NC State Wolfpack @ #8 Duke
Time: 2:00pm | Saturday, January 15
Location: Durham, NC
Ken Pom Line: Duke -15
NC State is coming off of their best performance of the season in their 16 point road win at Louisville. The only bad news is that they are now running straight into a buzz saw in the Duke Blue Devils.
Duke is 13-2 on the season and 3-1 in the conference. They have notable wins against #10 Kentucky and #1 Gonzaga. Their two losses were to OSU and most recently, Miami.
Duke is elite both offensively and on defense. They lead the ACC in points per game, assists per game, FG%. They are 5th in 3pt %. Defensively they are the Duke you’ve always known. They play up in the passing lanes, make it tough on offenses to run their sets, and rebound the ball well (3rd in the conference).
Their star is freshman phenom, Paolo Banchero. The kid is 6’10, moves like a guard, shoots like a guard, and can do it all at an elite level. He is averaging 17.7 ppg, 7.3 rebounds, and 2.2 assists. He’s shooting 34% from long range, and hitting 49% of his FGs. Slowing him down is the biggest problem State is going to have.
Their other big-time player is Wendell Moore Jr, who is another versatile forward, averaging 15.4 ppg and 5.8 rebounds, and 5 assists (leading the ACC).
Then there is freshman PG Trevor Keels, who is averaging 12ppg, 3.6 rebounds and almost 3 assists.
After that, they have a bunch of guys averaging 6 or 8, meaning they can get scoring from almost anyone on the court. Lately, they’ve gotten great play from 6’6 freshman forward AJ Griffin who dropped 22 on Wake this past week.
Duke is a problem for NC State. They are hard to match up with, they are very physical and they are relentless on defense, despite being so young.
Keys for NC State
- Key in on slowing down Wendell Moore Jr.
I know most teams come in focused on Paolo Banchero. He’s the big name, putting up the big points, but if you want to cut the heart out of this team, you cut Wendell Moore Jr. This is their leader. He’s a junior who sets the tone for them. He’s filling up the stat sheet nightly, and without him, they are a young team that can be forced into mistakes. The good news for State is that he’s been in a 3 game mini-funk. He scored just 8 points on 2-11 shooting vs. GT, he turned the ball over 6 times in the loss to Miami and only had 7 this past Wednesday vs. Wake. Keeping that funk going for one more game is what Keatts needs to have his guys focus on.
- Do NOT leave your man! No help side on the post
Duke wants to create havoc on offense. They do a great job of driving, dishing, feeding the post, and looking opposite. This gets the defense on their heels trying to help and recover faster than Duke can move the ball. Spoiler alert: You can’t. They exploit the moments of recovery by driving to the basket with physicality, drawing fouls, or kicking it out to open shooters. The good news for State is that they have a roster where they can switch everything. This will help them to a degree, but Duke will likely start trying to feed the post. They have a 7’0 center Mark Williams who will have an advantage, but it’s one that NC State shouldn’t worry too much about. If Mark Williams beats you, then fine. Let him play one on one in the post. He only averages 8.6 points per game, he’s not superphysical and he’s really not a dynamic offensive player. Stay home, guard the drives, and limit open 3s. In both of Duke’s losses, they’ve shot below 30% from 3. Keeping that percentage down in that range is how NC State can win this game.
- Attack, Attack, Attack!
When NC State has upset Duke over the years, they’ve found success with breaking down Duke off the dribble. The Blue Devils aren’t going to sag down. They want to be in the passing lanes, pressuring the ball and stopping point to point passes. This opens up the lane. Lucky for NC State, they might have the best guy in the ACC at breaking people down off the dribble and getting to the hoop in Dereon Seabron. State needs to be in attack mode off the dribble and they don’t need to be hoisting up a ton of contested 3s. Seabron vs. Moore Jr. is going to be a pretty awesome matchup to watch. Duke is likely going to trust Moore in keeping Seabron out of the lane, which no team has really been able to do very well this season.
- Find the right lineup
Duke pretty much plays a PG, 3 forwards and a center. Their 3 forwards, however, are basically giant combo guards. If any team in the ACC is built to defend them, it’s NC State. Seabron matches up well with Moore. Hellems actually should do pretty decent on Bancharo despite a 3 inch difference. He’s more physical and can guard both the post and the perimeter. And Ross or Dowuona will be up against Williams. What will be interesting is how they guard Keels and Griffen. This might be a game where you REALLY need Casey Morsell to show up. Morsell is NC State’s best perimeter defender and would have no problem matching up AJ Griffen, this would allow Smith to go up against Keels (both are 6’4). Smith may get a little frustrated in this one with the physicality of Duke’s guards, so that is something to watch. This is where we get a little nervous. Allen has been playing well for State, but this game doesn’t really lend itself to his defensive skill set. This is a game you might see Hayes a little more because of his size, or Morsell if he can get his shot to start falling. No matter how you slice is, Duke is where they are because they have a lineup that can create a ton of mismatches. NC State can minimize more of that than most teams, but it will still be a problem.
- Exploit their youth
This Duke team is going to start 3 freshmen, a sophomore, and a junior. If you let them get comfortable, they will beat you, but if you can speed them up, you can get them out of sync. Against Miami, Duke wilted under the pressure. They turned the ball over 17 times. Keatts is likely well aware of this and will have his team pressing early and often. They may get burned on the press a few times, but against this Duke team, you can’t let them get settled, feel comfortable and find momentum.
NC State’s Wes Moore is 1 of 15 on the Late Season Watchlist for the Naismith Women’s College Coach of the Year Award
NC State Women’s Basketball Head Coach Wes Moore is 1 of 15 on the Naismith Late Season Watchlist for the Coach of the Year Award.
The leader of our Pack 🐺🐺
— NC State WBB 🐺🏀 (@PackWomensBball) February 21, 2024
Currently, Moore has led NC State from being unranked in the preseason polls, to #6 currently. The Wolfpack are 23-3, and numerous publications project them to be a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Moore was a finalist for the Naismith Coach of the Year Award in 2020-21 and a Semifinalist in 2015-16.
NC State NET Rankings Report After Syracuse Loss
NC State lost to Syracuse 83-87 last night, and as a result, the Wolfpack fell 5 spots in the NET Rankings to #80. The Orange moved up 6 spots to #84.
NC State is now 9th in the ACC in the NET rankings.
For a refresher on how the NET Rankings are calculated:
Using the quadrant system, which was in its fourth season in 2020-21, the quality of wins and losses will be organized based on game location and the opponent’s NET ranking.
Quadrant 1: Home 1-30, Neutral 1-50, Away 1-75
Quadrant 2: Home 31-75, Neutral 51-100, Away 76-135
Quadrant 3: Home 76-160, Neutral 101-200, Away 135-240
Quadrant 4: Home 161-353, Neutral 201-353, Away 241-353
The number of Quadrant 1 wins and Quadrant 3/4 losses will be incredibly important when it comes time for NCAA tournament selection and seeding. (NCAA)
Thoughts on NC State’s 83-87 Loss to Syracuse
NC State’s (16-10/8-7) 83-87 loss to Syracuse this evening might have been the nail-in-the-coffin when it comes to the Wolfpack’s NCAA Tournament aspirations. They were barely on the bubble as it was, but this game and the next two games against Boston College and Florida State were “must wins.” On top of that, the Wolfpack probably needed to beat Pitt in the regular season finale, and beat either Duke or UNC.
With this loss, NC State will need a miracle. They will need to win the rest of their regular season games, which concludes with 3 consecutive Quad 1 games.
In regards to this evenings game, it’s hard to beat a team when you allow them to shoot 61.3% in the first half, and allow a guy who averages 11.3 points per game (Chris Bell) to sink 8 of 9 three’s at the halfway mark. Sure, you could make the excuse that they were just hitting everything they threw up, but the defense was lackluster, and they failed to adjust to a player with a hot hand.
What I’m about to say isn’t meant to describe a moral victory for NC State. With that being said, this team didn’t give up, and clawed back from a 15-point halftime deficit (16-point at one point in the 2nd half), to take a 1-point lead with 3:15 left in the game. That was the first time the Wolfpack had led since it was 2-0.
Senior DJ Horne was sensational once again, scoring 25+ points for the 5th straight game, matching what Cat Barber did back in 2015-16. Horne finished with 32 points, hitting 11 of his 20 field goal attempts, and an insane 6 of 8 from three.
Could you argue that Horne was fouled on the last play? I guess, but I wouldn’t have called it.
Three other Wolfpack players scored in double figures: Ben Middlebrooks (12), DJ Burns (12) and Jayden Taylor (10). Honestly, they all shot well. Middlebrooks had a double-double, with 10 rebounds.
Mohamed Diarra was solid with 7 points (3-6) and 8 boards.
Syracuse came back to reality in the second half, and ended up shooting 51% from the field, but the Wolfpack shot 47%. Both teams shot well. In fact, NC State actually scored more points off of turnovers, had more second chance points and had more free throws.
You simply can’t put yourself in a position to dig yourself out of a 16-point deficit. You can’t allow a guy to make 8 of 9 three’s in the opening half, with 6 of them being practically uncontested.
The Wolfpack have lost 3 of the last 4, and all 3 losses have been by 4 points or less. I wouldn’t say the Pack lost any of those three games due to a lack of effort. Rather, I would say it was primarily due to inconsistency, a lack of discipline and poor decisions in timely moments (Jayden Taylor’s TO with 1:13 left with the game tied).
With Wake Forest beating Pitt tonight, a Wolfpack win would have put them in 4th place in the ACC.
A big missed opportunity for the Pack this evening.