Cat Barber dominated the pace (10pts, 6 assists, and 7 boards), Trevor Lacey found his shot (19pts) and Ralston Turner lit it up on his senior night (19pts) as the Pack dominated Syracuse 71-57. This win very likely locks NC State into the NCAA Tournament. What seed they will be awarded is yet to be determined. Let’s take a look at how they dismantled the orange.
Barber Controlled This Game
Cat Barber’s arrival has been well chronicled, but his entire repertoire was showcased in this one. Not only was he strong with the basketball throughout, he single handedly broke the Syracuse press anytime they applied pressure. He was slippery, quick and very decisive as he pushed the tempo and made good decision after good decision. His 6 dimes led the team and was the main reason NC State’s offense ran so effectively in the 2nd half. Now that he is knocking down jumpers teams are forced to play up on him and respect him on his drives. This is forcing help to step up, and when they do, Barber is finding the open man. If they are too slow, he makes them pay with a quick 2. An aggressive Barber was the difference today and will be going forward.
Gottfried’s Scheduling is Paying Off
There were a lot of people knocking Coach Gott midway through this season, but you can go ahead and classify them as shortsighted. Gottfried methodically mapped out a schedule for NC State that allowed them to play quality opponents all season long. Early in the season State often looked overwhelmed by pressure and throw off by physicality but as of late you can see those experiences paying off. The Wolfpack guards have been strong with the basketball and have looked like seasoned vets against full court pressure. Syracuse trapped a lot down the stretch and showed different looks out of their zone but NC State rarely looked surprised and quickly made them pay for their aggressiveness. Those early games will certainly pay off during tourney time.
Turner and Lacey Getting Hot
These two guys were big and need to big going forward. They combined for 38 points on the night and hit a ton of big shots (especially in the 2nd half.) Like it or not State is going to go as far as Turner and Lacey can take them and against Syracuse they took the Pack all the way. Turner was coming off a big game against Clemson in which he scored 23 points. Lacey on the other hand has really struggled to find his stroke over the past few weeks. Tonight was another big showing for Turner, but it was the late season breakout Lacey was needing. He started off the night hitting his first 3 from the corner and never looked back. He finished 7-14 from the field and 3-7 from beyond the arc, which are close to his averages before his little slump. Beating Syracuse’s zone isn’t easy, but when you have some hot shooters it really opens things up. Turner’s big game came on senior night after a night of failing to get much sleep.
“I couldn’t really sleep last night.” Said Turner. I was up thinking about this game and my time here at NC State. This was a great way to go out, with a win.”
While the Pack might have the youngest front court in the ACC, they sure aren’t playing like it this season. First they shut down the ACC’s best big in Louisville’s Harrell and now they come out and make life miserable for Rakeem Christmas. The star forward did have 15 points and 12 boards, but his 5-16 shooting dug the Orange into a hole. Credit Beejay Anya, Lennard Freeman, Malik Abu and Kyle Washington. All of State’s bigs played active, strong defense in the paint and made scoring in the post a real nightmare. Anya finished with 3 block (2 of which were massive) and Washington added 3 of his own. NC State won the battle of the boards by a narrow margin 43-42.
Up Next….The ACC Tournament
State has a few days of downtime before heading to Greensboro as the #7 seed. They will play Wednesday night against Pitt at 7pm. The Pack smashed the Panthers by 18 at the PNC arena earlier this season. Pitt has looked miserable as of late, dropping their last 3 games to Wake, Miami and FSU.
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.