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NC State comes in as big underdogs vs. VT | Preview, Breakdown & How to Watch



NC State Wolfpack vs. Virginia Tech Hokies
Time: 7:00pm
Location: Blacksburg, VA
Line: VT -9

Virginia Tech comes in 8-5 overall. However, they really haven’t beaten anyone great. Their best win is a 4 point victory over Maryland (who is also 8-5 so far). They have losses to #9 Memphis, #25 Xavier, Wake (lost by 20 at home), Dayton, and #2 Duke.

Now they host NC State, but they are coming off a long COVID hiatus where they were forced to postpone 2 straight games. In fact, the Hokies haven’t played a game since December 22nd, which is nearly 3 weeks. Are they ripe for the pickin’ or is Vegas right in predicting Tech wins by 9?

Before we get into that, let’s take a closer look at the Hokies…

VT is well balanced. They have 5 guys who are decent scorers. Their leader is Keve Aluma. He’s a 6’9 senior who is athletic. While he isn’t really dominant at popping out and beating you off the bounce or shooting from beyond the arc with much consistency, he is very good at getting position down low and can finish through contact. He’s averaging 15 points and 6 boards. Most of his points don’t come from VT dumping it down, clearing out, and letting him work. They come from their guards penetrating, demanding help, and dumping off to Aluma who finishes.  Honestly, watching Aluma, you’d think that he’d be an even more dominant force based on his size and athleticism. He moves well, he can get out on the break, and he’s got big bounce. This isn’t a knock. The guy is good and can score in a lot of different ways, and is going to be a problem for State.

They then have 3 guys who average 10 ppg. 6’7 senior slasher Justyn Mutts, 6’3 junior shooter Hunter Cattoor, and 6’4 junior do-it-all guard Nahiem Alleyn. After this group is their point guard, 6’0 senior Storm Murphy averaging 8.

Mutts is going to be an issue for NC State. He’s long, athletic and has a good motor. He’s going to spend most of his time drifting out towards the perimeter, but he can take it down low if he needs to. He’s active on the break and a real high-flyer. He’s not an awful shooter either, knocking down 32% from deep.

Cattoor is the shooter. Think Scott Wood. The guy is going to come off of a ton of screens and shoot a bunch of 3s. He has nearly unlimited range and knocks it down at a crazy 44.8% clip.

Alleyn is another good guard who can slash, pass and shoot. He doesn’t nothing great, but does everything pretty well. And then you have Murphy, who is a pesky guard that likes to get in the lane, create havoc and find open shooters. He’s a decent shooter himself, but not going to take over a game.

Tech is big, athletic, and experienced. They are a beatable team with some flaws, but it’s not going to be easy. Here’s how you do it.

Keys to the game for NC State

  • Keep Seabron at the point. The experiment we begged to see, came to fruition and completely changed the way NC State looked on offense. Suddenly they didn’t look stagnant. Seabron created a problem out top on the pick and roll and was able to draw down defenders and find open shooters. Keatts needs to commit to this change and not look back.
  • Stop dribble penetration and stay home..LIMIT 3s. Virginia Tech is going to be bothered by NC State’s constant switching. They get a lot of their buckets on shooters coming off of screens, but those passes aren’t going to be there. Instead, they are likely going to try to play a lot of inside-out basketball. This means you’ll see a lot of dribble drives and kicks, and dump-downs to the post. Dowuona and Hellems are going to struggle with Aluma and Mutts on the block, and you better believe when those bigs get guards to switch on them, they’ll try to find that mismatch and exploit it (they’re a veteran team). You have to live with the fact that they are going to get theirs in the post. State played this well vs. Purdue and I believe they’ll do the same thing vs VT. The Hokies get a lot of points from their forwards, but this is a guard-driven team and they definitely rely on the 3 to win games. If you can take their guards out of rhythm and keep their open shots to a minimum, they’ll get out of sorts or start to force things that aren’t there.
  • Communication is key. The Hokies run a lot of off-ball screens to get guys open. They do a lot of pick and rolling. They don’t mind playing in the half-court, so communication is paramount. State needs to not lose their men on these screens and let each other know when they are switching and when they are staying put. Watch a little VT and you’ll see that they get 5 or 6 buckets a game purely off miscommunication by the defense.
  • Knock down shots. Easier said than done, right? If you aren’t going to beat VT, you need to shoot it well. They aren’t going to respect Dowuona in the post, so you aren’t to get guards helping down. This is why Seabron at the point is so important. He’s the one guy on NC State that demands help-side. Seabron off the bounce will create open looks outside for guys like Smith, Hellems and Allen. They just need to connect.
  • Beat them on the boards. Did you know that NC State is actually a pretty good rebounding team despite their lack of depth in the middle? Most of it is thanks to Seabron leading the ACC at 9.9 per game, but they get boards from everyone, thanks to their size and length. VT has Aluma down low, but he’s not a great rebounder. It’s Mutts who averages the most at 7.5 per game. If State can keep Mutts off the glass, then they’ll be on their way to winning this battle. And limiting second chance points for VT is big if you want to win.

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10 months ago

The long hiatus seemed to work for FSU but here’s to hoping we can get the win.

NC State Basketball

OUR TAKE: On NC State’s selfless win over William & Mary



Another cupcake game, another huge blowout. This NC State team continues to take care of business, finishing off the Tribe 85-64.

The win is great and all, but a notch in the win column over W&M isn’t all that impressive. What is impressive, however, is the way this team is winning. This team can, and has beaten teams in so many different ways. Whatever the game has called for, NC State has had the answer.

Against Dayton, they needed to match their physicality and their experience. They did that, outrebounding a bigger, stronger Dayton team 34-28 and relying on  Jarkel Joiner to keep the team focused and playing at their pace. (Joiner also went for 27 points).

Against Butler they needed to neutralize Manny Bates and expose their lack of depth inside. They did this with Mahorcic and Burns going for a combined 27 points and limiting Bates to just 8 points.

Then last night, against a William and Mary team who was scrappy and active on defense, and throwing double teams at NC State, they had to pass their way into easy buckets. They did this with 18 assists (W&M only had 8). The Pack was led by Terquavion Smith’s 7 assists, while his backcourt mate, Joiner, dished out 6. Even Dusan Mahorcic got in the action with 3.

The point I’m making is that the whole reason I’ve been so bullish on this NC State team from the get-go is that I recognized this versatility. The game of basketball is about matchups. Any small mismatch can put a lot of pressure on an entire team. Look at it like a chain. If one link of the chain is broken, the entire chain is no good. Same goes for basketball, if one defender can’t stay in front of his man, or one big can’t handle the guy he’s guarding, you need help. When a guy rotates over in help side, it creates a series of events that all have to go perfectly if you want to stop your opposition from scoring. The next guy over needs to recognize one of his teammates leaving for help, he then needs to rotate to the guy that was just left, meaning the next guy over has to rotate. All of this rotation is what makes up team defense, and as much as you teach team defense, these 19-year-olds are not going to be able to stay focused enough to consistently make the right read.

That’s why having no mismatches is key. It eliminates a lot of problems you may have on the defensive end. Last year there were mismatches all over the floor. We didnt have a PG who could stop these lighting quick guards from getting to the rim. When they got to the rim, we didn’t have an interior guy who could be relied upon to protect the basket. And then you had an undersized Hellems at the 4, who many teams attacked in the post.

A good coach looks for these mismatches and exploits them.

This team, however, is really hard to get a mismatch again. Joiner can guard any quick PG and he’s big and strong enough to bang with a stronger, thicker PG. Smith is long enough and quick enough to stay in front of most 2 guards. Morsell, NC State’s best overall defender, can guard pretty much anyone at the 3 with his size, strength, and understanding of defensive positioning. At the 4 you have Jack Clark, who has been huge for this team’s defense. He’s 6’8, mobile and athletic, and he’s a pretty gritty kid who doesn’t mind contact in the post. Then you have the bigs. Dusan is a horse. If you need a banger or enforcer, he’s your guy. Then you have Burns, who’s size alone makes him tough to move around. You saw Bates struggle with Burns sheer size. Bates is tall, springy, and long, but he’s got a thin frame. Sure he’s packed on lean muscle, but lean muscle ain’t moving a guy like Burns. The only thing I saw that could really hurt the Pack is super tall 3 who can hang on the perimeter and get shots off over Morsell (Like Grady Dick), or a really athletic, undersized big. I thought KJ Adams would probably cause problems, but he didn’t.  Mahorcic is a lot more nimble than I was expecting, and I’m not as concerned as I was on that front.

Getting back to this game, NC State moved the ball well, ramped up the defense after a slow first 5 minutes, and overwhelmed the Tribe with size and speed.

Here are a few things that really stood out to me…

Casey Morsell is on fire. Morsell went off again for 23 points on 8-12 shooting and 6-9 from 3-point range. He’s not shooting 53% from long range which is absolutely insane seeing as he’s shot 47 3’s (he’s hit 25 of those). In fact, Morsell shot 100 3’s last year and only hit 35 all season long. That’s still 35% which isn’t all that bad, but he’s going to eclipse that number over the next few games, and we’re only just entering ACC play. And this isn’t some random hot streak, in my opinion. Morsell is hitting 3s at home on the road (so far only in the Atlantis Ballroom, which is supposed to be a tough place to shoot). He’s also cleaned up his form. He’s not thinking about it as much,  you can tell. No more hitches at the top like last year. He’s always had good form, but now he’s got confidence and he’s just letting it fly without focusing on mechanics. That’s a sign of a ton of offseason work and a coach that has given you the green light. Morsell knocking down open 3s is huge. Pairing him with 2 guards who defenders need to focus on is going to leave him open. He’s now taking advantage. (Note that Morsell was a 4-star recruit who started day 1 at UVA. He was known for his offense in HS, so him finding his offense isn’t too hard to believe.)

Terquavion Smith is still settling into his new role. Last year Smith and Seabron was all NC State had. He could have a one-track mind on scoring. I don’t think people give enough credit to point guards. When you play basketball, most of the time you have a defined role. Just score. Or just rebound and score. There isn’t that many decisions to make. Open? Shoot. Guarded? Pass. But a PG or someone looking to get his teammates involved has way more going on in their head. Open? Shoot? How open? Could we get a better shot? Is anyone open? Should I slow it down? What’s the situation, pace, who is hot? Do they need me to score?

Bring able to turn that on and off is something only the most elite PGs in the world can do at a high level. Now, Terquavion Smith is being asked to add some of that to his game and as good as he is, it’s a transition. This is the first time in his life he’s not just a scorer. Sure, there were times when double teams came, that he’d dish off for a bucket, but setting guys up and making these split-second decisions every time down the floor is a process. What you’re seeing is Smith getting used to that process. He’s actually putting up great overall numbers. He’s averaging 16.1 points, leading the team with 5 .3 assists per game and grabbing 3 boards per game. He’s hitting 39% of his shots, which is where he was at last season, but he’s only hitting 33% for his 3s, down from 37%, but his assists are up from 2.1 to 5.3. His turnovers are also up from 1.7 last year to 3.1 this year.

So what do you make of this? Well, Smith is going to start hitting more 3s eventually, but his FG% is on par with last year. His assists are way up, and in comparison, Markell Johnson, NC State’s 3rd overall in career assists averaged 5.1 assists per game for his career and 2.45 turnovers per game. If Smith can knock down a few more threes and clean up a few turnovers, then he’ll be an elite scorer who is creating opportunities for his teammates at the pace of some of the best PGs in NC State history.

Greg Gantt finally got some significant run and looked pretty darn good. He got 9 minutes in this one and looks like he’ll really provide some value on the boards. He’s physical has a high motor and reall was active on defense. He’s pretty thick and strong, so he might start eating into Ernest Ross’s minutes here soon. Ross has been given a lot of opportunities, but he hasn’t shown much just yet. Gantt hit a long 2 (initially ruled a 3) but also airballed a floater. I think it will be a few games before we see what Gantt brings to the table offensively, but he’s already proving he can give Keatts some good minutes on defense.

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NC State Basketball

Kevin Keatts Postgame Press Conference After William & Mary Victory: BULLETED



NC State Men’s Basketball head coach Kevin Keatts met with the media tonight after the Wolfpack’s 85-64 victory over William & Mary 85-64. You can watch it here, or check out a BULLETED breakdown below.

  • We did some really good things.
    • What I’m really proud of is 18 assists on 31 made field goals.
      • Terquavion Smith and Jarkel Joiner are really playing unselfish basketball.
        • When you look at the 2 of those guys, they had 13 assists, and I think this was a career high for Terquavion.
        • He sacrificed a little bit in scoring, but what’s happening in front of us is that we’re starting to see a little bit more of a complete player.
    • Our energy was good once we got going.
    • Our bench was incredible.
      • Some guys came in and did a really good job.
    • It was a good win, and we move on.
  • The way I look at it right now, I’ve got 6 starters.
    • For this game, I wanted to go with DJ Burns over Dusan Mahorcic, and both of those guys are going to end up playing half the game anyway.
    • It’s just a matter of who starts and who I sub first.
    • I’m getting away from all the superstitious stuff.
  • It’s the reality of it [not being in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge]. Someone’s not going to be in it. We’re just not in it, and it didn’t bother me at all.
    • I’m rooting for our conference to do well, and I can’t wait to get out of here and check the scores.
    • I know we started off 2-0.
    • I don’t know who won today, but I will watch some of the games.
    • It’s not about that. When you’re playing against another conference, all your excitement is just for our other teams to do well.
  • [How they would have done if they were in it this year] Well, I will say this…since I’ve been here, we’ve been fortunate enough to be 3-1 in the Challenge, but we won’t know.
    • We’re not in it. I’m rooting for every ACC team in the next 2 or 3 days.
  • We’re doing some good things. Do I think we still have a long way to go in certain areas? Absolutely.
    • It’s early. It’s a little bit early for a conference game, but the reality of it is that we have to play on Friday.
    • We’ve grown in the last 2 or 3 weeks. We’ve gotten better.
    • The Bahamas helped us, playing 3 really good teams back-to-back.
    • I like some of the things we’re doing.
    • We’re going to take the next couple of days to try to get better and get ready for Pitt.
  • He’s [Casey Morsell] been working.
    • I think it’s the 2nd time this year that he’s made 6 three-pointers, and you love to see a kid who puts in the work and works on those shots every day for it to go in.
    • That’s added a really big dimension to our offense.
    • I don’t think he ever thought he was a defensive guy.
      • That’s probably why he’s here.
      • He’s a great kid who works hard. He’s turning into a great 2-way player.
  • I knew I was getting an energy guy [Dusan Mahorcic].
    • He’s all about what NC State’s about. He’s a hard-head guy.
    • He brings it every day. He’s the type of guy you cheer for.
    • He’s going to get on the floor, he’s going to block a shot, and he’s going to jump up and down.
    • He’s tailor-made for what our program’s about.
  • If I were you, I wouldn’t challenge him on that [that Mahorcic describes his game as tough]. I don’t know if you’re ready for that.

Box Score

ACCDN Highlight Reel & Condensed Game

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NC State Basketball

Men’s Basketball: NC State 85 William & Mary 64: ACCDN Highlight Reel & Condensed Game



The NC State Men’s Basketball team defeated William & Mary 85-64 tonight, improving to 7-1. You can check out the Box Score here. Below is the ACC Digital Network’s Highlight Reel and Condensed Game.

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NC State Basketball

Men’s Basketball: NC State 85 William & Mary 64: BOX SCORE



NC State improved to 7-1 tonight, defeating William & Mary 85-64. Below is the Box Score.

Casey Morsell continued shredding the net, with a team high 23 points. He shot 8-12 from the field and and absurd 6 of 9 from three.

Terquavion Smith had yet another poor shooting performance (3-11 FG), but finished 2nd on the team with 13 points, and had a team high 7 assists, with only 1 turnover. That ratio is a great improvement for Lil T.

Jack Clark was efficient, scoring 12 points on 5 0f 8 shooting from the field, and 2 of 4 from deep. He also had 6 rebounds and tied for the team high in steals, with 3.

Dusan Mahorcic continued to impress, chipping in 12 points on 5 of 6 shooting, and led the team with 9 boards.

Jarkel Joiner is good at basketball, filling the stat sheet with 11 points (5 of 11 FG), 4 rebounds, 6 assists (3 TO) and 3 steals.

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