Well, that didn’t go exactly as expected. The much hyped NC State Wolfpack only barely sneaked by an experienced Georgia Southern team, 81-79.
Out of the gate, the Wolfpack looked much like they looked in exhibition play. They were moving the ball, getting open looks and simply out athleting the Eagles. Only about 10 minutes in, things drastically changed.
Georgia Southern decided to press the Pack with a 1/2 and 3/4 court traps. This really slowed down NC State, a team who makes their living playing uptempo. Taking the ball out of Dennis Smith Jr’s hands really took the Pack off their game. The slower pace created problems. They packed the lane and let State shoot contested jumpers. This is exactly what Gottfried does not want his team doing. The Eagles cut off driving lanes and doubled the post on entry. When they kicked it out to shooters, they simply failed to knock down jumpers. This shifted momentum to the Eagles, and allowed them to dictate pace.
Luckily for the Wolfpack, a late surge by Torin Dorn and a consistent attack from Terry Henderson was enough to give them the 2 point victory, but it wasn’t before the flaws of this team were exposed. While many might feel a bit uneasy after game 1, we feel as if this was exactly the type of game this team needed. Let’s see why…
Learning to play at a slower pace…
Through much of the exhibition season, NC State was able to get on the break and use their athleticism to overpower teams. Georgia Southern used a series of traps to slow down the Wolfpack. This really took the advantage away from Dennis Smith Jr and Torin Dorn, who flourish in space. The Eagles made them attack in 1/2 court sets, and they were much less effective.
This is good news for NC State. They have now seen how teams may play them and they can gameplan for that. For instance, late in the game, the Pack started to figure out how to attack. Instead of taking contested shots, they started forcing the issue and attacking off the dribble. They got to the line, they got the Eagles defense shifting, opening up easy baskets in the paint and, in the end, got them their 2 point victory.
Learning how to play against a team that packs the middle is huge, since most teams can’t match up athletically with the Pack. This means they likely will see a lot of zone and junk defenses, as teams do all they can to keep Dennis Smith Jr slowed down and off the break.
Coping with their frontcourt situation, and learning how to trust their bigs…
With Yurtseven still 8 games out from being eligible, the Pack is going to need to learn how to deal with what they have. On Friday night they were forced into a situation where they should have been trusting their bigs. Early on, the Pack guards tried to shoot their way out of the packed-in defenses. But after a while, it became apparent that if they are going to find success, they were going to have to go through their bigs.
Gottfried tried a bunch of different lineups, some big, some small, but at no point did NC State really attack with their big men. As much as you want him to be a beast on the blocks, Abu still tends to be the most comfortable in the 8-10 ft range. His back to the basket game still needs some work, but he certainly has the build and talent to exploit smaller teams.
This game really showed that if this team is going to be as versatile as they can, they are still missing the physical and classic back to the basket big man. Yutseven will be a big addition when he gets back, but until they, what is State going to do?
Well, the addition of Ted Kapita is going to be big. The freshman 4 star is now eligible and he is the huge, physical presence that they missed last night. Allowing him and Abu to be on the blocks at the same time should go a long way in fixing the situation.
On defense and on the boards, NC State showed that they might not be where they envisioned. With Beejay Anya still not really be able to say on the floor (whether it be stamina or foul issues), Abu and Hicks were the only guys to turn to. Abu had 11 boards, but Anya and Hicks combined for 3 boards in 17 minutes. When teams take away State’s athletic advantage, they need to be able to turn to their bigs for a boost, both on offense and defense. On Friday night, they didn’t and it nearly cost them.
The harsh realization that this team is young…
You can have all the talent in the world, but it never makes up for experience, and that showed on Friday night. When things were going good, the Wolfpack looked confident and crisp. But when things started to veer off course, the gameplan started to fall apart.
Some wanted to point blame, but how can you when floor leader of this team, Dennis Smith Jr, was playing just his first college game of his career. While he’s racking up accolades in the preseason, Smith is still just a freshman. That showed in this one, for sure. Smith didn’t look rattled, but he did look out of sync. He seemed to be trying to figure out his role with this team and there is nothing wrong with that.
Some pointed to Smith, wondering why he wasn’t more aggressive. The fact is, the kid is still feeling out his situation. Everyone praised Smith for his team-first mentality and his pass-first style of play, and while that is needed, there is going to be times when State needs Smith to take over basketball games. You could see that he was wrestling with his role. He took a few shots, missed and decided to go into distribution mode. Obviously, the fact that he shot only 3-13 from the floor played into it, but near the end of the game you saw Smith start to push the issue. He started to see that he needed to force his way into the lane and make plays in traffic.It’s going to take a few games for this team to really feel comfortable together and for Smith to feel out when he should be a distributor and when he should take the game into his own hands.
This is all a growing process for this Wolfpack team. Most of these guys have never suited up for NC State, and some have never played a college basketball game in their life. Sure, they are talented but chemistry and teamwork are things that are built. An offseasn and some practices aren’t going to get you there. it’s going to take game like this one for this team to get a true grasp of who they are and what they are capable of.
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