Tomorrow NC State will host the Syracuse Orangemen in the final home game on the season. Syracuse received less than pleasant news today as they were hit hard for numerous infractions that will penalize their program for years to come. Will this have a bearing on tomorrow’s contest? I am not sure how Syracuse will respond but I have noticed over the years that teams usually band together and play extremely hard as their program has been run through the mud. NC State must be prepared to close the season with a win!
In my opinion Syracuse will be a great test for the Pack and help prepare them for the NCAA Tournament. It is no secret that the Orangemen will play a 2-3 match up zone, this fact should be enough for our guys to really hone in tomorrow. Throughout the season we have struggled against the zone as we have been pleased to move the ball around the perimeter and then settle for a long outside shot. We cannot fall in love with the three ball tomorrow if we want to win. Cat Barber and Trevor Lacey must attack the gaps and find our big men for easy baskets. I think this game could be a great matchup for Kyle Washington as he would give Syracuse a fit flashing the middle which is a soft spot of the zone. Kyle has the skill set to catch the ball and score it from that distance. Coach Gottfried will be able to keep him at bay by only allowing him to flash the middle and work in the focused area.
Defensively NC State must keep tabs on Trevor Cooney who has the ability to score in bunches from distance. On the season he is averaging 13.5 points per game and he attempts 7.2 three’s per contest. Although Cooney is their leader from the perimeter the engine that makes the Orangemen run is Rakeem Christmas. The 6-9 250 pound senior is averaging 17.9 points a game and is ripping down 9 boards per to sweeten the pot. Hopefully our big men are excited to play against someone who has been a nightmare underneath all season. BeeJay Anya has proven to up his game each time he squares off with a hearalded big man. Will he step up once again?
If State can take care of home court tomorrow afternoon then they will be a lock for the NCAA Tournament. There shouldn’t be any question of having to win X number of games in the ACC Tournament this coming week. Joe Lunardi of ESPN has the Wolfpack as a 9 seed in the West region. NC State should have their eyes set on a higher goal than a 9 seed. If the Pack can find a way to win tomorrow and find a way to rip off two more wins in the ACC Tournament it is certainly possible that they could end up as a 7 seed. This would allow them to avoid a second round matchup against a #1 seed.
State finds themselves in familiar territory as they must find a way to play their best basketball entering into post season play. Over the last 5 games they are 4-1, but I do not feel like we are operating as efficiently as we could be. Trevor Lacey has been out of sort of late but I am confident that he is about to get his act together starting tomorrow afternoon. I predict that he will break out of his funk in a big way in front of the Wolfpack faithful. Cat Barber has cooled off of late but I too think that he will be a tough matchup for teams in the NCAA Tournament. One thing that the Pack has on their side is the element of surprise. Each game it seems that someone different catches fire to save the day; however, what if a couple of guys catch fire for a couple of games together? We have proven all season that we are capable of beating any team in the country, but our guys must find it in themselves to garner the energy and focus needed to win each game. The greatest show on earth is within State’s sights but invitations are not handed out easily…now is the time to claim our spot!
Tip-Off is set for 12PM at the PNC. If you can’t make it out the game will be televised on CBS.
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.
NC State’s a 20+ Point Favorite Over Maryland Eastern-Shore
NC State (5-2) will host Maryland Eastern-Shore (2-5) in Reynolds Coliseum, and the Wolfpack are 24.5-point favorites, and the Total is 147.5.
- NC State is 3-4 Against the Spread.
- Maryland Eastern-Shore is 2-4.
- NC State is 3-0 at Home Straight Up.
- They are 2-1 Against the Spread at home.
- Maryland Eastern-Shore is 0-4 Straight Up on the road.
- Maryland Eastern Shore is 1-3 Against the Spread on the road.
- The Total has gone Over twice, Under twice, and pushed once in NC State’s 7 games.
- The Total has gone Over 4 times and Under 2 times in Maryland Eastern Shore’s 6 games that had spreads.