NC State Wolfpack @ Clemson Tigers
7pm | Clemson, SC | ESPNU
The Wolfpack are coming off a heartbreaking loss to #1 Syracuse, a win that would have pretty much locked them into the NCAA tournament. Now, with only six games left to play, they’re going to have to fight and claw to make it into the big dance. That starts tonight against Clemson.
This game is huge for State. Both teams are currently tied for 6th in the conference. The winner of this game moves 1 game back from Pitt in the standings and sets themselves up for a late season run that could end with an at-large bid to the tournament. This game, however, is tough to get a good read on. How will the Wolfpack respond to the devastating 1 point loss at Syracuse? How will Clemson come out after 3 straight losses that have really hurt their postseason chances? We’ll take a look at this and more in our pre-game notes below:
How will NC State bounce back after ‘Cuse loss?
I’m real used to NC State heartbreak at this point, but that Syracuse ending might have taken the cake (or it’s at least right up there with the full court shot Florida hit to win the game a few years back). So who will this team react? They’re young and they haven’t felt what they’re feeling right now. They had a win over the #1 team in their hands and thanks to some botched late game possessions and some sketchy officiating, it slipped away. Now it’s up to them. This season isn’t over by any means. They are sitting at 6th in the conference and are honestly playing their best ball of the season. At this point it all comes down to their response to that loss. Will they come out hanging their heads or will they come out hungry, with an us against the world attitude? I think if Gottfried can connect with his team, and we know he can, this team is going to come out starving for a win. I wouldn’t be surprised to see State play one of their better games of the season against Clemson.
Is Kyle Washington for real?
After that 14 point, 10 rebound performance against #1 Syracuse, yes, I do think Washington has arrived. With freshmen you can really see a real pronounced change in their game as the season rolls along. For Washington you’d see these spurts of really impressive play, but there was still that self-doubt or lack of confidence based on lack of seniority and his then current role. A performance like he had on a national stage is usually can flip the light switch for a player. It can give them that assurance that they’re capable and it gives them assurance that their team wants and needs them to produce. For Kyle, I think that’s all he needed. He’s playing so strong and I think will be a true force from here on out. I think we’ve just witnessed the arrival of big time player here at NC State.
How does NC State prepare for Clemson?
The Tigers are hungry, but they’re also likely feeling a little doubt after losing 3 straight and really dropping themselves in the ACC rankings. Sure they have been close games to good teams, but a loss is still a loss and 3 straight can definitely get in your mind. NC State definitely has a good chance in this one if they can come out with a chip on their shoulder. The real decider in this one is toughness. Clemson is a good defensive team and they’re going to be physical with State and pressure them on defense, something the Pack has really struggled with this season. Lewis is going to be the key again. If he can handle the pressure and control the pace, State can really take it to this team. With they way they are defending lately they won’t have a tough time stopping this Clemson team’s offense. They really only have one decent scorer in KJ McDaniels who is averaging 17 ppg, but if TJ Warren can shut down CJ Fair then I’m not sure that McDaniels is going to be much different. At 6’6 he’s a little smaller and definitely quicker, but he loves to attack and can still hurt you from outside if you leave him wide open. But again, the Clemson offense isn’t what you need to worry about, it’s their defense. They are physical, they are pretty strong and they rebound the ball well. This is going to be another game where the Pack is going to need big performances form Vandy and Washington if they want to stay in control. If they play tough, Lewis protects the ball and controls the pace, and the bigs play hungry, then State can pull off a win here.
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.