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One Word: NC State Men’s Basketball Thoughts



The time is now for State’s men’s team and Coach Keatts. With the season about to tip-off, Vonwolf and Wolferetti break down what they think will happen.


Who is your breakout candidate of the year?

Vonwolf: Cam Hayes

Was going to say Hellems, but I think he’s more on people’s radars than Hayes. Cam has the opportunity to really take a massive step forward this season. He showed glimpses last year of being special, particularly towards the end of the season against Notre Dame and UVA. The problem was inconsistent scoring. Part cold streaks of shooting, part just the physical toll that it takes to play a season in the ACC.

Hayes has added muscle and a different mindset this year. I’d expect for him to elevate not only his shooting percentage but his assists per game. If we can get 10 pts | 8 ast | 8 boards out of our true point guard, we’ll be in a good spot.


Wolferetti: Terquavion Smith

When I’m projecting players, I’m always heavy on the intangibles and that’s why I’m going with the freshman shooting guard on this one. I know it’s risky to go with a freshman as a breakout candidate, but this kid is just built differently. He’s got elite-level confidence and feels like he’s ACC-ready. With his ability to score it, NC State’s need for scoring, I think Keatts has found the match made in heaven. I’m looking for Smith to average around 12 ppg this season

Who is going to struggle this year?

Vonwolf: Dereon Seabron

I don’t think he’ll play bad this year, but there are going to be too many “fine” games from a guy we need big minutes from. He’s rebounding vastly improved as the season went on, and without Fundy, he’ll be leaned on even more. But if he ends up floating around 7 pts | 7 boards a game, it’s just not going to cut it. Especially with more guys on this roster that fit into the “athletic length” category, need for him to be a solid player.


Wolferetti: Ernest Ross & Greg Gantt

I know this is a bummer, since these guys struggling means NC State has zero front-court depth, but I’m just calling it like I see it. Both of these guys are new to the ACC and both are long, versatile bigs who have good stretch skills but are unproven in the ACC. Look, if you watch enough ACC basketball you know that you either are an elite shooter, or you struggle to transition to the ACC. What that means is that if your shot is good enough that you don’t have to deal with physical play of the ACC, then you can skirt by. But if you are forced to mix it up in the middle, it almost always takes guys a while to get used to the physical play that the refs allow in this conference. Both Ross and Gantt have decent shots, but neither are good enough to live off of them. They’ll be forced to mix it up in the middle and I think there is going to be some growing pains there for sure.


Biggest game(s) this year?

Vonwolf: Back-to-back road games versus Louisville (1/12) and Duke (1/15)

By this point in the season, we’ll know if this team has what it takes or not. We’ll also either be on our 15th article about the future of Keatts or praising the swagger of this young squad. If they play well and consistent that first two months, these games become the springboard to make a run at securing tickets to the big dance. If the first two months are a struggle? These games become make or break for resume purposes. Even without a tip-off of the season, feels as though State needs to grab at least one of these.

Plus it’s our last game, maybe…who knows, against Coach K…would like to send him home with a nice L.


Wolferetti: Purdue (12/12 @ Brooklyn, NY)

Go ahead, hate me for not picking an ACC game, but this Purdue game, to me, will decide a lot. It’s going to NC State’s first matchup vs a ranked opponent most likely (they are #7 to start the season) and it’s going to dictate their season outlook. See, young teams aren’t really sure who they are. They only really are able to gauge themselves by what they are able to accomplish. That could be a good or a bad thing.

For NC state, I think it’ll be a good thing. They have some leadership to guide them (Hellems, Bates) but they also have a slew of confident freshmen who probably think they are going to be able to walk right into this conference and win every game they play, and guess what, early on in the season they probably will. But Purdue is that buzzsaw game. If State can beat upset Purdue, it will do all sorts of things for the confidence of this team rolling into ACC play. If they lose, then you have to hope the veterans are able to patch up the wound quickly, before they take on Miami just a week and a half later. Another loss to Miami, then this will be a team of shaken confidence early in the ACC schedule.

A lot rides on this Purdue game whether you like it or not.


What does State end up doing this season?

Vonwolf: 8th in ACC, Second Round NCAA

If this same team were competing against the ACC of last season, I’d have a lot more confidence. There are going to be games that are absolutely fun to watch, with speed, strength and energy. There are also going to be games where nobody is hitting, there’s zero inside presence and they get blown out. The reliance on Bates to stay health is scary, but it’s offset a bit by just how awesomely athletic this forward and guard group is. They’ll be a bubble team this year, sneak in and then survive a weird first round NCAAT game before closing out the season.


Wolferetti: 5th place ACC, Second Round NCAA

This team will figure it out. I think they have enough talent, depth, and size to really cause problems in the conference. I also think they’ll be able to shoot the ball a lot better than most think. With that and their length on defense, I think they really surprise some people. For this to happen, they’ll need someone to step up behind Manny Bates. It’s really important since the one area I do think this team has trouble is with rebounding.

That said, I think they shock people, finish 5th and then get hot in the first round of the NCAAs before being ousted by a big, physical group of veterans in round 2.


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NC State Basketball

Wolferetti: Feed me my crow. NC State lost to Creighton and I’m here to break it down (and admit I was wrong)



I was wrong.

I thought this matchup was a good one for NC State. I watched a lot of Creighton this year and to me, they looked like a team that NC State could roll over. Let me explain why.

I knew a few things. I knew Nembhard was a PG that could get a little out of control if sped up. I knew with a little defense and physicality, Sheierman could be made uncomfortable. I knew Kalkbrenner was a good defender but was going to sink on the pick-and-roll to protect the basket.

Joiner’s pull up just wouldn’t fall

I figured that Joiner, the pull-up king would be taking that DJ Burns screen, getting to the middle, and pulling up as Kalkbrenner sank. I figured Smith would exploit this as well. Well, turns out Joiner was off and couldn’t get his pull-up game going and Smith, well yeah Smith did exploit this pretty well.

Burns didn’t look like Burns

The other thing I’d figure would happen is that I thought DJ Burns would really frustrate Kalkbrenner. If you’ve looked at games where Kalkbrenner had to face a really good, physical back-to-the-basket big man, those bigs usually had pretty good games in the scoring column.  I honestly don’t understand what happened to Burns in this one. Sure he got a few stupid early fouls, but before he even picked up a foul he looked out of it. With no double teams coming, Burns is usually calculated, slowly backing you down and hitting you with a flurry of head fakes, pump fakes or spins. If the big doesn’t bite, Burns can fade away, go with a contested hook shot, or pass out.

In this game, Burns looked sped up for some reason. The first time he got the ball he quickly backed in and threw up a hook that rattled out. Not awful, but usually you see him probe a little more. Then the next time he didn’t even look for contact, instead, he threw up a little floater that didn’t fall. While neither were awful shots, both were uncharacteristic of Burns. On top of those things, he looked absolutely gassed within minutes of coming in. My guess is that it was the altitude, but either way, it took a toll on him.

Whatever it was, it had him frustrated and he had two really bad fouls where he just shoved Kalkbrenner (he also had a phantom foul that was ridiculous). That said, it just wasn’t his night and this made NC State a lot more one-dimensional.

Casey Morsell came to play, but this NC State roster just wasn’t built to get a guy like him going, which is a shame. Jarkel Joiner was a huge reason why NC State got to where they got. His scoring ability, his speed and his toughness and leadership skill were huge. But Joiner is a scoring guard, and great basketball teams need POINT guards.

What is a point guard, and why can’t we have one?

A point guard isn’t just a guy who dribbles it down. It’s a guy who understands the games within the games. Guys who dictate pace, call plays (sets) and are essentially coaches on the floor. NC State and Kevin Keatts never had that this season, and while you can get a long way with scoring guards and good big men, you’ll never compete for anything of worth until you prioritize the skill set of a true point guard. I think that has been NC State’s problem for years, and I find it kind of insane that coach after coach falls into this idea of having a scoring guard play as a PG for more offense to get on the court.

This is no shot at Jarkel, either. The guy was one of my favorite players to watch on this team, but it just is what it is. He is a scoring guard who happens to be slotting in at PG. When you see Keatts bring in a guy whose priority is getting his guys open and dictating pace, then you can start to believe that this program may be close to arriving. Until then, sneaking into the tournament and hoping guys get hot hands is as good as it gets.

Look at Kihei Clark (Virginia’s PG). I know it’s not a great time to be talking about Clark, whose errant pass ended up losing the game for Virginia on Thursday, but look at Clark’s build.5’10, 170lbs. Look at his stats. Mid-30s shooting % from 3. Hight 70s from the FT line. The guy is nothing special when it comes to the numbers, but he’s a leader and he distributes the basketball to the right guys at the right time. Tony Bennett has started Clark for 4 years despite the fact that he’s coaching a team that is always in the running to win the ACC and won a national championship less than 5 years ago.  He could replace Clark with an elite, tall, athlete at any moment. But he doesn’t. Why? Because he understands what I’m talking about. It’s a puzzle that coaches need to put together, and one piece of that puzzle is a guy like this.

I was wrong about this game. I thought things would play out differently. They didn’t. I’m not blaming anyone in particular, but the makeup of this team vs. the makeup of teams that play deep into March are different. Maybe this is step one to getting there. We’ll have to see how the roster shapes up next season.

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VIDEO: NC State falls to Creighton 72-63 in first round of NCAA Tournament | Extended Highlights & Box Score

NC State came out flat, DJ Burns looked gassed, and for the most part, the Pack looked shell-shocked vs. Creighton from the opening tip. However, Terquavion Smith is excluded from all of that. He was amazing and in what was likely his final game at NC State, he kept the Pack afloat, dropping 32 points on 12-25 shooting. In the end, it wasn’t enough as their big man, 7’1 Ryan Kalkbrenner went for 31.



NC State came out flat, DJ Burns looked gassed, and for the most part, the Pack looked shell-shocked vs. Creighton from the opening tip. However, Terquavion Smith is excluded from all of that. He was amazing and in what was likely his final game at NC State, he kept the Pack afloat, dropping 32 points on 12-25 shooting. In the end, it wasn’t enough as their big man, 7’1 Ryan Kalkbrenner went for 31.

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VIDEO: Smith, Joiner and Keatts talk in postgame press conference

Terquavion Smith, Jarkel Joiner and Kevin Keatts meet with the media after 72-63 loss to Creighton in the NCAA Tournament.



Terquavion Smith, Jarkel Joiner and Kevin Keatts meet with the media after 72-63 loss to Creighton in the NCAA Tournament.

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Wolferetti: 3 reasons why NC State is going to win today



God bless these guys over here at PI. I submitted this article to them this morning and got this back.

“Joey, this is a good piece, but are you sure you want to come out and say that NC State is going to win? Why not just do a ‘keys to the game.’ or something? Hedge your bets. Why are you always wanting to put your reputation on the line?”

To that I say, “Nah, I’m good. I want my reputation on the line. What fun is this if I’m not callin’ it like I see it?”

Look, they’ve been worried about me stating outlandish opinions before. Like when I said after game #1, after I first laid eye on this team, that it was going to be a team that will flirt with or get into the Top 25? I got hammered for that, but was I right? And today I’m back on my prediction tip, telling you that NC State will survive and advance. And here are my 3 reasons why.

1. Creighton hasn’t fared well against teams with great Turnover Margins.

If Creighton has a glaring weakness, it’s turnover margin.

NC State’s turnover margin ranks 16th in the NCAA. Creighton’s is a miserable 291st. This means Creighton turns the ball over a lot and doesn’t create many turnovers. Meanwhile, NC State is the exact opposite. They create a lot of turnovers and really protect the basketball. This statistic right here is going to play a major role. The Creighton guards, especially Nembhard, can get sped up, and when they do, they can get sloppy and out of control. Meanwhile, Joiner and Smith flourish at top speed.

Let’s look at the one team that Creighton lost to every time they played them (and played them multiple times). That team is Marquette.

What do Marquette and NC State have in common? Well, they are both Top 20 in the nation in Turnover Margin. Marquette ranks #3 in the NCAA while the Pack is 16th. Creighton turned it over 18 times in their first meeting at Marquette. The second time these two teams met, Creighton turned it over 15 times.

The other teams they faced in the Top 50 of Turnover Margin in the nation?

#39 Arizona State
#10 Texas

That’s it. And guess what, Creighton lost every single one of those games. They have yet to beat a team in the Top 50 in Turnover Margin.

Reminder. NC State ranks 16th.

2. Large, back-to-the-basket bigs have fared well against Creighton

6’9, 245lb, Adama Sanogo from UConn dropped 17 against them in a win.

6’9, 215lb, Oso Ighodaro from Marquette dropped 16 on them in their first meeting, and then 18 in their second.

6’7, 220lb, Bryce Hopkins from Providence scored 20 on them in both meetings. One of which was a win.

All of these guys are big, strong, back-to-the-basket bigs and all of them bullied their way to huge games again Creighton.

In all 3 instances, Creighton refused to double-team on most possessions and the big men ate. So how will they deal with a big that is bigger than any of these guys?

DJ Burns is 6’9, 275lbs and he’s going to be a focal point for NC State in this game. If Creighton opts to play Burns straight up, history says they are going to have a long night and Burn is going to have a big game.

3. Creighton hasn’t seen guards like Joiner and Smith

Sure Creighton has quick guards. Nembhard, the 6’0 PG rarely gets a matchup where he doesn’t have a quickness advantage. Today, against Joiner, he won’t have one. There is so much talk about Creighton’s guards bottling up their opponents, but watch them play and you’ll see that they simply haven’t had to face guys like Joiner or Smith. Creighton will allow the floor to be spread and will not fight against playing this game at a fast pace, and those are the types of games we’ve seen the NC State guards feast.

Creighton is a very good team. They have some very good pieces, but I just think they’ve found themselves in a matchup that isn’t very good for them despite being data-darlings. I could be wrong, but to me, this looks like a game where people are reading off statistics and making assumptions without watching film. Without looking at each team’s Achilles heel. And without really breaking down the matchups.

I think this is a really good matchup for the Pack and I think I’ll be back talking to you in about 24 hours looking at who the guys will play on Sunday.

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