Earlier today we did a little deep-diving into the numbers and found that they predict a pretty tight matchup tomorrow when NC State takes on top-seeded Colorado State.
However, as we stated in our preview of Davidson, those numbers might be a bit deceptive.
See, Colorado State had a nice record and finished 3rd in the Mountain West. However, the Mountain West may not have been as competitive as first thought. In fact, the two teams that did make the NCAA Tournament were Utah State (who lost by 12 to Texas Tech), and the conference champs, San Diego State, (who got trounced by 16 at the hands of Syracuse).
Now the Rams will face off against a Wolfpack team that is pretty battle-tested and coming in red hot, winning 6 of their last 7 games. And contrary to a small collection of NC State quasi-fan twitter trolls, the run hasn’t been a cakewalk.
Winning 6 of 7 in the ACC/Postseason is rarely done. With one of those wins over a ranked UVA squad, and the only loss coming against Syracuse, who is now looking like a Final Four team, NC State should be very proud of themselves and Kevin Keatts deserves a lot of that credit.
They’ll face off against a Colorado State team that honestly, doesn’t matchup well with the Wolfpack. NC State is pretty versatile, by design, and are going to have a lot of options against the Rams.
Here are the 3 keys to exploiting those options and coming out with an upset and a trip to the NIT Final Four.
1. Stop their guards from getting in the lane and creating havoc
Colorado State’s leading scorer is forward David Roddy, but the machine is powered by the guards.
Kendle Moore and Isaiah Stevens are those guards. They stand 5’10 and 6’0 respectively and they are both lightning quick. Stevens, however, is the one to key on.
As a sophomore Stevens has improved upon a very good freshman season and is a big reason why Colorado State has had the success they’ve had. He’s a shot-maker and he can score from all levels, shooting 46% from the field and 42% from 3 point range.
NC State has to keep these guys out of the lane. Allow them to get by you and they can create havoc. They can score it, find open shooters, and have the NC State defense moving all over the place.
In the past, it’s been guards like these that have ravaged NC State and made games with smaller opponents uncomfortably close. This year, however, State has options.
Keatts can go either way. He can overwhelm them with size, playing Hayes and Seabron up top, close off their 3 points looks, and siphon them into the middle where Bates will be waiting. Or he could match quickness and go with Beverly and Moore, who are both great on-ball defenders whose only weakness is their height. Either way, I think he’ll be able to adjust to the game Colorado State wants to play and have a way to come out with an advantage in the backcourt.
The key in this one won’t be personnel, it will be ‘want-to.’ Who wants it more. If NC State comes out lax, then these guards will eat. But if State matches their intensity, then I think they’ll be able to keep them out of the lane, keep them frustrated, and keep them from getting where they want to go.
2. Stop David Roddy
Roddy is a monster. 6’5, 252. He’s basically a poor man’s Zion Williamson and I say that with no disrespect. The guy uses his frame to get himself shots and he’s sneaky athletic and has a burst you aren’t expecting.
Roddy led the Rams with 16ppg and 9 boards. He shot 51.5% from the floor, but only 29% from 3pt range.
What worries us about this kid is that NC State hasn’t faced anyone like him. He’s stronger than any front court player they’ve faced, and he’s pretty versatile.Keatts, however, will again have options.
He can guard him with Hellems, who is a little taller and our strongest player pound for pound, but the fear there is that he’s just too strong, and with no height on him, you’d be playing to his strengths.
The other option is to put Funderburk on him, play him a little softer on the perimeter but meet him with a lot more height inside. The fear there is that Funderburk could get in foul trouble and he really isn’t a ‘stand your ground’ kind of defender.
I think Keatts is going to have feel this one out. Bates will be on Moors for sure, but watch who guards Roddy. That matchup might be the key to this game.
3. Punish them where they’re weakest
Colorado State has a problem with turning the ball over and that plays right into NC State’s hands. As you know, NC State is one of the better teams nationally in turning people over. Putting 6-foot guys in a trap, surrounded by 6’7 guys is a recipe for turnovers.
State is going to have to ratchet up the pressure and speed up the Rams. If they can do this, they’ll win the turnover battle and likely win this basketball game.
At the same time, they need to get busy on the boards. There isn’t really a great matchup for Seabron ‘on-paper,’ but he’ll be important if he can get on the offensive glass. Colorado State struggles with allowing offensive rebounds and they aren’t great at getting second shots themselves. At the same time, NC State isn’t some offensive rebounding juggernaut, but they’re not bad and if NC State can guard Moore and Stevens with bigger guards, they’ll be able to dominate rebound from those positions.
If NC State can take care of these 3 things, they punch their ticket to the final 4 tomorrow night.