Last night, NC State kicked off basketball season with ‘Primetime with the Pack.’ This is State’s version of Midnight Madness. A sort of pep rally to introduce the team and a first glimpse at the players in action.
This year’s event was highly anticipated, which prompted a sell-out of the newly renovated Reynolds Coliseum. The reason for the hype was the introduction of a slew of new players. This was the fans first glimpse of freshmen Dennis Smith Jr, Omer Yurtseven, Ted Kapita, Markell Johnson and Darius Hicks. They also were seeing transfer Torin Dorn for the first time live, and finally getting to see a healthy Terry Henderson.
So how did they look? We’ll give you our take…
Overall pace of play/style of game:
Breakneck. While some were disappointed at the lack of defense, we were happy to see a group who took the court self-assured, enthusiastic and having fun. This didn’t look like the self-conscious teams we’ve seen in the past where guys were unsure to shoot or were afraid to step on toes of upperclassmen. This team looked like a unit in sync. They weren’t trying to prove themselves to the fans, they were out there having a blast. Sure, they weren’t down in the defensive stance, denying the ball, diving for loose balls or taking charges. That wasn’t what this event was about. This wasn’t about begging the fans to like them or showing the fans how hard they’re working. This was about fun, this was about showcasing talents and introducing the fans to a fast-paced, fun and exciting brand of basketball.
Dennis Smith Jr
Scary, scary good. Smith looked as advertised. He finished with 12 points and a bunch of breathtaking feats of athleticism, including dribbling under his defender’s legs, before taking off for a tomahawk slam. The thing that stood out even more with Smith was his ability to do this all in an almost quiet manner. He wasn’t dominating the basketball, he wasn’t taking bad shots or forcing any issue. Smith took the game as it came, always made the extra pass and literally could not be kept out of the lane when he wanted in. Overall, the kid was electric and defnitely as good as we’ve been told.
“I think he’s one of those players,” Gottfried said to the N&O. “He’s kind of electric. He’s such an attractor. Players want to play with him, fans want to watch him. I walk through airports, and people want to ask me about him. That’s kind of the way it is with him.”
Dorn is going to be huge for this team. This kid is a player that NC State has been missing for years and years. An athletic, coordinated slasher with size, strength, a high basketball IQ and elite balance. I can’t stress enough how important he is going to be. When the shots aren’t falling and the offense becomes stagnant, Dorn is a guy who can get to the rim, create contact and either finish or get to the foul line. In this game we saw how effective he is at driving, inviting contact and finishing. He was on the receiving end of a few nice alley-oops and showed why so many people have been so excited to have him join this roster.
Yurtseven was most definitely more fluid and skilled than we expected. We’ve seen video of him on the blocks, showcasing great footwork and great touch, however, his ball handling ability and his lateral balance for a 7 footer was amazing. There were times when he took the ball down court and looked completely confident and completely in control. He’s got great form and is not afraid to knock down a shot if defenders sag. He was confident pulling from 3 and will likely hit a few if teams don’t respect him.
Rowan led all scorers with 15 points and you really shouldn’t be surprised. Mav was a pretty decent scorer last year as a freshman (which actually should have been his HS senior year). He was thrown into the fire and asked to end up carrying the scoring at times for the Pack. This year he’s bigger, stronger and more mature. His stroke looks good and he certainly won’t have to settle for as many contested shots this season. He took good shots, he knocked them down, he looked more agile and a lot stronger on his drives to the hoop and looked more athletic as well. This should end up being a big season for Rowan, and one in which he may end up being a top scorer for this basketball team.
Coming off a season-ending injury last season, Terry looked good. He added 13 points and finished as the game’s 2nd leading scorer. His stroke looked good, he looked very healthy and quick on his drives. As with Mav, Henderson will be looked to for his ability to knock down shots from beyond the arc. If he can do that consistently, he and Rowan will be a true handful for defenses.
Malik Abu was as you’d expect. There’s not much to say here. Abu is an elite talent that literally just needs to play in an offense where he’s not being double-teamed all the time. When that happens you’re going to see a pro-level talent emerge. Abu showed his silly athleticism in this game with quick drives and slams that left the defense helpless. If this team stays healthy and Yurtseve and Kapita are cleared, this will be Abu’s last season in Raleigh as he’ll have a season that NBA scouts simply can’t ignore.
Ted Kapita looked big, strong and hungry. The guy has a motor and always seems to be in the right place at the right time. Look for big rebounding numbers and a lot of clean-up buckets on the offensive boards.
Shaun Kirk was, um, awesome. Now, not hating on Kirk here, but I with all the talent coming in, Kirk kind of has fallen through the cracks in terms of preseason hype. Don’t tell that to him though. He came out and really impressed. Showed off a nice jumper, great athleticism and honestly, proved that he needs to be in the conversation for minutes. He finished with 12 points and had moments where you were asking “Wait, who just did that?” or “Was that Dennis Smith….oh wait, that was Kirk?” Yeah, he impressed that much. So, be ready for Shaun to earn more minutes than you were expecting.
Beejay Anya was fun to watch and looks a little more agile this season. While we didn’t see a huge expansion of his game, he did have a few athletic moves in the paint and a nice lefty hook that he put in. It seems as if Anya is going to really have to earn his minutes this season if Yurt and Kapita are cleared. He’s certainly the best shot blocker of the bunch, so he needs to focus on earning his minutes there and not worry so much about his offensive output. Yurt’s skill set has to be on the court, so Anya needs to be the guy Gottfried goes to when they need defense and shot blocking.
Markell Johnson looked real good. He was athletic, played smart and to be honest, if Dennis Smith Jr wasn’t out there, Pack fans would probably feel very confident in their PG situation with Markell slotted in. As a backup, Johnson is likely going to still get big minutes, but the fact that you honestly don’t drop off too much when he’s in there will be huge. A few times Johnson threw down a dunk or threw a pass and you had to double take to make sure it wasn’t Smith. For a first showing, Johnson really shined, looked confidence and really looked like NC State will be solid at PG for the forseeable future.
Darius Hicks is surprisingly large and athletic. Hicks is a beast out there and had some really nice flashes. it will be tough for him to get major minutes, but he is a guy that NC State just a few years ago might be really leaning on for production in the post.
Spencer Newman is a name you need to pay attention to. We won’t get too deep into his story, as we have a big piece on him planned for next week, but Newman’s stroke is beautiful. He drained the first three 3s he shot and had the crowd really getting into it. He’s a walkon, but likely will earn a scholarship, more playing time and I would not be surprised if he ends up being a legit threat by his junior or senior season. A taller version of Patrick Wallace (walkon from a few years ago), Newman’s ability to knock down 3s will have Pack fans calling for him if Mav or Henderson fall into a funk at some point.
Still to be determined, folks. This game had zero defense, so we’ll have to wait to see how this team responds to having to stop people. Hopefully Smith Jr takes the lead and make sure his squad takes it’s stops as serious as it takes it’s highlight reel dunks.
NC State’s Men’s Basketball Team is Having One of it’s Best Runs in the ACC Ever
Heading into tonight’s Top-25 matchup between #22 NC State and #8 UVA, the Wolfpack are in the midst of one of their best runs in ACC play since the conference was formed in 1953.
The Wolfpack are 9-4 in the ACC, but they have won 8 of their last 9 conference games.
The last time NC State went on a run like this in ACC Regular Season games was during the 1972-73 and 73-74 seasons, when the Wolfpack went 12-0 in ACC play.
12-0 (1972 & 73-74)
12 of 13 (1958-59)
8 of 9 (2022-23, 1961-61, 1954-55)
7 of 8 (1974-75, 1969-70, 1964-65, 1955-56)
6 of 7 (2005-06, 1979-80, 1960-61, 1957-58)
#22 NC State is a 7.5-Point Underdog at #8 UVA Tonight
#22 NC State is a 7.5-point underdog at #8 Virginia tonight at 9pm, and the Total is sitting at 137.
- NC State is 19-5 Straight Up.
- They are 11-11-2 Against the Spread.
- UVA is 17-4 Straight Up.
- They are 8-12-1 Against the Spread.
- The Total has gone Over in 13 of NC State’s 24 games.
- The Total has gone Over in 12 of UVA’s 22 games
- UVA is 15-2 as the Favorite.
- NC State is 4-4 as the Underdog.
- NC State is 4-1-1 in their last 6 games against UVA Against the Spread.
- The Total has gone Over in 5 of NC State’s last 7 games.
- The Total has gone Over in 4 of UVA’s last 5 games.
- The Total has gone Under in 5 of the last 6 games between these two in Charlottesville.
- NC State has won two in a row, and 3 of the last 4 against UVA.
- Kevin Keatts is 3-4 against UVA. He is 2-2 at UVA.
NC State vs. UVA
NC State is the ONLY Team in the Triangle Ranked for the 1st Time in 40 Years
NC State’s Men’s Basketball team is back in the AP Top 25 for the first time in 4 years, landing at #22 in the Week 14 AP Poll.
NC State is ranked. Duke and UNC are not. Last time that was the case? December 27th, 1982. Over 40 years ago. It’s only the 6th time in 67 years that this has happened.
Wolfpack was 17th that week. UNC was unranked in two polls all year, Dec. 20 and Dec. 27. Duke was not ranked that season (Dawkins, Alarie, Bilis, Henderson were freshmen).
Other *cough* ACC teams on Dec. 27: Virginia (4), Louisville (13), Syracuse (14).
— Luke DeCock (@LukeDeCock) February 6, 2023
Before that: The preseason poll in 1973, the final poll in 1970 and Dec. 5, 1955. So this is the sixth time in 67 years.
Happened pretty often between 1952-55. NC State was ranked during the entire 1950-51 season while neither Duke nor UNC was.
— Luke DeCock (@LukeDeCock) February 6, 2023
Anyone remember what happened that 1982-83 basketball season?
NC State won the National Championship.
NC State Breaks Into the AP Poll, Landing at #22
NC State is off to it’s best start in almost 2 decades, and they now finally have a number beside their name, landing at #22 in the Week 14 AP Poll.
— NC State Men's Bball (@PackMensBball) February 6, 2023
This is the first time that NC State has been ranked in the AP Poll since January 28th, 2019, when they were ranked 23rd.
ACC Teams in the Week 14 AP Poll
22. NC State