NC State Wolfpack @ #1 Syracuse Orange
7pm | Carrier Dome | ACCN
With a win today NC State could take a gigantic step toward punching their ticket to the NCAA Tournament in March. There’s only one problem…They have to beat #1 ranked, undefeated Syracuse on their home floor.
Yesterday we broke down the zone defense that makes Syracuse so dangerous. Today, in preparation for the game, we’ll take a look at the keys for NC State and the star players on both sides.
Players to Watch:
For NC State: TJ Warren
The key player for the Wolfpack will, of course, be their leading scorer TJ Warren. It’s pretty obvious that Warren is going to be a huge factor in whether State plays well or not, but even more so against the Orange. The sophomore forward is averaging 23ppg and just recently was snubbed by being left off the final nominee list for the Naismith Award (best player in college basketball). With a chip on his shoulder, Warren is going to be that much more dangerous. He’s obviously going to be option #1 today when they face the nation’s best zone defense. Warren’s unique ability to knock down midrange jumpers is going to bother Syracuse. They make a living off forcing contested midrange shots from the middle of their zone. Most teams in America just don’t have guy tall enough or accurate enough to be able to hurt the Orange in this capacity, but NC State does. It’s not going to be simple to get the ball to TJ in the middle of that zone, but the guards need to use ball fakes, and quick reversals to open up some passing lanes. Once he’s got the ball in the middle, there is usually a little daylight. If Warren get hit a few of these early, he’ll make Syracuse pull in their zone a bit and it will look a lot more like a normal, less aggressive 2-3. Not sure that’s actually a good thing for State (since they’re only shooting 30% from 3pt range), but it’s what they’re going to have to overcome if they want to shock the world and pull off this win.
For Syracuse: CJ Fair
If State can score against this defense (which isn’t easy), then they can definitely make this a game. Syracuse isn’t a high scoring team and they rely a lot on CJ Fair for their offense. The NBA ready forward is averaging nearly 17 ppg and shooting 45% from the field. Fair can do it all. He’s long, lean and quick. He’s got a soft touch and he’s aggressive around the hoop. Leave him alone and he can knock it down from anywhere on the court. At 6’8 he’s likely going to be guarded by Warren, but TJ is going to have to play smart because Fair can get him into foul trouble pretty easily. Stopping Fair needs to be their #1 goal on defense, but it’s easier said than done.
Keys to the Game for NC State:
Be quick, decisive and aggressive against the zone
2-3 zones have a way of lulling a team to sleep. State has really struggled with that and have gone stagnant against nearly every 2-3 they’ve seen all year. That type of play is going to get your crushed against the Orange. As we pointed out in yesterday’s article, State doesn’t have any time to mess around with dribbling out top or holding the ball to survey the situation. They’re going to need to move the ball and move it fast. They’re going to have to trust their zone offense and trust that their guys are going to be where they’re supposed to be. They’re going to need to anticipate the Syracuse zone rotations and get guys open with quick pass fakes, crisp passes and fast ball movement. When they see a gap, there is no time to hesitate. They need to attack and attack strong. Dez Lee will likely be the most well suited of the guards to get into the lane and create havoc. If State wants to win, we’re going to need to see the most physical, focused performance of the season.
Tyler Lewis and Cat Barber need to key the offense
Neither guy is likely to have a big scoring night (unless somehow they get hot from 3pt range), but both are very important to the Wolfpack’s chances. The Orange is going to try to trap Lewis and really pressure him in this zone. Smaller guards often have trouble making point to point passes against this zone because of the length and wingspan of their guards. Lewis needs to use his smarts to his advantage. His ability to create misdirection with his passes and his ball fakes will be big for State, as well as his ability to calm the team down and stopping them from getting out of control or taking poor shots against the zone.
For Barber, they key is going to be to not over dribble. The reason Lewis has earned more playing time is because Barber has allowed the offense to get stagnant against zones. The ball doesn’t move as well when he’s in there because he likes to put it on the floor, attempt to attack and if it’s not there, make the pass. That’s not the way to beat a zone and it’s certainly not going to fly against Syracuse. Barber is going to have trust that moving the ball quickly will open up lanes for him, and at that point he can attack. Cat has started playing better recently and his shot seems to be coming around. The Pack is going to need a huge game from him today if they want to win against this longer, stronger Syracuse team.
Shoot it with confidence
Let’s be straight-up here. State isn’t going to win if they shoot the ball poorly. This isn’t a team that has made a living off great shooting nights. In fact, when State is forced to win from the outside, they rarely are able to do it. The good news is that they are coming off a game where they shot the ball extremely well. Against Wake they shot 53% and hit 45% of their 3s. That’s a huge step in the right direction and great to see at this point in the season. In fact, I don’t think that this team is full of bad shooters. I think they have good shooters who are questioning their shots and not trusting themselves. Lewis, Barber, Warren and Lee can all shoot. They all have good form and they all have shot well in their past, which makes me confident that at some point this shooting slump is going to end…hopefully that day is today.
Shut down the Syracuse guards
This one is huge. The Orange have two guards that I feel are playing way above their ceiling right now. Freshman Tyler Ennis is living on cloud 9 after his long game winner against Pitt and Sophomore Trevor Cooney is shooting the ball like he’s Scott Wood. Ennis is good, but he’s still a freshman. State needs to be very physical with him and not allow him to get where he wants to go. Cooney needs to be tracked, especially around the 3pt line. He’s shooting around seven 3’s per game and hitting at a 43% clip. He’s big and pretty strong, but nothing Dez Lee can’t handle. Gottfried is going to have a tough decision though. Does he go with Lee, who is certainly their best defensive stopper, or does he go with Turner who he really needs out there against this zone. It’s a tough call, but this is why Gott makes the big bucks.
State is going to need to play physical, control the boards and really have one of their best showings of the season. Syracuse is good, but I don’t think they’re good enough to go undefeated all season. They’re coming off a close win against Pitt and might already be looking forward to their next matchup with Duke (which is only a week away). If State can come out with aggression and focus, they could have a chance to get a win that would propel them into tournament bid come March.
NC State’s Men’s Basketball Team is Having One of it’s Best Runs in the ACC Ever
Heading into tonight’s Top-25 matchup between #22 NC State and #8 UVA, the Wolfpack are in the midst of one of their best runs in ACC play since the conference was formed in 1953.
The Wolfpack are 9-4 in the ACC, but they have won 8 of their last 9 conference games.
The last time NC State went on a run like this in ACC Regular Season games was during the 1972-73 and 73-74 seasons, when the Wolfpack went 12-0 in ACC play.
12-0 (1972 & 73-74)
12 of 13 (1958-59)
8 of 9 (2022-23, 1961-61, 1954-55)
7 of 8 (1974-75, 1969-70, 1964-65, 1955-56)
6 of 7 (2005-06, 1979-80, 1960-61, 1957-58)
#22 NC State is a 7.5-Point Underdog at #8 UVA Tonight
#22 NC State is a 7.5-point underdog at #8 Virginia tonight at 9pm, and the Total is sitting at 137.
- NC State is 19-5 Straight Up.
- They are 11-11-2 Against the Spread.
- UVA is 17-4 Straight Up.
- They are 8-12-1 Against the Spread.
- The Total has gone Over in 13 of NC State’s 24 games.
- The Total has gone Over in 12 of UVA’s 22 games
- UVA is 15-2 as the Favorite.
- NC State is 4-4 as the Underdog.
- NC State is 4-1-1 in their last 6 games against UVA Against the Spread.
- The Total has gone Over in 5 of NC State’s last 7 games.
- The Total has gone Over in 4 of UVA’s last 5 games.
- The Total has gone Under in 5 of the last 6 games between these two in Charlottesville.
- NC State has won two in a row, and 3 of the last 4 against UVA.
- Kevin Keatts is 3-4 against UVA. He is 2-2 at UVA.
NC State vs. UVA
NC State is the ONLY Team in the Triangle Ranked for the 1st Time in 40 Years
NC State’s Men’s Basketball team is back in the AP Top 25 for the first time in 4 years, landing at #22 in the Week 14 AP Poll.
NC State is ranked. Duke and UNC are not. Last time that was the case? December 27th, 1982. Over 40 years ago. It’s only the 6th time in 67 years that this has happened.
Wolfpack was 17th that week. UNC was unranked in two polls all year, Dec. 20 and Dec. 27. Duke was not ranked that season (Dawkins, Alarie, Bilis, Henderson were freshmen).
Other *cough* ACC teams on Dec. 27: Virginia (4), Louisville (13), Syracuse (14).
— Luke DeCock (@LukeDeCock) February 6, 2023
Before that: The preseason poll in 1973, the final poll in 1970 and Dec. 5, 1955. So this is the sixth time in 67 years.
Happened pretty often between 1952-55. NC State was ranked during the entire 1950-51 season while neither Duke nor UNC was.
— Luke DeCock (@LukeDeCock) February 6, 2023
Anyone remember what happened that 1982-83 basketball season?
NC State won the National Championship.
NC State Breaks Into the AP Poll, Landing at #22
NC State is off to it’s best start in almost 2 decades, and they now finally have a number beside their name, landing at #22 in the Week 14 AP Poll.
— NC State Men's Bball (@PackMensBball) February 6, 2023
This is the first time that NC State has been ranked in the AP Poll since January 28th, 2019, when they were ranked 23rd.
ACC Teams in the Week 14 AP Poll
22. NC State