Basketball season is finally upon us. The 2014-15 basketball season kicks off tonight with Primetime With the Pack at Reynolds Coliseum. The event is going to be a lot of fun with a red-white scrimmage and an old-timers game featuring Julius Hodge, Chris Corchiani, David Thompson, Rodney Monroe and many more (Tickets for the event are $5).
While the old timers game is going to something to watch, the real focus for us is going to be on the team scrimmage. Every year it’s written off an event that doesn’t hold much value in predicting the coming season, but we believe that it’s a great chance to get a first glimpse of playing styles, player combinations and off-season transformations. Here are our 5 things to watch in tonight’s game.
– How much better is the thin Beejay Anya?
To be honest, a lot rides on the gigantic sophomore. With the graduation of Jordan Vandenberg, Anya is the only thing the Pack has at center. He’ll be looked at to provide a good chunk of minutes in the front court and he’ll have to be ready to shoulder that load. As you likely have heard, Beejay has dropped nearly 60 pounds this offseason in hopes to be able to slot in better to Gottfried’s uptempo offense. Tonight we’ll get our first look at the new Anya in action. I think it will be important to watch the way he gets up and down the floor, the amount of lift he’s gained (which would even increase his shot blocking ability), and his ability to make quicker moves in the post. We’ve been hearing how good his footwork has gotten, so it will be interesting to see if he’s actually going to be a legit scoring option this season for State.
– Just how good is Trevor Lacey?
I remember the hype coming out of high school. Lacey was supposed to be the next elite scorer in college basketball. His combination of a good handle, strength and a silky jumper were the best that the high school ranks had seen in a while. However, after two years at Alabama he hadn’t lived up to those expectation. Now, he was always a very good guard with leadership abilities, but we never saw that game changing scoring ability at work. This offseason, the hype is back. After transferring to State before last season, Lacey has sat out his one year and is ready to suit up for NC State. So what can we expect? Well, I for one and very excited to watch him play in this game. I’ve been told by someone within the program that ‘Lacey is very close to scoring the ball as good as Warren did last season.’ When I heard this I had to ask him to repeat it. I was sure this must be an over-exaggeration. He assured me it was not and that Lacey is really as good as advertised. I’m still skeptical that he’s THAT good, but I guess we’ll get our first clue tonight.
– Can Cat Barber lead?
Huge question here. Last year Barber was no doubt the more talented guard for the Wolfpack, but it was Tyler Lewis who saw a majority of the minutes during ACC play. Barber’s decision making and leadership abilities where just not up to par. This season the job is all his and word is that he has matured a lot and really focused on honing his jumper and adding bulk to his frame. I do think Cat can lead this team and I think if he does improve his decision making ability that he’ll be one of the better PGs in the ACC. Tonight I really won’t be focusing on his skill set (I think that’s a given). What I’ll be really watching is his interaction with his teammates and his ability to lead his team. Is he calling plays, encouraging his troops and being an extensions of Coach Gott on the floor? If he is, then I think State is in for a big season.
– Are the freshen ready?
The Martin twins and Abu make up a pretty good haul by Gottfried for 2014, but will they be real rotation players when the real games begin? This is something we’ll be watching tonight. Caleb and Cody are both talented kids who make plays, but they’re also still a little raw offensively. Abu is actually the one that is more likely to see time since State will need a little front court scoring to go along with Kyle Washington. None of the 3 will likely start, but it will be interesting to see what roles they’ve fallen into this preseason and if any of them comes out looking to make a statement in front of the Wolfpack faithful. I’ll be focused on style of play with these kids. I want to see how each one attacks offensively. Will Caleb Martin just default into a 3 pt shooter or will he attack the hoop? With Cody mix it up in the paint, or will he settle for a lot of midrangers? Does Abu have any true back to the basket ability, or will he be more of a fast break finisher / garbage man around the rim? Freshman are always the most interesting part of these scrimmages and I don’t think this year is much of an exception.
– Just how deep is this team?
I know we won’t get an idea about the starting lineup in this game, but it will help us make some assumptions. As of now I’m guessing the starting 5 would be Barber, Lacey, Turner, Washington, Anya. Off the bench you’d have Abu behind Washington and I guess Freeman behind Anya. State really does not have a backup center, so they will be forced to go smaller when Anya gets winded or gets in foul trouble. What will be interesting is to see where the Martin twins slot in. I’m thinking you’ll see Caleb behind Turner at the 3, but where does Cody fit in? Does Caleb make the jump and become the backup at the 2? Probably not with Dez Lee around. Dez, Lacey and Barber will likely become a 3 man rotation at guard with Barber and Lacey interchangeable at the 1 and Lacey and Lee interchangeable at the 2. So really I guess the real questions surround the Martin twins. These are versatile kids and we’re really not sure how their games will translate to college. I guess tonight’s game will help us get a better idea about that.
Pack Insider HIGHLIGHT REEL of NC State’s 93-61 Win Over UMES
NC State defeated Maryland Eastern Shore on Wednesday night 93-61, and 6 Wolfpack players scored in double figures. Check Pack Insider’s Highlight Reel ABOVE of the victory in Reynolds, which includes every basket NC State made.
You can also check out our breakdown of the game BY THE NUMBERS here.
NC State vs. UMES: BY THE NUMBERS
NC State defeated Maryland Eastern Shore 93-61 on Wednesday night. Here’s a look at the Wolfpack victory BY THE NUMBERS.
NC State dominated in all 4 Factors that lead to victory. They shot better, won the turnover battle, grabbed more offensive boards and got to the free throw line more.
Six NC State players scored in double figures. Last time that happened? March 6, 2020.
Junior Jayden Taylor led the Wolfpack in scoring with 21 points, shooting an impressive 8 of 11 from the field, and 3 of 5 from three. Over the past 2 games, Taylor is shooting 68% from the field and 63% from beyond the arc. Taylor has now led NC State in scoring in 3 of their 8 games, and is averaging a team high 14.9 points on the season. He is also shooting an insane 50% from deep, which is obviously a team high. What makes that number so impressive, is the fact he shot 32.6% from three last year at Butler.
Senior DJ Burns had 15 points, and was back to his normal self, shooting an efficient 7 of 9 from the field. Over the prior two games, Burns had made only 40% of his shots, which isn’t like him.
Senior Casey Morsell had 12 points on 4 of 8 shooting (1-4 3PT) and 5 rebounds. Morsell is shooting 36.1% from three on the year.
Sophomore MJ Rice made his NC State debut, and made the most of his 10 minutes of playing time, scoring 11 points and grabbing a team high 6 rebounds (2 offensive boards). He shot 5 of 6 from the field.
Sophomore LJ Thomas continued to provide a spark for the Pack, and like Rice, maximized his playing time, scoring 10 points in 9 minutes of play. He also had a team high 3 steals.
Senior DJ Horne had 10 points, shooting 4 of 7 from the field, and 2 of 5 from three-point land. Horne also led NC State with 4 assists, and now leads the team in assists on the year.
Junior Ben Middlebrooks picked up his first start of the season. Middlebrooks and Junior Mohamed Diarra ended up playing equal minutes (14). Diarra was seemingly more productive, with 8 points and 5 boards (averaging a team high 6.9), compared to Middlebrooks’ 2 points and 4 boards. Before you write off Middlebrooks’ impact in his first game as a starter, NC State was +23 with him on the court, which was a team high, compared to Diarra’s +7.
The Wolfpack will be back in action next Tuesday night in PNC Arena, against UT Martin at 7pm.
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!