NC State has two more games left on the schedule before the ACC tournament and they are looking to make one final run. Can they do it? Here are the reason we think they just might.
1) Moving Markell Johnson to the point
It was pretty obvious during ACC play that NC State wasn’t really even trying to run their offense. Dennis Smith Jr was putting up big time numbers, but his insistence to dominate the ball at the top of the key led to NC State looking stagnant and confused.
Tuesday night the NC State offense looked much better. The ball was moving from side to side, guys were getting open shots and it seemed as if this motivated them to cut harder and set better screens in order to get open. You can credit this to Johnson’s play. He gets the ball down the court and immediately moves the basketball to the wing. When he does make a move he’s always looking to penetrate and pitch, allowing shooters to get clean inside-out looks.
Having Johnson on the floor didn’t hurt Smith’s game either. in fact, he shot 6-13 on the night (46% – right on his average) while dropping 18 (again, right on his average).The other argument we’ve heard about playing Johnson at the point and using Smith as a 2 is that you’d either have to go small with Henderson and Rowan, or you’d have to choose between the two. Against GT, Rowan logged 37 minutes, while Henderson had 26. And as for ‘going small,’ it didn’t seem to hurt at all when the Pack did that. They ended up with a 40-28 edge on the boards.
2) Kapita stepping in
Say what you want, but Omer Yurtseven simply is not ready for the physicality of ACC basketball. Gottfried finally realized this and decided to decrease his minutes significantly. This opened up time for Kapita who has played a major role in most games that NC State has shown their potential.
I’m not sure why Kapita has seen such a fluctuation in playing time this season, but you could point to the fact that he doesn’t really seem to grasp the offense and he gets lost on defense occasionally. At this point, those are things that really don’t matter as much. NC State needs guys on the blocks who want to play hard and want to body up. Kapita plays with passion, fights for rebounds and is very aggressive on both ends. Simply put, NC State needs to put the five guys on the court who are willing to battle every play. Kapita is one of those guys.
3) Nothing left to lose
You want us against the world? Well, you’ve got it. Not many people believe NC State is going to make a run. Not at this point. Not since they’ve failed to really improve as the season has progressed. But don’t count them out just yet. They really have nothing left to lose. They aren’t going to the tournament without an ACC Tourny title. They aren’t playing for Gottfried’s job since that is out the window. What’s left other than pride and proving to the nation that they are in fact who everyone thought they’d be at the start of the season.
I know the comment section is going to be filled up with snarky remarks on how we’re living in a dream world and how NC State is cooked. We get it. People have been severely let down and it stings, but this team showed at GT that with a few small changes, they might be able to muster up one more run. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.