In case you missed Part 1 of our Best Case/Worst Case, we took a look at the best possible situation for the Pack’s upcoming basketball season. While somewhat far fetched and alot of fun to write, we were able to highlight the strengths and potential of the upcoming season. While the potential is sky high, there is also a chance that this team will not be able to live up to its hype and things could take a turn for the worst in 2017.
As we stated in part 1, there are alot of question marks coming into the season as State only really returns 3 players who got significant minutes from last years team. That gives us Dorn, Henderson, Kapita, Yurtseven, Smith Jr, and Johnson that have played zero minutes of college basketball over the past calendar year. Of those, 2 are freshmen who will have an expected learning curve, 2 are transfers who have had to sit at least 1 year (2 for Henderson with the injury), and 2 of them are not yet even eligible to play (waiting on NCAA ruling.)
Before we get started, just wanted to say that this will be a look a healthy Wolfpack team without assuming any injuries which obviously would change things.
With that being said, lets begin….
Part 2: WORST CASE SCENARIO
Omer Yurtseven and Ted Kapita are Ruled Ineligible
This right here alone would be a devastating blow to the Wolfpack. Not just bad, but devastating. Without the 2 big men logging minutes State will be left with only Abu, Anya, and freshman Darius Hicks. You will probably then see minutes from walk-on Tucker Thompson. This would hurt the Pack enormously in the post, both on offense and defense. You would essentially be looking at the same offensive output as last year from your interior players (granted last years team did not feed the post well). Abu struggled at times last year, especially when he faced double-teams down low. Being the only true scoring option in the post, he was keyed on by many opposing coaches. Without Yurtseven and Kapita, Abu would be facing the same situation this year. Meaning he’d be out of position and forced to carry the load in the post.
Next, you’d have Anya who would be expected to log a majority of the minutes at center. With his conditioning issue, along with frequent foul troubles (largely due to being out of position), it would be hard to see consistent results from this Wolfpack frontcourt. Anya is still not a polished scorer in the post and still does not demand double teams from the defense without getting the ball deep in the post.
With the inevitable foul trouble these 2 have shown to face, you would now be relying upon Hicks and walk-on Tucker Thompson. Not taking a cheap shot here at Thompson or Hicks, but if these guys end up playing major minutes for NC State this season, then things will very likely not have gone according to plan.
Dennis Smith has trouble adjusting
At this point, it is hard to think that Smith will not be able to come in and make an immediate impact with the Pack. In a worst case scenario, Smith comes in and struggles to dominate on the college level as he did in high school. The much larger and stronger defenders and able to keep Smith from constantly getting to the rim and forces Smith to prove himself with his jumper (a la Cat Barber).
The only way we see Smith not dominating for this team is if he struggles with his shot. Even then he would still be able to facilitate on offense and get into the lane to create for the guys around him. If he does struggle to knock down shots, and his defenders really sag off of him then he would not able to take over games and would struggle to that disruptive force he’s been throughout his career.
Again, we really don’t envision this happening and we truly believe that Smith is going to have no trouble playing at a very high level for NC State. In fact, even if worst case scenerio were to become true for Smith we still believe he’d be one of the top 3 PGs in the ACC and that is saying a lot.
Rowan is forced to play the 4 and struggles defensively
This worst case scenario piggybacks on the potential ineligibility of Yurt and Kapita. Without them, Rowan could find himself playing a lot of minutes at the 4. While this will likely not hurt so much offensively, especially if guys are hitting shots, defensively the Pack will struggle against any kind of size.
Not only would Rowan be undersized guarding the 4, but let us not forget that Rowan has little to no interior post defense experience. While that problem would not rear its head early in the season against smaller opponents, it surely would be a concern facing the big boys of the ACC.
The Pack struggles to click
We must remember, that most the guys in the lineup will have not played with each other in a real game when the season begins. Last year, a lot of State’s problems came from not getting the ball into the post and not moving the ball crisply around the floor. This led to a stagnant offense and one that was at the league’s bottom for assists.
As we mentioned, in a worst case scenario, NC State will again lack in the interior (w/out Yurt and Kapita) and much of the scoring will need to come from the guards.
Though Cat was able to light up the scoreboard, it was often at the expense of a fluid, cohesive offense. One of NC State’s problems last season was that they never really gelled. Not throwing Cat under the bus here, because he was as advertised, but when your point guard is your leading scorer and is dominating the basketball, it rarely leads to a gelling basketball team. Usually, the teams you find with great chemistry are those with a point guard who can score, but who’s primary function is distribution and leadership. Luckily for the Pack, this is who Dennis Smith is.
Even with that being true, this year’s guards are unproven.
Can Henderson bail us out from the 3pt line like Ralston was once able too? Henderson shot it well at West Virginia, but State needs him to do more than just spot-up shoot. He’s been off for two years and while we’ve heard he is healthy, has his year off and injury hurt his explosiveness?
Will Torin Dorn’s games translate to the much tougher ACC? Dorn, is strong and athletic, but is not currently a consistent shooter. At a minimum. he could play a role similar to that of Dez Lee. A strong competitor and fearless slasher who struggles to knock down shots and turns the ball over too often trying to make things happen..
Overall worst-case scenario
At worst, the Pack struggles to keep their bigs on the floor and struggles mightily to both defend and rebound.
Call this optimistic, but we think at worst the offense is equal to what we saw last season. What we mean by that is they have the talent to score but often times struggle in the half court and look all mostly stagnant.
Most of their wins come from living and dying by the 3 and strong defensive by their guards. The Pack finish toward the bottom/middle of the Pack and miss the tournament for a second straight year.
Like we’ve said before, there are a ton of questions coming into the season. As it looks now, Yurt and Kapita may miss some games, but ultimately will (hopefully) be able to return in time for ACC play.
As good as the team looks on paper and as good as the sum of the parts appear, they still need to come together, play good team basketball and buy into a defense-first mentality.
Remember, neither of these outlooks are predictions. These articles are to highlight the questions this team faces and how wide a range of outcomes are possible with a team like this.
If you’re asking our true opinion of where we believe this team will end up, we think this team is going to a lot closer to the ‘best case’ than ‘worst case.’ We think this team will start a little slower than expected on offense (but still reel off early season wins), find it’s groove and really start clicking right before league play, then hit a little early ACC turbulence before truly reaching their full potential and kicking it into high gear from the mid-way point and all the way through March.
What do you think Pack fans, do you agree?