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Gameday: NC State’s keys to the game vs. UNC

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NC State Wolfpack vs. North Carolina Tar Heels
8pm | Raleigh, NC | ACCN

It’s a big one tonight, folks. NC State faces their bitter rivals in a game that has much than bragging rights on the line. With a win against Carolina, State will put itself in position for an at-large bid to the NC AA Tournament. A loss and the Pack is all but out of the big dance.

Right now it would seem as though Gottfried’s group is walking right into a buzzsaw. UNC might be the hottest team in the country and it’s as though all of their pieces are coming together at the same time,. This team, however, is far from unbeatable and there is no doubt that if State controls the tempo, the boards and slows down their transition, that they can walk away with the win. Let’s take a look at a few things we think are important tonight.

State/Carolina by the numbers
UNC shoots a decent 46% from the floor, scores 77ppg but is one of the better rebounding teams in the nation at 41 rebounds per contest. They have 392 offensive rebounds this season and have made a living off of second change points. They average 16 assists per game and shoot 33% from 3.

Meanwhile, the Wolfpack shoot 45% from the floor and average 70 ppg. They only average 35 boards per game and have 321 offensive rebounds on the season. State averages 13 assists per game, but only shoot 29% from beyond the arc.

Last time out
About a month ago, State and UNC met in the Dean Dome and things didn’t go so well for the Pack. They came out very soft, very tentative and really just did not get things going for the first 10 minutes. After being down by 17 in the first half, the Pack came back out and ended up winning the 2nd half by 3 (but losing the game by 14). What does this mean? Well, you can take away that this State team does have what it takes talent wise, but do they have what it takes mentally? They need to come out strong and come out with focus. They need to play hungry, crash the boards, body up the UNC bigs and make sure they don’t lose their man on defense.

Defensively the NC State guards need to play better this time around. Marcus Paige and Leslie McDonald are both scoring the ball at a high rate right now, and last time out they combined for 35 points. That’s pretty much unacceptable for the Pack if they want a win tonight. The burden is going to be on Lewis/Barber, who will have to stop Marcus Paige. He’s going to be aggressive, but they have to stay in front of him. A dribble drive breakdown at the top will get UNC a ton of open shots. If State can stop the dribble penetration and minimize the amount of help-side D they’ll need to use, then they’ll be able to play straight up, and man for man, State should be able to match them.

The other big key will be inside. Kyle Washington has really made strides lately, but it’s going to be about Vandy and Anya. UNC has agile, athletic bigs in Kennedy Meeks, Brice Johnson and McAdoo. They are really going to rely on those guys to score and control the boards. State will need to make things tough on these three by not allowing deep position on the blocks, not allowing them to the rim on drives, and not allowing guys like McAdoo to beat them down the floor for transition buckets.

On the boards, State is going to have to want it more. This Wolfpack team has been off and on in terms of physicality. Washington is there, Freeman is usually there, but Vandenberg and Anya are question marks and will be important tonight. They both are going to need to play physical while sill playing smart, boxing out and attacking the glass.  Last game McAdoo went for 16 and 13, while Brice Johnson added 10 and 7 and Meeks put in 8 and 10. The truth is, basically everyone UNC put out there took advantage of State. This time around Gott’s group can’t let that happen.

 

Knock down shots
Warren was bothered by Tokoto’s defense last time they played, but finally got it going in the second half. State is going to need Warren to be his usual self while also getting help from some shooters. That’s a lot to ask a team who doesn’t have a single guy shooting over 30% from 3 (other than Turner.) However, this team actually does have a few capable shooters. Lewis is actually pretty good shooter when you go back to last year and through his HS career. Barber can shoot it. Lee has a good looking stroke. So what gives? I’m not sure, but they are seriously lacking confidence beyond the arc. If this team could just get hot for a short streak, they could really change the way teams play them.

Can Lewis stop Paige?
Tyler Lewis has reignited the Wolfpack offense with 44 assists to only 5 turnovers in the past 9 games. He’s protecting the basketball and getting the ball where it needs to go against the zone (which State sees often). There is no question that this team needs Lewis out there on offense, but can he stop one of the better scoring guards in the league? Well, I think he can if he plays smart. Lewis has problems with bigger, stronger guards, but Paige isn’t that. He’s thin, only 6’1 and not a super athlete. Lewis will be looked upon to stop dribble penetration and I think he can do it. He’s done a great job of staying in front of defenders as of late, but larger, stronger guys have taken advantage of his size. Tonight, he’ll be able to really show what he can do on defense. If he can neutralize Paige, NC State wins this basketball game.

 

How to beat UNC
I’m not going to lie. This team is white hot right now. They have won their last 9 games and look like a whole new basketball team. So, what’s it going to take for State to beat them? Well, first off they need to take cues from other teams that have knocked off the Heels earlier in the season. For instance. in most of their losses UNC had bad shooting nights from their guards. Paige was 2-11 when they lost to Miami and 4-14 in their loss to Virginia. Against Wake, Paige was 3-12 and McDonald was 3-13. This team is fueled by their guards. When they’re scoring, they’re winning. The absolute key tonight is for State is to shut down the guards, control the tempo and rule the boards. It’s a tall order, but if they want to play big games in March, State is going to have to go above and beyond.

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NC State Basketball

NC State Men’s Basketball 2024-25 Scholarship Breakdown

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With the announcement of the addition of Forward Ismael Diouf yesterday, and news breaking that MJ Rice and Ernest Ross are no longer with the team this morning, here’s a look at the Scholarship Breakdown for the Men’s Basketball Team for the 2024-25 season.

Senior (1 Year of Eligibility)

Forward/Center Brandon Huntley-Hatfield
Forward/Center Ben Middlebrooks
Forward Guard Dontrez Styles
Guard/Forward Jayden Taylor
Guard Michael O’Connell
Guard Marcus Hill
Guard Breon Pass

Junior (2 Years of Eligibility)

Forward/Center Ismael Diouf
Guard Mike James

Sophomore ( 3 Years of Eligibility)

Guard/Forward Dennis Parker Jr.

Freshman (4 Years of Eligibility)

Guard/Forward Paul McNeil Jr.
Guard Trey Parker

NC State now has 1 scholarship available for the 2024-25 season. 

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Ernest Ross is No Longer on NC State’s Roster

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According to a source, Senior Forward Ernest Ross is no longer on NC State’s roster.

On April 17th, Ross entered the Transfer Portal. On May 10th, Ross verbally committed to UTSA. Then on May 15th, Ross announced that he would in fact be returning to NC State for his final year of eligibility.

Ross played in 14 games this past season, averaging 3.4 minutes per contest. After playing in 34 games last season, averaging 11.4 minutes per contest, Ross saw his participation dip to a career low this season, but that didn’t for a second break his infectious personality.

Ross was a consensus 4-star player in NC State’s 2021 recruiting class, with 247Sports ranking him as the #60 overall player nationally. ESPN ranked him as the #5 overall player in the state of Florida.

According to a source, Ross is leaving the program for personal reasons, that are non-basketball related.

Ross has 1 year of eligibility remaining.

 

 

 

 

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NC State Basketball

MJ Rice is No Longer on NC State’s Roster

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According to a source, Sophomore Guard MJ Rice is no longer on NC State’s roster.

Rice transferred to NC State last offseason from Kansas, and only played in 9 games for the Wolfpack this past season, averaging 4.1 points in 8.8 minutes per game.

On January 24th, it NC State announced that Rice would be sitting out the remainder of the season, and that they would be submitting a waiver for the season to count as a Redshirt year.

Prior to the beginning of the  season, Rice stepped away from the program for personal reasons, and missed the first 7 games, before joining the Wolfpack against Maryland Eastern-Shore.

The Kansas transfer played in 23 games for the Jayhawks as a Freshman, averaging 2.2 points in 7.6 minutes per game. ON3 ranked Rice as the #24 overall player nationally in the 2022 recruiting class. They also ranked him as the #2 overall player in the Transfer Portal.

It was always ‘iffy’ whether or not Rice would be on next years roster, but he didn’t enter the Transfer Portal, and remained with the team on their magical run, and even after.

According to a source, Rice is leaving the program for personal reasons, that are non-basketball related.

Rice has 3 years of eligibility remaining.

 

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NC State Commit Ismael Diouf: VIDEO VAULT

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NC State just landed a MASSIVE commitment from Canadian Forward Ismael Diouf (6’9″/215). Here’s a VIDEO VAULT of the new NC State big man.

 

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