NC State Wolfpack vs. Elon Phoenix
Time: 1:00 PM
Location: Raleigh, NC
Line: NC State by 23.5
NC State has had just about as good a start to the season as one could have hoped.
The Pack comes into this game 3-0 on the season with huge wins against FIU and Austin-Peay, with a close 6-point win vs. Campbell sandwiched in the middle. Elon on the other hand, comes in at 1-3 with losses to ETSU, Harvard and North Dakota.
The Phoenix are led by 6’0 senior guard Sean Halloran and 6’5 senior Torrence Watson, both of whom are averaging close to 12 points per game. Meanwhile, NC State has been getting points from all over the place. Most of it comes from Jarkel Joiner and Terquavion Smith who both are averaging 20. However, Casey Morsell is now averaging 15 and big man Dusan Mahorcic is putting up 10 per game.
They are still waiting for DJ Burns to get going. The reigning Big South player of the year is only averaging 6 points per game, however we expect him to have a big game against a very soft Elon front line.
The truth is, NC State is going to outmatch Elon at every position in this game. The Phoenix don’t have any interesting gimmicks or personnel that might throw the Pack for a loop, so I expect this one to be won handily by the Pack.
What we’d like to see is for Breon Pass to have a better game. NC State needs some depth at guard and Pass is a guy who can provide that. With Joiner and Smith giving you high octane athleticism and scoring from the position, it would be nice to see Pass play at a speed more comfortable to skill set and size. For him to find a solid role with this team, I think he’s going to have to play a little more methodically and focus on not turning over the basketball. He can score, but he’s a guy who really needs to pick his spots at this point. They don’t need him to overreach and push himself to score or up the tempo, when really that’s no the heart of his game.
Then there is LJ Thomas. We didn’t think we’d see much of Thomas, but with the depth needed at guard and Pass struggling, Thomas has gotten a chance and played well. He scored 12 in limited minutes last time out. Thomas played the calm backup guard role, not turning it over and knocking down shots when he got the chance. We’d like to see him get some more looks today vs. Elon.
We mentioned that we’d like to see Burns get going and get his confidence up, but we’d also like to see more minutes for Ernest Ross and Greg Gantt. Gantt might have limited minutes because he’s working his way back, but Ross is 100% and needs minutes to get comfortable out there. This team will have games where they need athleticism up front, and Ross is going to be that guy. They need him getting comfortable with the speed of the game. Once things slow down for him we think he’ll be a big difference-maker up front, especially with his rim protection.
NC State incoming freshman power forward Mady Traore was able to take in the game. He’ll join the squad in December.
— TheWolfpackCentral (@NCStateRivals) November 12, 2022
On that same note, we are getting closer to the addition of 7-foot wing, Mady Traore. As reported above, the staff expects him to be cleared in December, giving the Pack another versatile option in the front court. We’re told that Traore is not envisioned as a guy who is going to redshirt or ride the pine. They are expecting him to log minutes right away. We assume it will be in the backup role (around 10-12 minutes per game). But more depth is always welcome.
How to watch
This game is on both ACC Network Extra and ESPN+.
For ACC Network Extra, you’ll have to have the ESPN app on a streaming device and a cable log-in to get access to the game.
For ESPN +, you’ll also have to have the ESPN app, but you can just have a subscription to ESPN+ (which you can sign up for when you get there).
* Beware, if you are a cable subscriber and you find the game on the app, make sure you choose the ACCNX version. If you choose the ESPN+ stream, then it will ask you to pay for that service. Don’t be fooled.
Here is the 2024 ACC Women’s Basketball Tournament Bracket
The bracket for the 2024 ACC Women’s Basketball Tournament is here. The 10th ranked NC State is the #2 seed in the tournament, and their first game will be on Friday at 5pm on ACC Network.
The Wolfpack will play the winner of the Duke (7 seed) vs. Georgia Tech (10 seed)/Pitt (15 seed).
NC State defeated Pitt 83-47 on February 11th, and they defeated Georgia Tech 86-85 on February 18th.
The Wolfpack lost to Duke 58-69 on February 25th. NC State entered the game as 1.5-point favorites, but ended up losing in enemy territory.
Georgia Tech defeated Pitt 68-58 on January 7th. Duke defeated both Georgia Tech and Pitt this season, defeating the Yellow Jackets 84-46 on January 14th, and the Panthers on 69-38 on February 1st.
There is Reason to be Frustrated
If you are an NC State fan, it’s only reasonable that you’re frustrated with the state of the Men’s Basketball program.
Under Kevin Keatts, NC State has gone to the NCAA Tournament twice in 7 seasons. The Wolfpack didn’t win a game in the Big Dance in either of those appearances.
Keatts has led NC State to a 3-5 record in the ACC Tournament, failing to reach the semifinals a single time.
You could make an argument that his first season in Raleigh was his best (I don’t think it was), because the Wolfpack finished 5th in the ACC, which is the highest the team has finished in the conference under his watch.
2017-18 – 5th
2018-19 – 8th
2019-20 – 6th
2020-21 – 9th
2021-22 – 15th
2022-23 – 6th
2023-23 – 9th (currently)
Average finish: 8.3
(For context, in 6 seasons, Mark Gottfried’s average finish was 8.7.)
Over the past 7 seasons, NC State has been ranked in the Top-25 in only 8 polls (2 separate seasons), with the highest being on January 7th, 2019, when the Wolfpack were ranked 15th.
Under Gottfried, NC State was ranked in 13 polls (all one season). With Herb Sendek at the helm, the Wolfpack were ranked in the Top-25 in 5 different seasons, in a total of 35 polls.
Do I think Kevin Keatts is the worst coach at NC State in recent memory? No, that award goes to Sydney Lowe. In all reality, NC State’s record overall and in conference play is nearly identical under Keatts, as it was under Mark Gottfried and Herb Sendek.
Kevin Keatts – 58.3/48.3
Mark Gottfried – 58.9/45.3
Herb Sendek – 59.1/45.0
What’s the difference between Keatts and the other two?
A couple of observations.
Sendek finished his time at NC State with 5 consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances, and Gottfried started off his tenure with 4 consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances. The Wolfpack advanced to the 2nd round 3 times, and the Sweet 16 once under Sendek. Under Gottfried, they advanced to the 2nd round twice.
Sendek led NC State to the ACC Championship game 3 times (in 10 years), and the semifinals 4 times. Gottfried led the Wolfpack to the semifinals on 3 occasions. Heck, Sidney Lowe led NC State to the ACC Championship game once, and the semifinals on another occasion.
Is the NC State Men’s Basketball program worse off under Keatts than it was under the previous coaches? If you simply look at total wins and losses, that’s not necessarily the case, but when you look at the Wolfpack’s production in postseason play, there is no other answer besides ‘yes.’
Every now and then you have to be willing to eat crow. Years ago, I was of the opinion that Herb Sendek needed to go. Do I think that Sendek would have brought NC State back to where it was in the 80’s? I didn’t think it then, and I’m not certain my opinion on that has changed, but the past 20 years has proven to me that the grass isn’t always greener.
Call me nostalgic, but from a historical perspective, I believe NC State fans have right to expect their Men’s Basketball program to be successful…to consistently be ranked in the Top-25…to finish in the top half of the ACC…compete for conference championships…and go to the Big Dance on a regular basis.
There is reason to be frustrated.
Madison Hayes Will Be Returning for Her Final Year of Eligibility in 2024-25
Last night NC State Guard Madison Hayes was honored on Senior Night, but she also announced that she would be returning in 2024-25 for her final year of eligibility. She was honored alongside Center River Baldwin and Forward Mimi Collins, who are both out of eligibility after this season.
Hayes is in the midst of a breakout season this year, averaging 11.7 points and 7.0 rebounds per game, which are both career highs. She ranks 3rd on the team in scoring, behind the other two Guards in the starting lineup, Aziaha James and Saniya Rivers, who will also be back in 2024-25. Even though she is a Guard, Hayes leads the Wolfpack in rebounding. Her 44.1% Field Goal Percentage is the best of any of the Wolfpack Guards, and her Three Point Percentage of 41.7% is the best on the squad.
As a Senior in high school, Hayes was named a McDonald’s All-American in 2020, and she earned a spot on the All SEC Freshman team in 2021 as a member of Mississippi St. In 2021-22, she transferred to NC State, and played in 26 games off the bench, but earned a spot in the starting lineup last season.
Big news for the Wolfpack Women’s Basketball program!