NC State struggles against the zone, there is no debating that. The Wolfpack shoots exactly 30% as a team from 3pt range, and outside of Ralston Turner, doesn’t have a single player who shoots over 30%. So why is there any reason to think that this team has what it takes to beat the best zone defense in the nation?
I’m not going to sit here and say State has a good shot at a win on Saturday afternoon at Syracuse, but I’m also not going to say that it’s impossible. Syracuse is known nationally for having one of the toughest zones in the nation. They’ve beaten great shooting teams like Duke and just beat a very physical Pitt team. So what does it take to beat the Orange? To answer that question I think it’s important to understand why their zone is so good in the first place.
Jim Boeheim consistently gets some of the longest, most athletic players in the country and then teaches them how to use that to their advantage in the zone. By doing this, they cut down the passing lanes and make it tougher to get 3s off for the opposition. Most zones you see are in place to make up for a weak link on defense, or because a team is too small to defend man to man. In The Orange’s case, the zone is in place to play to their strengths. They don’t sit back and wait for you to shoot. They pressure the ball, extend their zone and make every pass tough. They also like to trap in the corners when the ball is swung there.
So what can State do to beat this zone? Well, for starters they’re going to have to throw it off balance. The way to do this is by throwing in tons of pass fakes and shot fakes, combined with quick, crisp ball movement. Syracuse is very good at anticipating passes, which help them get out on shooters and close driving lanes before the player even catches the pass. This type of anticipation also makes them susceptible to good ball fakes and misdirection. Well sold pass fakes and ball reversals will open up these lanes and give State some daylight.
But that’s only step one.
Once you get them off-balance and late on a rotation, you have to know how to attack. Hesitate for a second and they’ve recovered. Quick ball movement and a decisive attack will be the only way to get open looks. Now, you can’t just bulldoze into the middle of this zone and think you’re getting a good shot. They are too long and too athletic. They can close in on you fast and get you trapped in the middle. If you’re going to attack the gaps you need to be react quickly when their bigs step up. Usually the entire zone collapses at this point and you can find an open man for 3. But with the way State shoots, this might not be the best way to beat Syracuse. The Pack is going to need to get Warren the ball in the middle. Against most zones, that’s an easy task, but against this one it’s going to be tough. As I said, they’re are going to need to first catch Syracuse in the middle of a rotation, then sneak it into Warren around the free throw line and let him work. He might get some easy shots early on, but Boeheim’s group will adjust and either start reeling in their guards and not extending them as much, or cheating their middle big up to the high post.
When they do this, State will need to start adjusting. This is when Vandy becomes a good option for the lob. As the bigs cheat up to get on Warren they leave the rim unguarded and State needs to make them pay. Getting the ball in the middle to TJ also likely opens up the shooter on the opposite side. By moving the ball quickly to the middle, then opposite to someone like Lee or Turner, you now have the zone flustered and working hard to recover. A shot may be open, but with a guy closing out hard, a shot fake and drive may be just as open.
The real key here is not being slow and not hesitating with the basketball (as State usually does against zones). Quick ball movement from side to side, pass fakes, shot fakes then immediately either attack or pass. Standing around or dribbling side to side is only going to hurt you against Syracuse. This is a team reliant on team defense and State needs to play very together on offense if they want to beat it. Again, getting Warren the ball in the middle of the zone is also huge. He has a dangerous mid-range game and is also usually smart with the basketball. If everyone on this team can be smart, quick, aggressive and decisive with the basketball, they could have a shot to topple #1…but it’s going to take a near perfect effort.
NC State 84 BC 78: BOX SCORE
NC State is a Slight Underdog in ACC Opener vs. Boston College
NC State (4-2) will play their first ACC game of the 2023-24 season tomorrow on the road against Boston College (5-2), and they enter the game as slight underdogs. The Wolfpack are 1.5-point underdogs, and the Total is 150.5.
- NC State is 0-2 Straight Up as underdogs
- BC is 4-1 Straight Up as favorites.
- NC State is 2-4 Against the Spread.
- BC is 4-3 Against the Spread
- The Total has gone Under in 2 games for NC State, Over in 3 and Pushed in 1.
- The Total has gone Under in 3 games for Boston College and Over in 4.
- NC State is 6-4 in their last 10 games against BC Straight Up.
- NC State is 4–6 Against the Spread in their last 10 games against BC.
- The Total has gone Under in 5 games, and Under in the other 5.
#5 NC State 70 Vanderbilt 62: BOX SCORE (with notes)
The 5th ranked NC State Women’s Basketball team improved to 8-0 tonight, defeating Vanderbilt 70-62 in the inaugural ACC/SEC Challenge.
- Saniya Rivers scored 20+ points for the 2nd time this season, scoring 22 points on 8 of 14 shooting. She also chipped in 8 rebounds and 2 steals.
- River Baldwin posted her first double-double of the season. She scored 12 points and grabbed 10 boards.
- Aziaha James has now scored in double figures in 7 of 8 games, scoring 14 points tonight, shooting 6 of 10 from the field and 2 of 3 from beyond the arc.
- Freshman Zoe Brooks led the Pack in steals (4) and assists (4).
- NC State didn’t shoot well, making only 39% of their shots. Fortunately, they held Vandy to 34.3% shooting.
The Wolfpack will host Illinois State on Sunday at 2pm.
NC State Stat Leaders Heading into the ACC Opener vs Boston College
This Saturday, NC State heads to Boston College for the now-annual early ACC opener. The Pack will face off against the Eagles at 4pm on ACC Network. Here is where the team is statistically after 6 games.
- Casey Morsell leads NC State in scoring with 14.5 ppg.
- The Pack has 4 double-digit scorers this season. Morsell (14.5), Jayden Taylor (13.3), DJ Burns (13) and DJ Horne (11.2)
(Last season State had 4 double-digit scorers as well. Terquavion (17.9), Joiner (17), Burns (12.5) and Morsell (11.8))
- After their top 4 scorers there is a big dip. Parker comes in at 6.8, O’Connell at 6.3, and Middlebrooks at 5.5 ppg.
(Last season Jack Clark was 5th on the team in scoring at 9 points and Mahorcic was at 8.7. However, both guys missed a large chunk of the season.)
- Burns is leading NC State in rebounding this year at 5.3 per game. Diarra is next with 5.3 (but is currently hampered by an ankle injury.)
- O’Connell is leading NC State in assists with 3.3 per game, and Burns is up next with 2.5. PG DJ Horne is only averaging 2.
- LJ Thomas and Mike O’Connell are tied in leading the team at .15 assists per minute.
- Jayden Taylor is leading NC State in 3pt %, shooting an outstanding 45.8%, while Morsell is up next at 34.6%. Horne is close behind at 33%.
(LJ Thomas is shooting 50% from 3, but only has 2 attempts.)
- Burns is leading the bigs, shooting 56.5% from the floor, while Middlebrooks is close behind at 54.2%. Dennis Parker Jr is coming in at 45.2%.
- For the guards, it’s Casey Morsell leading the way at 44.6% from the floor, while O’Connell is next up at 43.4%. Taylor is shooting 42.4%, and DJ Horne is struggling a bit, shooting just 34.8% from the field.
- Jayden Taylor is turning the ball over the most at 1.8 times per game, while Burns is next at 1.7. Morsell is at 1.5 and O’Connell is at 1.2. DJ Horne has been doing a good job of protecting the basketball, turning it over just .3 times per game.