The good news is that NC State finally got some early season adversity to practice through against USF. The bad news is that it nearly ended with a loss. The Pack had the game in check for the majority of the time, but never really were able to pull away. Some intense late game pressure from the Bulls really exposed some areas for improvement for the Pack, especially in the ball handling and FT shooting department.
Trevor Lacey led scoring with 21 point and 7 boards while Kyle Washington stepped up in the 2nd half after coming off the bench to score 8 points. Lennard Freeman didn’t have the best game but he did end up with 10 boards, making it 3 straight games with double digit boards.
Here are a few thoughts from the game:
Poor Against the Zone
It’s early so you don’t want to be too hard on the guys, but for such a good shooting group, these guys struggle against the zone. They need to be quicker with their rotations and more sure of their interior passing. This means the guards need to trust that the bigs are going to seal and come to the ball when they do weave it in there. All too often the Pack is throwing it around the perimeter and settling for a poor contested 3. The times they got it inside and played inside-out they were able to find some success. Lacey did a good job of penetrating the zone and then looking to kick for open 3s. Why do you want to get the ball inside the zone? We’ll for one, that is where the biggest gaps are, but as soon as you do that you get swarmed. That’s actually the point. Getting the defense to turn their heads, move, and lose the guys drifting on the perimeter equals wide open looks from 3. After you hit a few 3s you will get the zone extended and begin to do your damage in the middle.
Playing to Not Lose
Nonchalant play is not going to cut it this season. This team needs to get strong and learn to go for the jugular when they get leads. They don’t have a Warren to bail them out this season and they definitely need every win they can get in a very competitive ACC schedule. It was a bit troubling to see them making mistake after mistake down the stretch and allowing USF back in the game. Missed FTs, turnovers and poor body language were all to blame…but the season is young and so is this team. Hopefully this is a learning moment for the guys and they’ll come back ready to nail up the coffin next time.
NC State will play twice around the Thanksgiving holiday. The Pack gets Richmond on Wednesday, Nov. 26 at 7 p.m. Boise State comes to the PNC Friday, Dec. 28 at 7 p.m.
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.