NC State fans let out a collective sigh of relief when the Pack was announced as the 11 seed, matched up with the #6 seeded Creighton Blue Jays.
Now that we’ve all had time to celebrate the fact that NC State is dancing, it’s time to set our sights to our opponent.
Creighton: An Overview
Creighton finished 3rd in the Big East, sporting a 21-12 record. They had wins over Xavier, Arkansas, Texas Tech, Providence, and UConn, with their only really bad loss coming to Nebraska.
They are a pretty young team with three of their 5 starters being Sophomores. Their leading scorer, Ryan Kaklbrenner (7’1, center) is a junior, and their 6’7 wing, Baylor Schierman is a senior.
Last year the Bluejays made the tournament as a 9 seed and beat Sand Diego State (an 8 seed) before falling to #1 Kansas. 3 starters from this year’s team played in the tournament last season (then freshmen Trey Alexander and Arthur Kaluma and then sophomore Kalkbrenner).
By the Numbers
You could look at all sorts of numbers here, but I think the most relevant are these: Creighton is ranked 101 overall in turnovers per game. That’s a lot for a tournament team, and harks back to the fact that they are starting 2 sophomore guards. Meanwhile, NC State is 6th overall with just 9.4 per game. NC State is 16th in turnover margin, while Creighton is 291st.
Creighton averages 71 possession per game, meanwhile, NC State averages 71.6.
This tells me exactly what the eye test was telling me. Creighton is sloppy with the basketball, and they don’t really turn you over. Meanwhile, NC State protects the basketball and DOES turn you over. The ramped-up pressure from the Pack guards on the Creighton sophomores is going to be where you see this play out in real-time.
This also tells you that both NC State and Creighton play at a similar pace. Neither team really works around the basketball to find the best shot, instead, they like to get down and get a shot up. Betting on the volume of possessions to even things out.
I believe that the numbers tell a story that the Wolfpack have a really good matchup here. They are going to be playing at a pace they like, against a team that’s a little loose with the basketball and has young guards.
Defensively, Creighton packs it down a little bit and plays pretty disciplined defense. They get back in transition and they don’t gamble. That said, they are going to have trouble limiting the Pack’s looks due to their personnel. We’ll get into this more in the matchup segment, but NC State has better athletes at the 3 guard positions by far, and Creighton doesn’t have those big bruising guards that have caused trouble for Smith and Joiner this season.
A Look at the Matchups
PG- Ryan Nembhard (6’0, 170lbs, Soph) vs. Jarkell Joiner (6’1, 180lbs, Senior)
Nembhard is fast, pushes the pace, and really keeps the pressure on the defense by constantly being in attack mode. At the same time, he gets sped up, gets out of control at times and can get in trouble because of that. He’s a decent 3pt shooter if you leave him open, but he’s not out there trying to pull up off the bounce. He’s a true pass-first PG who is looking to create havoc and push the issue.
This matchup won’t bother Joiner. Joiner has 10 pounds on Nembhard, is way more athletic, and can easily match his speed. Joiner will be able to elevate over him for jumpers or body him up on drives. On defense, he will be able to stay in front of him, speed him up and hopefully get him to turn the ball over (he leads Creighton in TOs).
SG- Trey Alexander (6’4, 190lb, Sophomore) vs. Terquavion Smith (6’4, 165lbs, Sophomore)
Alexander is a bigger guard, but he doesn’t really play all that physical. He’s more of a shooter and a guy who can do a little bit of everything. He’s got a knack for scoring, but he’s not a guy that is great off the bounce. He can knock down 3s if you leave him open (he’s shooting 44% from long rage) but he shoots such a high percentage because he’s selective with his shots. He’s not going to force the issue.
This matchup is going to be fine for Smith. Offensively, Smith is much quicker than Alexander and will certainly be trying to attack him off the bounce when he can. On defense, Alexander isn’t a guy who is applying massive pressure with rim runs. He’s more of an opportunistic scorer. So if Smith can stay home and keep Alexander in front of you, you can keep him from blowing up like he did against Georgetown where he went for 25pts on 7-10 shooting from 3.
SF– Baylor Sheierman (6’7, 205lbs, senior) vs. Casey Morsell (6’3, 200lb, senior)
This is the matchup of the game. Baylor Sheierman is a zero-conscience lefty with a nice stroke. He’s averaging 12.8ppg and has knocked down a team-high 77 3s. He wants to get hot and he puts a lot of pressure on the defense with his ability to shoot the 3 or get inside and body you up. He’s going to let it fly, but NC State has an answer for him. Morsell is the Pack’s best defender and they’re going to need him in this one. Morsell will be able to frustrate Sheierman with hands in his face, and being able to match his physicality when he goes inside. While Sheierman is 6’7, he plays more like a 6’5 guy. Certainly more of a guard than a forward. He’s also the most active on the glass, scooping up over 8 boards per game. Morsell is good at boxing out and keep his man off the glass. NC State’s best defender will be on the guy I think is Creighton’s difference maker, and it’s another reason I like NC State’s chances here.
PF- Arthur Kaluma (6’7, 225lbs, Soph) vs. Jack Clark (6’8, 200lbs, Senior)
Kaluma is like a slightly less-skilled version of Virginia Tech’s Justyn Mutts. He’s an athletic 6’7 kid who does a little of everything but does nothing great. He’s a 32% 3-point shooter, and really only shoots when he’s wide open. He’s pretty physical, likes to drive it, but isn’t a crafty scorer or anything and he’s not insanely athletic either. But none of this is a knock on Kaluma, he’s good. I actually think he could be a problem in the paint vs. Jack Clark. Clark is a little better at guarding stretch 4s, while Gantt is the guy who would be more ideal to face off against Kaluma. Without Gantt (most likely) Clark and Ross will have to take on this matchup, and Kaluma is going to try to back it down in the paint and play a more physical game.
C- Ryan Kalkbrenner (7’1, 260lbs, junior) vs. DJ Burns (6’9, 275lbs, senior)
Kalkbrenner is Creighton’s leading scorer at 15+ ppg. He reminds me a lot of BC’s Quinten Post. He’s big, tall, and skilled, but not super mobile. He can knock down shots if you leave him open, but most of his damage is going to come if he get deep position or if he’s catching an oop off a pick and roll (which they love to try). This type of big really hasn’t been big trouble for DJ Burns this season. Burns has struggled against more mobile, super-physical bigs. Burns quick-spins and pump-fake-pivots are going to work well against Kalkbrenner, and because he’s so big, I believe (at least at the beginning) they are going to try to allow him to play 1 on 1 with Burns.
All in all, if NC State had to be an 11 seed, this is the 6 seed I’d want to go up against. A young backcourt that can get turnover prone, and a defense that doesn’t really create many turnovers. A big that doesn’t stretch the floor much and hype man being guarded by Casey Morsell.
NC State out athletes Creighton at all 3 guard spots. They only give up size at the 3, and DJ Burns is likely going to have room to operate. I know the Pack is a 5.5 point dog in this one, but I like their odds this Friday.
It’s Not Over Till It’s Over
Look…I know the odds of NC State’s Men’s Basketball team going to the NCAA Tournament is next to zero percent.
In fact, according to Bart Torvik, the Wolfpack have a 1.1% chance of making the Dance as an at-large bid.
Don’t accuse me of wearing rose colored glasses, because I’m not. The fact remains, it’s not over until it is over.
What would have to happen for NC State to make the NCAA Tournament?
More than likely, NC State would have to win out the rest of the way, in games against Boston College, @ FSU, @ UNC, Duke and @ Pitt.
Maybe there’s a scenario where the Wolfpack beats BC, FSU, Pitt and beats either Duke or UNC. In order for that to play out, I imagine the Wolfpack would have to make a splash in the ACC Tournament as well.
Or maybe NC State could earn a bid winning 4 of 5 if they all of a sudden put together astronomical offensive and defensive efficiency numbers, which thus far has killed their position in the NET Rankings.
Either way, you would need some legit Cardiac Pack vibes for this team to make the Dance.
Call me unrealistic, but I think NC State should be in the NCAA Tournament every single season. Historically speaking, heading into this season, NC State ranked 27th for the most wins in college basketball history. If I lowered the standard a bit to 75%, accounting for an off year every now and then, the program is still way off the mark.
Read into this what you will, but if the Wolfpack doesn’t go to the Big Dance this year, that means they will have only gone twice in the past 7 years, and in my opinion, that’s unacceptable.
With that being said…GO PACK!
#6 NC State 70 UNC 80: BOX SCORE (with notes)
#6 NC State was defeated by their rival UNC this evening, falling 70-80 to the Tar Heels. Below is the Box Score with notes underneath.
- This game came down to shooting.
- UNC shot 50.8% from the field and NC State shot 35.2%.
- The Tar Heels shot an insane 52.4% from three, hitting 11 from beyond the arc.
- The Wolfpack shot 9 of 27 from deep.
- Junior Guard Aziaha James led the Pack with 24 points (10-24), and also grabbed 9 rebounds.
- Senior Forward Mimi Collins had a double-double of 11 points and 10 rebounds.
- The Pack needed to feed Collins. She was 3 of 6 from the field.
- Junior Guard Saniya Rivers had 13 points (4-13), and knocked down 4 three pointers (3-6).
- Senior Guard Madison Hayes had 11 points (4-12) and 9 boards.
- Senior Center River Baldwin struggled, hitting 2 of her 9 shots.
- The Wolfpack did manage to score 17 second chance points, compared to UNC’s 7.
- They also made 11 free throws, compared to UNC’s 5.
- UNC played extremely good defense, but NC State missed an obscene amount of shots around the rim.
- The Tar Heels looked like the better team tonight, leading for 3/4th of the game.
The Wolfpack will play at Duke on Sunday at 5:30pm on ACC Network.
#6 NC State Looks to Sweep Rival UNC This Evening
The 6th ranked NC State Women’s Basketball team is looking to sweep their rival UNC this evening at 8pm on ACC Network. Back on February 1st, the Wolfpack beat the Tar Heels 63-59. At the time NC State was ranked 5th, and UNC was ranked 24th.
Since arriving in Raleigh, Wolfpack Head Coach Wes Moore has led NC State to a 13-9 overall record against the Tar Heels, but they are 4-6 in Chapel Hill under his watch.
NC State lost to UNC the last time the game was played in enemy territory, falling 46-57 loss in Carmichael Arena on January 15th of last year. In that contest, the Wolfpack were ranked 11th and the Tar Heels were ranked 22nd.
If NC State wins tonight, it will mark the 4th time that Moore has led the Wolfpack to sweep UNC in the regular season.
Historically, NC State holds a 63-54 advantage in the series against UNC, but they are 20-30 on the road.
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.