There is no way around it, NC State needs to beat the Heels today in Chapel Hill. The Tar Heels enter the game as one of the top 5 teams in the country, while the Wolfpack limps in at 0-4 in ACC play.
The Heels (a 16pt favorite) sport a balanced attack. They can beat you at the guard position where Marcus Paige is averaging 15ppg. He’s being backed up by Joel Berry II who is right behind him at 13 ppg. Down low they are a team that is rapidly gaining confidence. Brice Johnson is leading the way at 17ppg and 10 rebounds. After years of uneven play from him, somehow Roy Williams has convinced Brice to toughen up and it’s really helped the Heels. Then there’s always Isaiah Hicks (who put up 21 last time out), Justin Jackson (who is averaging 13ppg and shooting 50% from the field), and of course Kennedy Meeks (who is just working his way back from injury, but is always a factor.) When you look at this UNC team on paper, they are scary good. They have the bigs, they have the guards, they have the size and athletic ability to really play with anybody. So, is there really any way State can stop them? If there is, these will certainly be the keys…
A huge game from Cat Barber
State is going to need Barber to play huge. We’re not talking about him just having a hot shooting night. We’re talking about him stepping up as a vocal leader, dictating the pace, getting his teammates involved, and shutting down Paige on defense. This is the perfect time for Barber to transition from scoring point guard to team leader. Cat is certainly capable of this type of performance, but will he have the energy? UNC is likely going to put some pressure on him in the backcourt and make him work to even get into the offense. Gottfried is going to have to use his timeouts wisely and steal some minutes with Cat on the bench getting a breather if he wants his PG to be fresh on both ends of the floor.
Last game against FSU, Abu finally looked like the dominant post presence he became at the end of last season. He was physical, strong, relentless and aggressive. UNC has some major size on the blocks and their bench goes deep. Abu is going to have to by as physical as ever while staying out of foul trouble. This has something he’s never quite mastered, but there’s not better time to turn over a new leaf than against your arch-rival in a must win game. Cat is their #1 option, but Abu has to become #2 if this team wants a chance today.
How is Gottfried going to attack this UNC team on D? While he might come out in a straight up man to man, he’s likely going to want to switch up some looks. With his thin bench against UNC’s depth, State might have to look into a little matchup zone against the Heels. The problem with that is that the Heels also have guys like Johnson and Meeks that can get into the gaps of that zone and knock down short jumpers. It will be interesting to see how he game plans against the Heels. To be perfectly honest, State really does not matchup that well against this team. Gott may very well opt for State to really pack down in the middle and make the UNC guards shoot their way to a win.
Play smart/disciplined basketball
NC State is not going to win this game if they play the same way they’ve played thus far this season. That’s a harsh reality, but unless UNC absolutely lays an egg, the style of ball the Pack has played isn’t enough here. They are going to need to need to show patience in their offensive sets. Every possession is going matter and they need to cherish each and ever one to maximize efficiency.
They are going to need to be aggressive but calculated on defense. Playing in the passing lanes and making it tough for the UNC guards to make point to point passes or clean entry passes is big. This is where State can create turnovers and chaos without gambling. This would extend the defense a bit more and allow some more room for the bigs to operate, so if the UNC bigs start taking over, Gott may have to call back the guards and really pack in the defense.
They need to contest shots, not try to block them. Too many times teams have pump faked or shot over top of a jumping Pack defender and it’s led to a breakdown of the NC State defense. A simple pump fake that gets a guard off his feet sets in motion a situation that this team just hasn’t handled. The opposing guard gets a guard off his feet with a pump fake from 3. He then puts in on the floor to attack. Beejay or Abu usually steps up to stop the drive, but NC State’s rotation to cover Beejay or Abu’s man is just too slow. The times they do get there, the next level of rotation never happens and a 3 point shooter is left wide open. Instead, the Wolfpack guards need to close out with a hand in the defenders face, but keep balance enough to react to the pump fake. If they shoot over you and make it, let them. Those shots are the ones you don’t mind giving up.
For the bigs it’s the same thing. Too often Beejay Anya or another big comes help side for the block, leaving their man without a body on him. This is a major gamble. Great shot blockers are not just athletic, but they are smart. They know when to take that gamble and when to not. They know their limits, and the consequences if they don’t get the block. Too often the NC State bigs are helping out, looking for the weakside block, but missing. This is leading to an easy put back by the offensive rebounder. The Pack has some good shot blockers, but they simply need to pick and choose their spots.
Can Mav and Caleb connect?
We talked extensively about the struggles of two guys that NC State was really counting on for perimeter scoring. Rowan and Caleb Martin are good shooters, but just have not found any sort of consistency this season. Today they are going to be needed more than ever before. Rowan has gotten red hot at the end of nearly all of the ACC games thus far, but has struggled out of the gate. Martin is coming of of one of the worst shooting nights of his career. These guys need to come alive in this game and that’s going to start with them taking good, clean shots. Forcing 3’s against this Tar Heels team is going to lead to long rebounds and quick transition buckets on the other end, but a hot Rowan or Caleb could change this game.
Leave it all on the floor
One area that you really can’t fault this team is how hard they play. They don’t always make the right decisions on the floor, but they stay in games because of their hustle and want-to. There is no doubt this team wants to win. The problem is that they haven’t quite figured out ‘how.’ Today is no different. They need 100% effort out of every man. They don’t need heroes out there, they need guys willing to grind. Every possession will matter in this game and NC State isn’t deep. They are going to need a possessed type performance on both ends of the floor and with the team sitting at 0-4 in the ACC and taking on their arch-rival who is a heavy favorite, I don’t think the conditions could be better for them to get one.
NC State is a Slight Underdog in ACC Opener vs. Boston College
NC State (4-2) will play their first ACC game of the 2023-24 season tomorrow on the road against Boston College (5-2), and they enter the game as slight underdogs. The Wolfpack are 1.5-point underdogs, and the Total is 150.5.
- NC State is 0-2 Straight Up as underdogs
- BC is 4-1 Straight Up as favorites.
- NC State is 2-4 Against the Spread.
- BC is 4-3 Against the Spread
- The Total has gone Under in 2 games for NC State, Over in 3 and Pushed in 1.
- The Total has gone Under in 3 games for Boston College and Over in 4.
- NC State is 6-4 in their last 10 games against BC Straight Up.
- NC State is 4–6 Against the Spread in their last 10 games against BC.
- The Total has gone Under in 5 games, and Under in the other 5.
#5 NC State 70 Vanderbilt 62: BOX SCORE (with notes)
The 5th ranked NC State Women’s Basketball team improved to 8-0 tonight, defeating Vanderbilt 70-62 in the inaugural ACC/SEC Challenge.
- Saniya Rivers scored 20+ points for the 2nd time this season, scoring 22 points on 8 of 14 shooting. She also chipped in 8 rebounds and 2 steals.
- River Baldwin posted her first double-double of the season. She scored 12 points and grabbed 10 boards.
- Aziaha James has now scored in double figures in 7 of 8 games, scoring 14 points tonight, shooting 6 of 10 from the field and 2 of 3 from beyond the arc.
- Freshman Zoe Brooks led the Pack in steals (4) and assists (4).
- NC State didn’t shoot well, making only 39% of their shots. Fortunately, they held Vandy to 34.3% shooting.
The Wolfpack will host Illinois State on Sunday at 2pm.
NC State Stat Leaders Heading into the ACC Opener vs Boston College
This Saturday, NC State heads to Boston College for the now-annual early ACC opener. The Pack will face off against the Eagles at 4pm on ACC Network. Here is where the team is statistically after 6 games.
- Casey Morsell leads NC State in scoring with 14.5 ppg.
- The Pack has 4 double-digit scorers this season. Morsell (14.5), Jayden Taylor (13.3), DJ Burns (13) and DJ Horne (11.2)
(Last season State had 4 double-digit scorers as well. Terquavion (17.9), Joiner (17), Burns (12.5) and Morsell (11.8))
- After their top 4 scorers there is a big dip. Parker comes in at 6.8, O’Connell at 6.3, and Middlebrooks at 5.5 ppg.
(Last season Jack Clark was 5th on the team in scoring at 9 points and Mahorcic was at 8.7. However, both guys missed a large chunk of the season.)
- Burns is leading NC State in rebounding this year at 5.3 per game. Diarra is next with 5.3 (but is currently hampered by an ankle injury.)
- O’Connell is leading NC State in assists with 3.3 per game, and Burns is up next with 2.5. PG DJ Horne is only averaging 2.
- LJ Thomas and Mike O’Connell are tied in leading the team at .15 assists per minute.
- Jayden Taylor is leading NC State in 3pt %, shooting an outstanding 45.8%, while Morsell is up next at 34.6%. Horne is close behind at 33%.
(LJ Thomas is shooting 50% from 3, but only has 2 attempts.)
- Burns is leading the bigs, shooting 56.5% from the floor, while Middlebrooks is close behind at 54.2%. Dennis Parker Jr is coming in at 45.2%.
- For the guards, it’s Casey Morsell leading the way at 44.6% from the floor, while O’Connell is next up at 43.4%. Taylor is shooting 42.4%, and DJ Horne is struggling a bit, shooting just 34.8% from the field.
- Jayden Taylor is turning the ball over the most at 1.8 times per game, while Burns is next at 1.7. Morsell is at 1.5 and O’Connell is at 1.2. DJ Horne has been doing a good job of protecting the basketball, turning it over just .3 times per game.
NC State 52 Ole Miss 72: Box Score (with notes)
NC State’s Men’s Basketball team lost it’s second straight game tonight, losing 52-72 on the road at Ole Miss in the inaugural ACC/SEC Challenge. Below is the Box Score with some notes below.
- Ben Middlebrooks posted a double-double, with 13 points and 12 boards. To be honest, Middlebrooks was the only bright spot in this game.
- Casey Morsell was the only other player to score in double figures (12 points), but it wasn’t pretty, shooting 5 of 14 from the field.
- One of the poorest statistical shooting performance I can remember.
- NC State shot 31.8% from the field and 12% from three (3-25).
- The Wolfpack’s DNA on defense is turning over their opponent, and they were unable to do so tonight, turning over the Rebels only 7 times.
- For comparison, the Wolfpack turned it over 13 times, giving them a Turnover Margin tonight of -6.
- Heading into tonight, they averaged a Turnover Margin of +7.8.
- Ole Miss scored 13 points off of turnovers, compared to NC State’s 4.
- This is the first time this season that NC State failed to force their opponent to commit at least 10 turovers.
- NC State was -25 when D.J. Burns was on the court, which was the worst on the team.
- NC State was +3 when L.J. Thomas was on the court, and +2 when Ben Middlebrooks were on the court. They were the only two players in the positive.
- Thomas and Middlebrooks should have earned themselves some more playing time going forward.
- Ole Miss’ length was problematic for the Wolfpack, blocking 9 of their shots.
There will be more analysis on this game coming tomorrow.