.