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Keys to the Game: NC State vs. Purdue

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NC State @ Purdue
9pm | ESPNU & WatchESPN
ACC/Big Ten Challenge

NC State’s first road game of the season will also be their first true test. Purdue is 5-1 with quality wins over Missouri and BYU. Their lone loss came against a Kansas State team that been up and down so far this season.

The Wolfpack enter tonight’s game with a perfect 6-0 record, but without a true quality win to show for it. This actually was probably good scheduling on the part of Gottfried, seeing as this NC State team is one of the youngest teams in the nation. A fairly easy early season schedule gives this team a chance to figure out roles, gain chemistry and bolster their confidence. Tonight, however, all of that ends as the Pack will play a Purdue team that is favored at home and provides a very tough matchup for this young team.

Get to know Purdue
The Boilermakers are a big team with two 7 footers who both make it tough for other teams to get anything going in the middle. The better of the two is Isaac Haas who is a freshman averaging 12 points and 5 boards per game.

While their bigs are good, their go-to guy is quickly becoming freshman Vince Edwards who at 6’7 averages 13 points and 7 boards per game. Edwards dropped 25 on BYU last time out and is coming into his own for the Boilermakers. 6’6 guard Kendall Stephens is also a factor. The sophomore was their leading scorer before Edwards had his outbreak. Stephens averages 12 points per game but has been sort of inconsistent thus far with games of 24 and 21, but also games of 6, 9 and 4. They will also need to watch out for junior Rapheal Davis, who put up 22 on Missouri two game back.

This is a balanced team that can beat you from a lot of different places. Their one weakness however, has been their inability to take care of the basketball. They turn the ball over on over 21% of their possessions (averaging 15 TOs per game). That would seem like an area that State could take advantage, but the Pack is one of the worst teams in the nation at creating turnovers. That stat is strange thought, because State’s defense has been solid overall. The reason for this is that the Pack’s interior defense has been great, but their guards have not been able to disrupt enough to turn teams over.

Keys to the Game
State needs to set the tempo in this one. While Gottfried continuously preaches uptempo play, they have been slowed up a ton by opposing teams sitting back in a zone. The Pack will need to push the pace a lot like BYU did against Purdue last time out, however Purdue does have a good 2-3 that they will most certainly use often. State will also need Beejay Anya to stay on the floor. Anya is the one guy that is going to be huge in this game. With Purdue’s size and inside scoring ability, Anya will need to be the enforcer in the paint. Purdue only scores around 20% of their points from beyond the arc, so they’re not going to be bombing away against the Pack.

Another key for State is going to be rebounding. Purdue has size, and they have been a great offensive rebounding team thus far. Anya, Freeman and Washington are going to have to play physical in the paint and keep the Purdue bigs off the glass. (Purdue averages 12 second chance ppt). It will be interesting to see how they Pack fares here. Right now they are 4th in the nation in rebounding.

Lastly, State is going to need to score. The Pack has been up and down when it comes to putting points on the board. This team has loads of weapons but they are still learning to play together and still trying to get comfortable in the offense. Lacey absolutely needs to come out aggressive and force the issue. If he gets hot, Purdue could be in trouble. Turner, Barber and Caleb Martin will also need to provide him a little help in that category if they want to keep up. One problem could be getting good shots. Purdue’s interior defense has been tough to score on, allowing opponents to shoot only 37% from the field. The only team to get above that has been Kansas State who shot 44% (in Purdue’s only loss). Part of their success has been their ability to block shots. The Boilermakers are blocking 7 shots per game.

Players to Watch:
Again, Anya is going to be very important. Keeping him on the floor will be vital. He’s been foul prone when defending bigs who can stretch him out and bring him out of the paint. Luckily Purdue’s bigs aren’t quite as versatile as some he’s faced. They will need his shot blocking ability (he’s 2nd in the nation right now) and his big body to bang in the paint.

The other guy State desperately needs to get going is Lacey. The junior transfer has been their go-to scorer all season and is averaging 17ppg. In their recent close call against Boise State, Lacey only shot the ball 9 times. He did get aggressive and score two big buckets down the stretch but that won’t be enough against the Boilermakers. He will need to be aggressive and hunt his shot all night.

 

 

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NC State Basketball

Wolferetti: Feed me my crow. NC State lost to Creighton and I’m here to break it down (and admit I was wrong)

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I was wrong.

I thought this matchup was a good one for NC State. I watched a lot of Creighton this year and to me, they looked like a team that NC State could roll over. Let me explain why.

I knew a few things. I knew Nembhard was a PG that could get a little out of control if sped up. I knew with a little defense and physicality, Sheierman could be made uncomfortable. I knew Kalkbrenner was a good defender but was going to sink on the pick-and-roll to protect the basket.

Joiner’s pull up just wouldn’t fall

I figured that Joiner, the pull-up king would be taking that DJ Burns screen, getting to the middle, and pulling up as Kalkbrenner sank. I figured Smith would exploit this as well. Well, turns out Joiner was off and couldn’t get his pull-up game going and Smith, well yeah Smith did exploit this pretty well.

Burns didn’t look like Burns

The other thing I’d figure would happen is that I thought DJ Burns would really frustrate Kalkbrenner. If you’ve looked at games where Kalkbrenner had to face a really good, physical back-to-the-basket big man, those bigs usually had pretty good games in the scoring column.  I honestly don’t understand what happened to Burns in this one. Sure he got a few stupid early fouls, but before he even picked up a foul he looked out of it. With no double teams coming, Burns is usually calculated, slowly backing you down and hitting you with a flurry of head fakes, pump fakes or spins. If the big doesn’t bite, Burns can fade away, go with a contested hook shot, or pass out.

In this game, Burns looked sped up for some reason. The first time he got the ball he quickly backed in and threw up a hook that rattled out. Not awful, but usually you see him probe a little more. Then the next time he didn’t even look for contact, instead, he threw up a little floater that didn’t fall. While neither were awful shots, both were uncharacteristic of Burns. On top of those things, he looked absolutely gassed within minutes of coming in. My guess is that it was the altitude, but either way, it took a toll on him.

Whatever it was, it had him frustrated and he had two really bad fouls where he just shoved Kalkbrenner (he also had a phantom foul that was ridiculous). That said, it just wasn’t his night and this made NC State a lot more one-dimensional.

Casey Morsell came to play, but this NC State roster just wasn’t built to get a guy like him going, which is a shame. Jarkel Joiner was a huge reason why NC State got to where they got. His scoring ability, his speed and his toughness and leadership skill were huge. But Joiner is a scoring guard, and great basketball teams need POINT guards.

What is a point guard, and why can’t we have one?

A point guard isn’t just a guy who dribbles it down. It’s a guy who understands the games within the games. Guys who dictate pace, call plays (sets) and are essentially coaches on the floor. NC State and Kevin Keatts never had that this season, and while you can get a long way with scoring guards and good big men, you’ll never compete for anything of worth until you prioritize the skill set of a true point guard. I think that has been NC State’s problem for years, and I find it kind of insane that coach after coach falls into this idea of having a scoring guard play as a PG for more offense to get on the court.

This is no shot at Jarkel, either. The guy was one of my favorite players to watch on this team, but it just is what it is. He is a scoring guard who happens to be slotting in at PG. When you see Keatts bring in a guy whose priority is getting his guys open and dictating pace, then you can start to believe that this program may be close to arriving. Until then, sneaking into the tournament and hoping guys get hot hands is as good as it gets.

Look at Kihei Clark (Virginia’s PG). I know it’s not a great time to be talking about Clark, whose errant pass ended up losing the game for Virginia on Thursday, but look at Clark’s build.5’10, 170lbs. Look at his stats. Mid-30s shooting % from 3. Hight 70s from the FT line. The guy is nothing special when it comes to the numbers, but he’s a leader and he distributes the basketball to the right guys at the right time. Tony Bennett has started Clark for 4 years despite the fact that he’s coaching a team that is always in the running to win the ACC and won a national championship less than 5 years ago.  He could replace Clark with an elite, tall, athlete at any moment. But he doesn’t. Why? Because he understands what I’m talking about. It’s a puzzle that coaches need to put together, and one piece of that puzzle is a guy like this.

I was wrong about this game. I thought things would play out differently. They didn’t. I’m not blaming anyone in particular, but the makeup of this team vs. the makeup of teams that play deep into March are different. Maybe this is step one to getting there. We’ll have to see how the roster shapes up next season.

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VIDEO: NC State falls to Creighton 72-63 in first round of NCAA Tournament | Extended Highlights & Box Score

NC State came out flat, DJ Burns looked gassed, and for the most part, the Pack looked shell-shocked vs. Creighton from the opening tip. However, Terquavion Smith is excluded from all of that. He was amazing and in what was likely his final game at NC State, he kept the Pack afloat, dropping 32 points on 12-25 shooting. In the end, it wasn’t enough as their big man, 7’1 Ryan Kalkbrenner went for 31.

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NC State came out flat, DJ Burns looked gassed, and for the most part, the Pack looked shell-shocked vs. Creighton from the opening tip. However, Terquavion Smith is excluded from all of that. He was amazing and in what was likely his final game at NC State, he kept the Pack afloat, dropping 32 points on 12-25 shooting. In the end, it wasn’t enough as their big man, 7’1 Ryan Kalkbrenner went for 31.

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VIDEO: Smith, Joiner and Keatts talk in postgame press conference

Terquavion Smith, Jarkel Joiner and Kevin Keatts meet with the media after 72-63 loss to Creighton in the NCAA Tournament.

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Terquavion Smith, Jarkel Joiner and Kevin Keatts meet with the media after 72-63 loss to Creighton in the NCAA Tournament.

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Wolferetti: 3 reasons why NC State is going to win today

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God bless these guys over here at PI. I submitted this article to them this morning and got this back.

“Joey, this is a good piece, but are you sure you want to come out and say that NC State is going to win? Why not just do a ‘keys to the game.’ or something? Hedge your bets. Why are you always wanting to put your reputation on the line?”

To that I say, “Nah, I’m good. I want my reputation on the line. What fun is this if I’m not callin’ it like I see it?”

Look, they’ve been worried about me stating outlandish opinions before. Like when I said after game #1, after I first laid eye on this team, that it was going to be a team that will flirt with or get into the Top 25? I got hammered for that, but was I right? And today I’m back on my prediction tip, telling you that NC State will survive and advance. And here are my 3 reasons why.

1. Creighton hasn’t fared well against teams with great Turnover Margins.

If Creighton has a glaring weakness, it’s turnover margin.

NC State’s turnover margin ranks 16th in the NCAA. Creighton’s is a miserable 291st. This means Creighton turns the ball over a lot and doesn’t create many turnovers. Meanwhile, NC State is the exact opposite. They create a lot of turnovers and really protect the basketball. This statistic right here is going to play a major role. The Creighton guards, especially Nembhard, can get sped up, and when they do, they can get sloppy and out of control. Meanwhile, Joiner and Smith flourish at top speed.

Let’s look at the one team that Creighton lost to every time they played them (and played them multiple times). That team is Marquette.

What do Marquette and NC State have in common? Well, they are both Top 20 in the nation in Turnover Margin. Marquette ranks #3 in the NCAA while the Pack is 16th. Creighton turned it over 18 times in their first meeting at Marquette. The second time these two teams met, Creighton turned it over 15 times.

The other teams they faced in the Top 50 of Turnover Margin in the nation?

#39 Arizona State
#10 Texas

That’s it. And guess what, Creighton lost every single one of those games. They have yet to beat a team in the Top 50 in Turnover Margin.

Reminder. NC State ranks 16th.

2. Large, back-to-the-basket bigs have fared well against Creighton

6’9, 245lb, Adama Sanogo from UConn dropped 17 against them in a win.

6’9, 215lb, Oso Ighodaro from Marquette dropped 16 on them in their first meeting, and then 18 in their second.

6’7, 220lb, Bryce Hopkins from Providence scored 20 on them in both meetings. One of which was a win.

All of these guys are big, strong, back-to-the-basket bigs and all of them bullied their way to huge games again Creighton.

In all 3 instances, Creighton refused to double-team on most possessions and the big men ate. So how will they deal with a big that is bigger than any of these guys?

DJ Burns is 6’9, 275lbs and he’s going to be a focal point for NC State in this game. If Creighton opts to play Burns straight up, history says they are going to have a long night and Burn is going to have a big game.

3. Creighton hasn’t seen guards like Joiner and Smith

Sure Creighton has quick guards. Nembhard, the 6’0 PG rarely gets a matchup where he doesn’t have a quickness advantage. Today, against Joiner, he won’t have one. There is so much talk about Creighton’s guards bottling up their opponents, but watch them play and you’ll see that they simply haven’t had to face guys like Joiner or Smith. Creighton will allow the floor to be spread and will not fight against playing this game at a fast pace, and those are the types of games we’ve seen the NC State guards feast.

Creighton is a very good team. They have some very good pieces, but I just think they’ve found themselves in a matchup that isn’t very good for them despite being data-darlings. I could be wrong, but to me, this looks like a game where people are reading off statistics and making assumptions without watching film. Without looking at each team’s Achilles heel. And without really breaking down the matchups.

I think this is a really good matchup for the Pack and I think I’ll be back talking to you in about 24 hours looking at who the guys will play on Sunday.

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