I made it pretty clear how much I felt was at stake with yesterday’s matchup against Datyon.
Dayton is picked to win the A-10. They are returning all of their starters and 90% of all their scoring from last year. This is a team that won 24 games last season. They are the first team that really was going to challenge the new and improved NC State frontcourt with size, athleticism, and muscle. This was an important moment for this team, and they answered the bell.
Four of NC State’s starters played over 35 minutes just a night before and played a very emotionally draining game against one of the nation’s best team. So there was the question on whether or not they’d be spent mentally and physically. However, as I mentioned yesterday, I felt like NC State nearly beat Kansas and didn’t really play a great game. I mean, they played hard and smart, but I thought Smith struggled a lot and the NC State bigs could have been better. I thought they would come out and give Dayton a really good run. But at the same time I was concerned about Dayton’s size and strength inside.
Last night proved a lot of things to a lot of people. Let’s dig in.
1) The NC State bigs outplayed Dayton’s bigs
Jarkel Joiner was the star of this game, sure. But the NC State bigs deserve just as much credit for this win. NC State is getting a lot of hype for their guard play, but the real question is going to be how good are Dusan and DJ down low?
Last night was their first test and they passed with flying colors. Keatts really has two very good bigs that can do very different things, very well. For instance, Dusan was guarding the strong, athletic, and quick Daron Holmes. The guy is 6’10, 225lbs and it was obvious that Dayton was going to key on him to beat NC State inside. But Mahorcic had other ideas. The Serbian big man showed you that his strong base, physicality and grit is going to be able to defend these tall, long, athletic bigs. He was great at not letting Holmes get deep position on the block, and he just played solid position defense. He wouldn’t be backed down, and he kept his hands straight up, which kept him out of foul trouble, even as Dayton keyed on challenging him in the paint.NC State is going to face a lot of guys like Holmes in the ACC, so this was a great sign for Wolfpack fans.
And look, Dusan’s D was the most important thing down in my opinion, but the guy’s offense ain’t bad either. He finished with 9 points on 4-5 shooting in 25 minutes. But if offense is what you’re looking for in the post, NC State has another option who showcased his value last night.
DJ Burns is the perfect compliment to Mahorcic. He’s a guy you can isolate in the paint and allow him to go to work. When the Pack guards looked spent, nothing was falling and the offensive flow was falling apart, Keatts had them clear out and let Burns go to work. The big man had 10 points on 5-7 shooting, all in just 14 minutes. And while Burn’s defense isn’t quite as good as Mahorcic, he’s still super thick and very strong in on the block, in other words, very few opposing bigs are going to move him around. So he doesn’t give you that much of a drop off defensively, while providing an offensive threat that can take over a game for short spurts when needed.
These bigs round out what is a very complete NC State basketball team, and last night proved it.
2) Jarkel Joiner was everything we hoped he’d be. The perfect compliment to Terquavion Smith
Terquavion Smith isn’t a true point guard (at least not yet). I know NBA scouts think they can make him one and one day he wants to become one, but last night Jarkel Joiner showed you the intangibles of a true lead guard.
Joiner took it slow at the beginning. He wasn’t pushing the issue and was trying to get his teammates involved, but when Smith wasn’t finding his shot, Morsell’s jumper wasn’t falling and NC State needed buckets, Joiner stepped up. You can kind of point to an exact moment too. It was with 8:42 in the first half, Kobe Elvis bumped Joiner as Jarkel was picking up the basketball after a dead ball. Joiner shoved Elvis and both were called for fouls. However, this woke up Joiner who immediately hit a 3 and then a jumper, and then never stopped attacking.
All of the scoring was nice from Joiner. Smith struggled shooting again, so it’s nice to have a guy who can step up and score when that happens. But the real value of Jarkl Joiner was seen when NC State went up by 15 and Dayton decided enough was enough and started to make a run. You could feel the momentum shift. You could see it in the body language of most of the NC State players. The refs started calling ticky-tack fouls and Dayton started knocking down shots. It had all the makings of one of those State games when the opposing team makes an amazing comeback and the Pack folds, goes cold and loses by a bucket at the very end.
You could see, that during this time, instead of slowing down, settling and going back to the fundamentals, Terquavion Smith started to panic a bit. He started to try to make plays that weren’t there, forcing shots, and passes, leading to turnovers and runouts. I was sincerely worried for a second.
That’s when Jarkel stepped in.
Joiner started demanding the ball in the backcourt. He was solid with his handle, he slowed it down, and calmed down his team. He knocked down a jumper, and put pressure on Dayton with drives to the hoop, making the refs make calls. He got to the line over and over, halting Dayton’s momentum and getting points on the board for the Pack.
This is what a true PG can do. Joiner read the situation, slowed things down, and took the reigns. Yeah he had 27 points, but his control over the pace of the game is what won this game for the Wolfpack and what is going to be a key reason this team will be able to close out games and content with almost anybody. The addition of Joiner and his calming control of the pace is the perfect compliment to Smith, who is the emotional, electric scoring machine that you also need.
Having these two paired up is going to cause fits for opposing coaches all year long.
3) Casey Morsell’s versatility was on display
Morsell has been getting some hype for his improved offense and his solid 3-point shooting, and yeah that’s awesome, but his defense and his ability to guard multiple positions is something that is so impactful yet likely goes unnoticed by many. Last night he was forced to guard small guards, swing forwards, and even a power forward, and at no time was Dayton able to isolate his matchup and get easy buckets. Morsell is the jack of all trades that allows Keatts to run the system he runs and having his type of versatility (and Clarks) is what I thnk allows the Pack to matchup with almost any type of lineup an opposing coach could throw out there.
NC State has been beating up smaller teams in the early season, and even Kansas was undersized. So Dayton was the first matchup where we’d see a team that had three 6’8 – 6’11 guys on the court at one time. NC State showed they can not only compete with a big, athletic and physical team, but they could overwhelm them either with speed or by playing their own game and taking them inside.
4) NC State outrebounded Dayton
Dayton is a great rebounding team. They crushed Wisconsin on the boards 45-39. Even in their loss to UNLV they dominated the glass 34-28. So it was a big concern that they would own the glass against NC State. However, the Pack amazingly owned the glass all night long. NC State won the battle of the glass 34-28 and a big reason was that Jack Clark and Morsell combined for 15 rebounds. Clark let the team with 9 and has been proving to be quite the interior defender, despite the fact that he’s more of a wing. This guy is getting offensive tip-ins, he’s altering and blocking shots and he’s always rushing the glass on every shot. This was great to see against such a big, physical group like Dayton.
5) Quality minutes from LJ Thomas
Thomas played 10 minutes, had a rebound and a block, and didn’t score, but seeing Thomas get positive minutes is key for NC State. Joiner and Smith are going to need breathers and Pass has struggled early on this season. He still will get a chance to show what he can do as a backup PG, but right now Thomas seems to be the more secure option. His 3 rattled in and out, he played good position defense and he looked decently confident handling the rock for a freshman.
6) Terquavion Smith needs to just let things come, and they will
Don’t get nervous about Smith’s couple of off-games. He’s still going to end up being NC State’s leading scorer, however right now, as they starts taking on top-teir opponents, Baby T is trying to do too much. All off season he was envisioning him having to take over games and go off for 30 points per night for NC State to be competitive. Lucky for him, his teammates have shown that they don’t need that from him.
Smith shot just 9-28 (32%) and 4-14 (29%) from 3 over the last 2 games. He had 12 turnovers (8 last night) and 9 assists. He made some elite-level plays during that span, but all in all, this is probably the worst you’re going to see Terquavion Smith play and NC State still took #3 Kansas to the wire and beat a very good Dayton team by 12. That says a lot about this team and should allow Smith to calm down a bit and realize that he’s going to put up better numbers if he just plays within the offense and doesn’t press the issue when nothing is there.
I mean, no one is mad when he takes a few bomb 3s from deep to see how hot he is on that night. If he hits, keep on shooting. If he’s off then pump the breaks, drive to the hoop or let your teammates take control. No neet to make a highlight reel play, or a game-changing bucket or pass every time down. There were times in the offseason where we thought that would be our only option, but it’s not anymore and Smith likely sees that.
NBA scouts know his skill set. He’s an elite 1st round talent. They wonder about his ability to handle adversity and his ability to keep his emotions in check. Last night, when Dayton started their run, Smith showed that he still has a ways to go there. Joiner is going to be a great influence on him and I think you’re going to see improvements there. I also think those improvements will lead to huge numbers and efficient scoring. Smith is still just a sophomore, remember that. He’ll figure this out sooner rather than later.
All in all, I was thoroughly impressed with NC State’s performance. All eyes were on them after the Kansas loss. Were they a pretender who just matched up well with Kansas or are they a contender who is going to come out vs Dayton and make a statement? That question was answered last night.
Now onto their final game of Battle for Atlantis Tournament, where they’ll face Butler and former center Manny Bates on ESPN2 at 10pm.
NC State’s Men’s Basketball Team is Having One of it’s Best Runs in the ACC Ever
Heading into tonight’s Top-25 matchup between #22 NC State and #8 UVA, the Wolfpack are in the midst of one of their best runs in ACC play since the conference was formed in 1953.
The Wolfpack are 9-4 in the ACC, but they have won 8 of their last 9 conference games.
The last time NC State went on a run like this in ACC Regular Season games was during the 1972-73 and 73-74 seasons, when the Wolfpack went 12-0 in ACC play.
12-0 (1972 & 73-74)
12 of 13 (1958-59)
8 of 9 (2022-23, 1961-61, 1954-55)
7 of 8 (1974-75, 1969-70, 1964-65, 1955-56)
6 of 7 (2005-06, 1979-80, 1960-61, 1957-58)
#22 NC State is a 7.5-Point Underdog at #8 UVA Tonight
#22 NC State is a 7.5-point underdog at #8 Virginia tonight at 9pm, and the Total is sitting at 137.
- NC State is 19-5 Straight Up.
- They are 11-11-2 Against the Spread.
- UVA is 17-4 Straight Up.
- They are 8-12-1 Against the Spread.
- The Total has gone Over in 13 of NC State’s 24 games.
- The Total has gone Over in 12 of UVA’s 22 games
- UVA is 15-2 as the Favorite.
- NC State is 4-4 as the Underdog.
- NC State is 4-1-1 in their last 6 games against UVA Against the Spread.
- The Total has gone Over in 5 of NC State’s last 7 games.
- The Total has gone Over in 4 of UVA’s last 5 games.
- The Total has gone Under in 5 of the last 6 games between these two in Charlottesville.
- NC State has won two in a row, and 3 of the last 4 against UVA.
- Kevin Keatts is 3-4 against UVA. He is 2-2 at UVA.
NC State vs. UVA
NC State is the ONLY Team in the Triangle Ranked for the 1st Time in 40 Years
NC State’s Men’s Basketball team is back in the AP Top 25 for the first time in 4 years, landing at #22 in the Week 14 AP Poll.
NC State is ranked. Duke and UNC are not. Last time that was the case? December 27th, 1982. Over 40 years ago. It’s only the 6th time in 67 years that this has happened.
Wolfpack was 17th that week. UNC was unranked in two polls all year, Dec. 20 and Dec. 27. Duke was not ranked that season (Dawkins, Alarie, Bilis, Henderson were freshmen).
Other *cough* ACC teams on Dec. 27: Virginia (4), Louisville (13), Syracuse (14).
— Luke DeCock (@LukeDeCock) February 6, 2023
Before that: The preseason poll in 1973, the final poll in 1970 and Dec. 5, 1955. So this is the sixth time in 67 years.
Happened pretty often between 1952-55. NC State was ranked during the entire 1950-51 season while neither Duke nor UNC was.
— Luke DeCock (@LukeDeCock) February 6, 2023
Anyone remember what happened that 1982-83 basketball season?
NC State won the National Championship.
NC State Breaks Into the AP Poll, Landing at #22
NC State is off to it’s best start in almost 2 decades, and they now finally have a number beside their name, landing at #22 in the Week 14 AP Poll.
— NC State Men's Bball (@PackMensBball) February 6, 2023
This is the first time that NC State has been ranked in the AP Poll since January 28th, 2019, when they were ranked 23rd.
ACC Teams in the Week 14 AP Poll
22. NC State