A few days later and this game is still fresh in the mind of Pack fans.
This game really was a must-win for NC State and it showed. It’s been a roller coaster ride of a season that honestly had started to get a bit perplexing.The roster is just too good to be sitting in the middle of the pack of an ACC that isn’t at full strength. With a senior point guard (Johnson), a senior forward (Bryce) and an emerging star in the font court (Funderburk), you’d think NC State would be a lock for the NCAA Tournament. However, in true NC State fashion here we are in February facing an uphill climb to make the dance.
After the Boston College game, most NC State fans were down. It seemed as though with the Pack falling towards the middle of the standings and #6 Duke coming in, followed by #8 FSU, the odds of a late-season run were diminishing. However, if you’ve followed NC State long enough, you knew something that no data or no basketball analyst could predict. You knew NC State was going to win this game. You knew that it’s only when all hope is seemingly lost, does NC State rise from the ashes and do the unthinkable.
The Wolfpack came out against Duke as confident as we’ve seen all year. There was zero fear. They played as if their season depended on this game,..and it really did. They were physical, they were hungry, and they looked like the top-10 team, not the #6 ranked Blue Devils. So what happened? What was the difference? Who was this team?
Markell Johnson decided to dominate
The keyword there is ‘decided.’ There was no luck involved in Markell’s 28 point, 9 rebound, 4 assist effort. That was Markell simply being locked in, playing without fear and dominating a basketball game. I won’t lie and say I know what’s been going on in Johnson’s head this season. He has had moments, but hasn’t really captured that form he showed at the end of games last season. Against Duke, he finally did and he sustained it for an entire game. Whatever Keatts told him, whatever pre-game ritual he did or motivation he used to get up for this game, I hope it’s repeatable. With Markell playing at that level, NC State is not only a tournament team, but they are a tough out for ANY (yes, ANY) team in the nation.
Funderburk’s versatility is a problem
Funderburk’s 21 points was a season-high in conference play. His 15 shots was also a season-high. See the correlation? DJ Funderburk is one of NC State’s best players and he needs to get shots if they are going to win. He was matched up against one of the best frontcourts in the country and he did work. He had 9 rebounds, 4 of which were offensive and also pitched in 3 steals and a 3 pointer. This guy is a stud and the faster his teammates realize he needs his touches, the faster the Wolfpack will be able to reach their full offensive potential.
Devon Daniels set the tone.
Say what you want about Daniels, the guy has been the most consistent energy guy on this team for the past month. Yes he takes some crazy floaters, and sometimes forces shots you’d rather see go to Markell or DJ, but maybe just maybe he’s starting to come into his own. Daniels was a good scorer coming out of high school and showed a lot of flashes at Utah as a freshman. But since coming to NC State he has struggled to find his role. That’s no longer the case. He came out of the gate hot against Duke and put pressure on them from the get-go. It helped that his floaters and running layups were falling, but you can credit that to his focus. He too was locked in for this game. He finished with 25 points and 9 rebounds and it seemed like Duke wanted no part in getting in front of him. Daniels is strong, physical and cocky on the court. While it may have taken him some time to learn to play within this system, he might actually be the one starting to give this Wolfpack team an identity.
Less 3s, more attacking
In Keatts presser, he said he challenged his team to attack more and settle for 3s less. The outcome was State only taking 13 3s and hitting 8 of them. That is who this team needs to be. Markell, Bryce, Daniels, Hellems, and Funderburk are all good shooters, but none are great 3 point shooters. Beverly could be a great shooter, but he’s struggled the past 2 seasons to find his stroke. With this being the case, you need your team to make their money attacking the basket. This team has floated around and settled for a lot of lazy 3s. Keatts may finally be putting his foot down and making them play to their strength. It worked well against Duke, let’s see if they can keep focused and apply that type of attack vs FSU.
A huge win
This win wasn’t just big, it was huge. NC State needed this for so many reasons. Had they lost, the season was probably over (in terms of NCAA chances). They would limp into a game against FSU with no clear path to the tournament other than a big ACC Tourny run. Instead, they have knocked off the #6 team in the nation by 22 points. I outright slaughtering. Now, with confidence riding high, they welcome #8 FSU to Raleigh on Saturday. Back to back wins over Top-10 teams would put NC State in a position to get into the NCAA Tournament without being on the bubble.
NC State Makes Top-10 for Graduate Transfer Guard Justin Kier
George Mason Graduate Transfer Guard Justin Kier (6’4″/197) included NC State in his list of Final 10 schools.
— Andrew Slater (@Andrew__Slater) April 13, 2020
Kier was granted a fifth year of eligibility after missing all but 9 games last season due to injury. He was expected to arguably be George Mason’s best returning player next year, averaging 14.5 points and 6.5 rebounds, earning All-Atlantic 10 2nd Team honors.
NC State Reaches Out to UAB Transfer Makhtar Guyer
According to Rivals’ Corey Evans, NC State has reached out to UAB Transfer Forward Makhtar Guyer (6’10″/210), after he announced he was transferring on Friday.
Virginia Tech has offered UAB transfer Makhtar Guyer, he tells @RivalsPortal.
Georgetown, Miami, Mississippi State, NC State and San Diego State have reached out since his transfer yesterday. @Hokie_Haven
— Corey Evans (@coreyevans_10) April 11, 2020
— Makhtar Gueye (@Thelionkilla) April 11, 2020
Guyer has one year of eligibility remaining. Last year as a Junior at UAB, Guyer averaged 6.8 points and 5.1 rebounds, starting in 27 of 31 games.
NC State Accepts Recommendation to Move Case to IARP
NC State has accepted the recommendation to move their violation’s case from the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions to the Independent Accountability Resolution Process.
“We’ve stated throughout this process that NC State will accept accountability for any shortcomings and defend ourselves aggressively where we feel it is appropriate and necessary to do so,” Woodson wrote in a statement released by the school on Wednesday. “As our response to the Referral Petition demonstrates, we do not think NC State can receive an objective or fair hearing before the Committee on Infractions in this matter. We believe the only remaining option is that our case be moved to the Independent Accountability Resolution Process.
“NC State has a long history of working cooperatively with the NCAA, and we remain committed to working collaboratively through the IARP to address concerns and to resolve this matter as fairly and efficiently as possible.” (WRAL)
The IARP is made up of decision makers that are investigators and legal advocates that are independent of any NCAA teams.
The difference between the traditional process, and the IARP, is that the latter’s decision is final, unable to be appealed.
Vote For NC State Men’s Basketball Fans in Fox College Hoops 64-Team Bracket
In the absence of the NCAA Tournament, Fox College Hoops has created a 64-team bracket to determine the best fanbase of Men’s Basketball teams.
They determined 60 of the contestants based of the Men’s Basketball teams with the most Twitter followers. The final four were determined by the highest rated teams not yet selected according to the NET Rankings.
You: So how does this #FOXFanVote thing work?
— FOX College Hoops (@CBBonFOX) April 5, 2020
The winner of each matchup is determined by fan vote, obviously.
NC State’s Men’s Basketball fans were given a #8 seed in the East Bracket.
The winner of the bracket, will earn quite a gift. Fox College Hoops will place a billboard of that team in close proximity to their rival.
Go ahead and vote for NC State to beat Alabama in the 1st round right now.