NC State Wolfpack vs. Virginia Tech Hokies
Location: Raleigh, NC
Line: VT -1
NC State is coming off a loss to #8 Duke and looking to get back on track after what was a pretty rough stretch. The Pack has now lost 7 of their last 9 games, and with the ACC season approaching its halfway point, they need to get things rolling.
Meanwhile, Virginia Tech, losers of 4 of their last 6, is coming off of a win against Notre Dame (their first ACC win).
NC State is entering the part of their schedule where a big run is possible. They take on VT tonight and then don’t face one of the top 3 ACC teams (Duke, FSU, Miami) until the last night of the season (FSU).
So it starts with this one.
State beat the Hokies 68-63 in Blacksburg just a couple of weeks ago. They did this by really negating the VT guards from hurting them. Keve Aluma did have 18 in that game, but he didn’t get much help. In fact, the Pack kept Justyn Mutts, one of their best players, to just 6 points. The Pack dominated the boards and got big games from Seabron (21 and 10), Smith (17 points, 4-9 from 3) and Hellems (15 points, 3-6 from 3).
They will need to do exactly the same thing in this game. Take away Mutts. Take away their guards and do your best to slow down Aluma.
Here are the highlights from the first game…
Areas for improvement for NC State
As for the gameplan, as we mentioned, NC State needs to stick to what worked last time. But there certainly are areas they can improve. They need to get more production out of their 2 guard position. Thomas Allen had a decent game last time out, with 5 points and 3 assists in just 15 minutes, but Hayes struggled. He had just 4 points, 1 assist, 2 steals, and 2 TOs in 24 minutes. Casey Morsell was still rusty coming off injury, logging just 6 minutes and not scoring. He did have 2 rebounds and 2 assists.
More minutes for Casey Morsell
Keatts has a fine line to walk with those 3. On one hand, he needs scoring. But is the scoring he’s getting from Allen and Hayes worth sitting Morsell (your best defender)? We’d like to see Morsell take that role and run with it. In fact, we think that given more minutes and more leash, you’d see a decent scoring option emerge. Morsell is actually NC State’s 3rd best 3 pt shooter by percentage. He’s hitting 34.8% of his 3s. That trails just Hellems (41.3%) and Smith (35.6%). Couple that with Morsell’s ability to be a lockdown defender and we suspect he’s about to break out any day now as a major contributor for this team.
Ross is a game-time decision
Ross being able to play is important for NC State. While Dowuona did an ok job on Aluma in game one, he’s certainly going to be tested again tonight. With Ross as an option, Dowuona will be able to play without fear of fouling and that will allow him to challenge more shots and play a little more physical on the block. If Ross is out, then it’s going to be all up to Ebe. Keatts said he didn’t have an update on Ross yet, so we’ll keep waiting to see what happens. In game one, Ross played 15 minutes, had 4 points and 3 boards (including this monster dunk).
ERNEST ROSS KILLED A MAN pic.twitter.com/TL2zSVOeaT
— Barstool Pack (@BarstoolPack) January 5, 2022
This was the beginning of the Ross emergence. After getting no burn against Clemson, he was an impact player in the win over Louisville (4 points, 5 boards, 2 blocks in 18 minutes). If he’s healthy, he’s going to start to be a bigger part of the rotation going forward.
Seabron a problem
Virginia Tech doesn’t really have an answer for Dereon Seabron, although VT is likely going to base their entire gameplan around neutralizing him. You’ll see more sinking down, maybe more zone. They don’t have a guy who can stop him man on man, and if they try, expect him to be over 20pts yet again. Likely, going forward, teams are going to sell-out to slow him down. This means it’s even more important to get big games from Smith, Hellems and eventually Morsell.