NC State’s season is over, but you don’t have to wait until November to get excited about basketball again. With the new NIL rules and the transfer portal open, college basketball’s off-season is a season all in itself. Let’s just right in and talk about what I see NC State focusing on this offseason (Note that Jarkell Joiner is definitely gone, having used up all his eligability.
DJ Burns: I predict the big man comes back. He’s hinted at wanting to come back, I’m sure the NIL money is going to be nice, and he’s likely going to be NC State’s go-to guy on offense. If Burns wants to play in the NBA one day he needs to come into next season below 300 lbs. I think that’s important because he’s got a skill set that can make him some money to play professionally, but he needs to expand his range and get a little more nimble in his face-up game. He’s quick and has good footwork, but he’s lugging around 30 extra pounds with every move he makes. If Burns can shed fat and build some serious muscle this offseason, he’ll have the opportunity to be an ACC POY candidate.
Dusan Mahorcic: The big man missed most of this season (over 70%) with a knee injury, which means he’s very likely going to be awarded a medical waiver to play another season. I’m hearing that Mahorcic is interested in playing another season at NC State, but his knee has yet to bounce back to playing shape. I think this is something to monitor this off-season. If he’s healthy, it seems like he’ll be back, logging some minutes with or behind Burns. If he’s not 100% by season time then I’m not sure how the staff will play it. I think it’s safe to say that Mahorcic’s best bet is trying to play next year at NC State, and if he can get back to full strength, I think that happens one way or another.
Casey Morsell: Morsell has another season and I’m hearing different things about Morsell. Most expect him to return, get a nice NIL payout and try to have a successful season where he’s a little more involved offensively. That said, he wants to showcase that he can be a much more capable scorer and with Smith and Joiner dominating the shots this year, he only got a small taste of that. I think Morsell comes back, however, I think before he makes his final decision he wants to see how the roster plays out. Say Terquavion Smith comes back and Keatts adds another ball-dominant PG. There’s a chance Morsell stays, but I’d actually guess that he looks elsewhere, be it transfer or pro ball. I don’t think Morsell wants to come back and be the 3rd option again. I think he wants to come back and be option 2A or 2B and I think he can. Morsell is a key piece to this team’s success. An elite defender who can shoot 40%+ from long range is very, very hard to find and it would be smart for Keatts to focus on bringing in a PG who is more interested in getting his teammates involved. That said, I am nearly certain Morsell will stay another season.
Terquavion Smith: I’m 85% sure Smith is gone. The way he ended the season is fresh in the minds of NBA scouts. He showcased what he’s capable of and in a class with pretty weak guard play, Smith is one of the best all-around 2 guards out there. Now, sure, there is a chance that scouts drop him down to 2nd round status because of his lower shooting percentages this year, and it might make Smith question whether coming back and improving on those gets him the big bonus of the first round picks, but I’m not going to hold my breath. Smith escaped having his career ended with that foul against UNC, and he improved on almost all his numbers outside of shooting percentage. I think his shooting and scoring is the least of scout’s worries, so I think he’ll be a late 1st rounder and I think he’ll be gone. If I was him, I’d be cashing in while I could for sure.
Jack Clark: I’d assume Jack Clark comes back, but you never know. He’s got a lot to prove and with the injuries this season, he never really got into a rhythm. I also think one more year to hone his 3 would be good for him. He’s got the skill set to really be a factor in a Keatts offense, and I think he’d play a key role if he returned. That said, I’ve heard that of some teams (one in particular) that Clark might leave for. I’m taking that with a grain of salt because Clark has a secure starting role next season. But crazier things have happened, that said, when all is said and done, I’d expect Clark back.
Greg Gantt: Gantt was a quality add by Keatts and this year we finally got to see how important he was. He was the muscle at the 4. Clark, while I really like him, can get soft at times. Gantt was a great matchup for opposing 4s who were more physical. In the ACC you need both of these guys. Sometimes you get a versatile 4 and sometimes you get a beefy, strong 4. Gantt allowed NC State to at least compete with the beefy 4s. However, I’m not so sure Keatts won’t go out and get a big, strong 4 with a little more offense than Gantt. With Gantt’s injury past and coming off a knee injury, I don’t think the staff will leave it up to chance. I’m not sure what happens to Gantt. I think he’ll probably return, get healthy, and try to work his way into minutes next season regardless of who Keatts brings in.
Ernest Ross: I think Ross’ future depends mostly on who Keatts brings in with the portal. If he does go out and bring in another 4 man and Clark stays, then I’d assume the logjam entices Ross or Gantt or Ross and Gantt to look around at other options. However, if Keatts feels secure with the frontcourt and focuses more on guards (or if Clark or Gantt were to leave) then I’d bet on Ross staying. Ross has an upside that we haven’t seen yet. You saw it in spurts this year. When his confidence gets going, he becomes a real factor. Is that sustainable for him? I don’t know, I hope. But I’d say Ross is inclined to stay, but I’ll have to see what plays out at the log jammed 4 spot.
Breon Pass / LJ Thomas: There is no doubt that Keatts is going to be looking for guards in the portal this season. Pass provided some good minutes late, and honestly, LJ Thomas impressed nearly every time he was on the floor. But Pass hasn’t really shown that he can be a lead guard at the ACC level just yet and I’m afraid that if Keatts brings in a seasoned veteran at the point, Pass won’t be all that interested in playing backup during his junior year. As for Thomas, it’s interesting to me that Keatts didn’t give him more opportunities. He showed the ability to score it and was a pretty physical defender. I’m really hoping Thomas sticks around for another season, as I can see him being a factor at this level with more minutes under his belt. Thomas is a sophomore, so I think he’ll be more apt to play a role coming off the bench for Keatts, so if Keatts brings in a seasoned 2 guard, I’m going to bet Thomas sticks it out and plays behind him, pushing him and potentially breaking in to get more minutes as the season progresses.
Ebe Dowuona: As you’ve likely heard, Dowuona is leaving. He entered the portal, meaning that it was likely Burns and Mahorcic are coming back and Dowuona would be 3rd string yet again. As much as I liked Ebe’s passion and energy, I think NC State can find an upgrade in the portal if they want to get some depth behind Burns and Mahrocic. In fact, this is why I think they’ll be focusing on a 4/5 guy. What I mean by that is, a guy who can play both the 4 or the 5. A more versatile center with some meat on his bones. Someone physical, but also able to stretch the defense to the perimeter at times. This gives you that guy who can bang with bigger teams, and it also gives you depth at the center if the unthinkable happens.
Isaiah Miranda: The 7-foot forward joined the Wolfpack mid-season and some believed he would immediately get playing time seeing as he was a potential to jump straight to the NBA. Turns out, he had a lot of work to do. He needed to mature physically and he needed to get used to a lot more contact in the college game. He never saw the floor this year, so I’m not sure what to expect next season. Will he be ready? If the answer is yes, then State will be super deep at the 4 spot. If not, then I’m not sure what the move is going to be. In today’s game you can’t just wait around for guys to get it. Heck if you do, they might leave when they finally are ready, and you need every spot you can get for depth purposes. I don’t know how to look at this situation with Miranda. I’m guessing he’ll be here next season, but that is pure speculation.
What will State look to add: If Smith is gone (which I think he is), and Ebe is gone (he is), they’ll be super focused on bringing in both a PG, a volume-scoring SG and a 4/5 guytrue. The guard positions are actually 2 positions that I don’t think they’ll have trouble filling with Keatts’s style of play. All these guys would have to look at is how Joiner or Smith was used and the fact that they have an elite big man and a really great spot-up shooter on the wing, and what more could you want? Plus you’re in the ACC playing for a team coming off an NCAA Tourny bid.
The question is, if you have a good group to choose from, what do you prioritize? I think you go out and find the best scoring guard you can find that can play on or off the ball. That’s your replacement for Terquavion Smith. However, I think at the PG spot you need to be a bit pickier. Joiner was great, but he and Smith’s games were just too similar. If you’re going to have a volume shooting 2 guard, then you need a PG who is a willing distributor. Joiner wasn’t really great at that. In fact, I think Markell Johnson would have been the perfect fit for this past years’ team. Keatts almost had to force Markell to become a scorer, He was a guy who could score when he needed to but was more comfortable finding an open man and making a play for his teammates. Thats the kind of player I think would fit best with this team and I think that’s a skill set that will be out there to be had.
If I’m Keatts I’m targeting a PG with a high 3pt %, someone who can read the pick and roll and make plays off of it, not necessarily be the #1 scoring option off of it. I think a kid that is more of a disrupter on offense would fit great in this offense. A one-dimensional scoring PG, IMO, isn’t ideal and is really what makes the offense so stagnant at times.
So my thought is that you get a volume-scoring SG with range who can give you 12-15 ppg, a PG who can average 8-1o ppg and 4-5 assists per game, and a big, physical 4 man who can give you 7 ppg and 5 rebounds per game.
Who is out there?
This is a good question and one we’ll be updating here shortly. We’ll start focusing in on guys who fit this mold and have some sort of NC State connection. Obviously, those would be the first calls since there are prior relationships, but there’s also a possibility to bring in guys who have no connection and simply see NC State as their best opportunity…which is something that is easier to envision this year than it was last year.
What about the incoming freshmen?
NC State has 2 incoming freshmen in Trey Parker (SG) and Dennis Parker Jr (SF). Trey is a kid who I can see coming in and playing a role for NC State. The guy really is an elite athlete who can score at all 3 levels. He reminds me a lot of Terquavion Smith. He’s not a shy shooter and can get red hot from long-range. He’s had some HS games this season where he hit 5 or 6 3s and he’s also had a few where he went 2-9 or 0-5. So yeah, think Terquavion Smith. Now he’s not as slippery as Smith on the drive, but he’s more physical and is probably the best dunker in HS basketball. He’ll play next season and may even force his way into getting major minutes if he acclimates to ACC play fast enough.
As for Dennis Parker, he’s a guy who is super versatile. He’s a tweener at 6-6 but he’s a guy who can slot in at the 3, play a little 2 if needed but also the 4 in a pinch. He’s a kid that plays with no fear. He’s a good shooter, but he’s even better at driving to the rim. He’s physical, invites contact, and is a pretty nasty dunker as well. He’s a great defender and he’s super smart. He’s kind of like Casey Morsell, except that I’d say Morsell is more of a guard as a 3 man and Parker would be more of forward at the 3 position. Dennis Parker Jr may have more competition for minutes, but I expect him to get some playing time this season as well.
At the end of the day, a lot of this is going to be fluid. Maybe more guys leave than expected, maybe less. Those decisions will dictate what the roster needs and what Keatts prioritizes. We’ll be keep tabs on the portal over the next few weeks/months and will keep you updated.
NC State is a Slight Underdog in ACC Opener vs. Boston College
NC State (4-2) will play their first ACC game of the 2023-24 season tomorrow on the road against Boston College (5-2), and they enter the game as slight underdogs. The Wolfpack are 1.5-point underdogs, and the Total is 150.5.
- NC State is 0-2 Straight Up as underdogs
- BC is 4-1 Straight Up as favorites.
- NC State is 2-4 Against the Spread.
- BC is 4-3 Against the Spread
- The Total has gone Under in 2 games for NC State, Over in 3 and Pushed in 1.
- The Total has gone Under in 3 games for Boston College and Over in 4.
- NC State is 6-4 in their last 10 games against BC Straight Up.
- NC State is 4–6 Against the Spread in their last 10 games against BC.
- The Total has gone Under in 5 games, and Under in the other 5.
#5 NC State 70 Vanderbilt 62: BOX SCORE (with notes)
The 5th ranked NC State Women’s Basketball team improved to 8-0 tonight, defeating Vanderbilt 70-62 in the inaugural ACC/SEC Challenge.
- Saniya Rivers scored 20+ points for the 2nd time this season, scoring 22 points on 8 of 14 shooting. She also chipped in 8 rebounds and 2 steals.
- River Baldwin posted her first double-double of the season. She scored 12 points and grabbed 10 boards.
- Aziaha James has now scored in double figures in 7 of 8 games, scoring 14 points tonight, shooting 6 of 10 from the field and 2 of 3 from beyond the arc.
- Freshman Zoe Brooks led the Pack in steals (4) and assists (4).
- NC State didn’t shoot well, making only 39% of their shots. Fortunately, they held Vandy to 34.3% shooting.
The Wolfpack will host Illinois State on Sunday at 2pm.
NC State Stat Leaders Heading into the ACC Opener vs Boston College
This Saturday, NC State heads to Boston College for the now-annual early ACC opener. The Pack will face off against the Eagles at 4pm on ACC Network. Here is where the team is statistically after 6 games.
- Casey Morsell leads NC State in scoring with 14.5 ppg.
- The Pack has 4 double-digit scorers this season. Morsell (14.5), Jayden Taylor (13.3), DJ Burns (13) and DJ Horne (11.2)
(Last season State had 4 double-digit scorers as well. Terquavion (17.9), Joiner (17), Burns (12.5) and Morsell (11.8))
- After their top 4 scorers there is a big dip. Parker comes in at 6.8, O’Connell at 6.3, and Middlebrooks at 5.5 ppg.
(Last season Jack Clark was 5th on the team in scoring at 9 points and Mahorcic was at 8.7. However, both guys missed a large chunk of the season.)
- Burns is leading NC State in rebounding this year at 5.3 per game. Diarra is next with 5.3 (but is currently hampered by an ankle injury.)
- O’Connell is leading NC State in assists with 3.3 per game, and Burns is up next with 2.5. PG DJ Horne is only averaging 2.
- LJ Thomas and Mike O’Connell are tied in leading the team at .15 assists per minute.
- Jayden Taylor is leading NC State in 3pt %, shooting an outstanding 45.8%, while Morsell is up next at 34.6%. Horne is close behind at 33%.
(LJ Thomas is shooting 50% from 3, but only has 2 attempts.)
- Burns is leading the bigs, shooting 56.5% from the floor, while Middlebrooks is close behind at 54.2%. Dennis Parker Jr is coming in at 45.2%.
- For the guards, it’s Casey Morsell leading the way at 44.6% from the floor, while O’Connell is next up at 43.4%. Taylor is shooting 42.4%, and DJ Horne is struggling a bit, shooting just 34.8% from the field.
- Jayden Taylor is turning the ball over the most at 1.8 times per game, while Burns is next at 1.7. Morsell is at 1.5 and O’Connell is at 1.2. DJ Horne has been doing a good job of protecting the basketball, turning it over just .3 times per game.
NC State 52 Ole Miss 72: Box Score (with notes)
NC State’s Men’s Basketball team lost it’s second straight game tonight, losing 52-72 on the road at Ole Miss in the inaugural ACC/SEC Challenge. Below is the Box Score with some notes below.
- Ben Middlebrooks posted a double-double, with 13 points and 12 boards. To be honest, Middlebrooks was the only bright spot in this game.
- Casey Morsell was the only other player to score in double figures (12 points), but it wasn’t pretty, shooting 5 of 14 from the field.
- One of the poorest statistical shooting performance I can remember.
- NC State shot 31.8% from the field and 12% from three (3-25).
- The Wolfpack’s DNA on defense is turning over their opponent, and they were unable to do so tonight, turning over the Rebels only 7 times.
- For comparison, the Wolfpack turned it over 13 times, giving them a Turnover Margin tonight of -6.
- Heading into tonight, they averaged a Turnover Margin of +7.8.
- Ole Miss scored 13 points off of turnovers, compared to NC State’s 4.
- This is the first time this season that NC State failed to force their opponent to commit at least 10 turovers.
- NC State was -25 when D.J. Burns was on the court, which was the worst on the team.
- NC State was +3 when L.J. Thomas was on the court, and +2 when Ben Middlebrooks were on the court. They were the only two players in the positive.
- Thomas and Middlebrooks should have earned themselves some more playing time going forward.
- Ole Miss’ length was problematic for the Wolfpack, blocking 9 of their shots.
There will be more analysis on this game coming tomorrow.