In their final exhibition tune-up, NC State hammered Barton 112-60 on Monday night.
While the game meant nothing in terms of record, it did showcase a talent level that Wolfpack fans haven’t seen in years. They were fast-paced without being out of control, they were moving the basketball, finishing at the rim and rarely settling for contested jump shots. These are things that Pack fans simply aren’t used to. There is a different dynamic to this group and it was very apparent in this one. No one player dominated the basketball. There was a sense of chemistry and confidence that you wouldn’t expect from a team of mostly newcomers. This very well might be the team Gottfried and Pack fans have been waiting for.
Let’s take a closer look at each player and how they fared in the electric exhibition win over Barton.
Dennis Smith Jr.
Two games in and you already have a feeling that Dennis Smith Jr. is exactly what he was advertised to be. The uber-talented freshman was a true leader on the floor. He has the ability to harness his NBA-level athleticism, play in high gear, but still be 100% in control and disciplined with the basketball. Smith finished with 24 points, 4 assists, 4 rebounds and 6 steals in only 25 minutes of action. He knocked down shots, he applied tons of pressure on defense and he had his expected highlight reel dunks, but what was the most impressive thing about his game, is that he did it all in the flow of the game. He never looked like he was trying to do too much and he didn’t need the ball in his hands at all times to control the flow. Smith is the real deal, and it really showed in this one.
There were times last season where Rowan was asked to carry the offense. With little to no real ball movement, he was forced to take contested shots, usually rushed, which led to a suboptimal shooting percentage (from a guy who was supposed to be their high percentage shooter). This season, you can already see a difference. Rowan is playing within the offense, and Barton simply didn’t have the luxury of focusing on stopping him. With a slew of guys who can create off the dribble, Rowan saw clean looks and made the most of them. He finished with 17 points on 6-13 shooting. He still rushed a few shots, but it wasn’t because of defensive pressure. When he was squared up and in rhythm, he knocked them down. While Mav is still maturing you can tell that he is on the cusp of being a true scoring threat. Against Barton he was option 2a or 2b, most of the night and looked very comfortable in that slot. If this game is any indication, Rowan is going to be a major producer for this year’s squad.
Often overlooked, Terry Henderson is a guy that many fans aren’t sure what to expect from. However, after two games I think we are starting to see what this kid is capable of. He’s not electric off the dribble, but that’s not what State needs from him. Henderson quietly put up 14 points against Barton, most of which came off his ability to get down the floor and finishing transition. He also pitched in with two 3s and showed that there are going to be times when he gets hot from beyond the arc. His size and versatility were on display as well. His 7 rebounds were good enough for 3rd on the team. On most teams, Terry might be a solid #2 scoring options, but for the Wolfpack he’s likely going to be lumped into a group with Rowan and Dorn as guys who at any moment can go on a run of his own.
We have said since day 1 that Torin Dorn is going to be a guy you love. He’s got a skill set that might not be the flashiest, but it’s one that NC State fans have missed over the past 8 years. Dorn is very strong off the dribble and has the physicality to finish in a crowd. He also has a motor that never quits. Dorn was our player of the game and finished with 13 points, 11 boards, 4 assists and 4 steals in only 20 minutes of play. His cramp early in the second half sent him to the bench for the rest of the game, but it wasn’t before he let it be known that he is going to be a major force in this league. He is a good rebounder for his size and always is crashing the basket. This led to 4 offensive rebounds and a few put-backs in traffic. Dorn’s game feels a lot like Dwayne Wade’s. He doesn’t dominate the basketball on the perimeter, but when he sees a crease he’s going to take it. His balance and body control are off the charts, and his ability to collect himself after contact and finish make him a guy who most night will be the 2nd or 3rd scoring option on this offense.
Abu looks stronger and in better shape this season, but against Barton he didn’t really have his best game. Now, he didn’t really do anything to disappoint, but it was just a matchup that doesn’t really lend itself to his skill-set. Abu is a big, super-athletic forward who can run with this team and finish on the break. He’s also a guy who creates mismatches on the block when guarded by a classic big. His quickness and athleticism really separate him from most forwards in the ACC, but he struggles at times when guarded by a smaller defender for some reason. Look, his 10 point and 6 board line is nothing to complain about, but the point we are making is that Abu is going to have a lot of games where he doesn’t just blend into the offense. He’s going to be a focal point on the blocks a lot this season, however, against an undersized Barton team, Abu didn’t completely dominate the paint like many expect him to.
If it weren’t for Dennis Smith Jr, we’d be singing the praises of Markell on almost a daily basis. He’s that good. He is a super athletic PG who loves to distribute. He can get to the rim, but is always looking to dish it off. Johnson is pretty much the type of PG that every coach dreams about, and to have him as a backup for the once in a generation type PG, is something that is going to help the Pack win a lot of basketball games. Johnson had 5 points and 6 assists, without a turnover. In fact, in two exhibition games this season, Johnson has yet to turn it over. It’s not because he’s not attacking either. Johnson is getting in the lane and making great decisions. He’s knocking down open shots and finishing in transition. So far, this kid might be the biggest surprise for us. The ability to allow Smith some breathers without a real big drop off is huge. His athleticism is sneaky, but off the charts, but most importantly, it seems as if his on-court IQ is much higher than advertised (and it was advertised as being pretty darn good.)
Holy moley. Shaun Kirk is someone that you rarely hear being talked about, but if you watched last night’s game, then you know that Kirk will most definitely have a role on this team. It wouldn’t surpise me if, after the season, we look back on the 10 best dunks of the season, and Kirk has five or six of those. Kirk had 10 points and eight boards in a surprising performance. While his shot is still a work in progress, this kids athleticism may be tops in the conference. Last night he threw down three dunks (two tip-slams in traffic) that were ESPN Top-10 worthy. He looks like he’s taken it upon himself to polish the rest of his game as well. He’s bigger, stronger, taking defense more seriously, and more ready to mix it up on the boards. Huge marks for Kirk on this night!
Coming in, it didn’t look like Hicks would be seeing much time this season. We thought we’d have Freeman and Kapita, but Freeman is redshirting and Kapita may not be cleared. This makes Hicks that much more important. He’s definitely a big boy with a good motor. His 8 points and 4 boards were impressive too. He’s a garbage man underneath, fighting for boards and loose balls, and taking up loads of space. Hicks also hit a 3, however, I’m pretty sure Gottfried will squash the idea of him ever deciding to shoot one in a competitive game.
Definitely a game to forget for Yurt. Unfortunately, he’ll have 9 games to think about it. Yurtseven only played 11 minutes, had 2 points and scooped up 5 boards. The lack of minutes is because he fouled out pretty quickly. Omer is used to playing in a more physical atmosphere and seemed a little surprised at how tight the refs call it in the paint. While he was in, he didn’t get many touches. Maybe it’s because the guards had big time mismatches, or maybe it was because he wasn’t creating enough space down low (I’ll have to watch again and examine). Either way, Yurt will be fine and will play a major role on this team after his 9 game suspension.
There were goods and bads for Beejay on this night. He finished with 3 points, 3 blocks and 3 boards in 14 minutes. With Yurt out for 9 games, Beejay is going to get a big-time look at center. The problem is, this team is super fast and looked to click when they were running and gunning. This is not Beejay’s type of pace. He still struggles to get up and down the floor. Anya is at his best when he works fast. When he catches and looks opposite for a skip pass, or catches it and finishes immediately. He gets in trouble when he catches and tries to back in. With the talent of this team, and the advantage they have when they play fast, Beejay likely needs to tweak his approach if he wants to win the starting job by the time Yurt gets back.
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