Friday, December 5, 2008

season preview: NC State

Yay Will Hill and all. I won't have too much more detail on him until my series of semi-in-depth looks at our verbal commitments catches up to him. That sort of fell by the wayside during the season but now that that's over, I can pick it back up. Soon as I'm done with these. Only three more.....

Media prediction: 9th

ACC schedule:

Twice: Boston College, Georgia Tech, Miami, North Carolina, Wake Forest
Once: Clemson (A), Duke (A), Florida State (H), Maryland (H), Virginia (H), Virginia Tech (A)

2007 All-ACC:

First team: None
Second team: None
Third team: None
Defensive: None
Freshman: F J.J. Hickson
HM: F J.J. Hickson

(italics: returning)

Projected starters:

PG: Javier Gonzalez (So.)
SG: Courtney Fells (Sr.)
SF: Brandon Costner (Jr.)
PF: C.J. Williams (Fr.)
C: Ben McCauley (Sr.)


G Farnold Degand (Jr.)
F Tracy Smith (So.)
G Trevor Ferguson (Jr.)
F Dennis Horner (Jr.)
G Julius Mays (Fr.)

(italics: returning)

Coach: Sidney Lowe (3rd season)

Things don't bode so well in Raleigh. NC State was not a very good team last year, and they lost their two best players. J.J. Hickson played like a first round draft pick as a freshman last year, and then decided to go be a first round draft pick. Gavin Grant ran out of eligibility. This season will be an uphill battle for the 'Pack most of the way.

All is not lost though. The talent appears lacking, but the Wolfpack have two things that can go a long way in a tough season: experience, and a large rotation. Actually, a large rotation can sometimes be a sign of the top players just not being good enough to squeeze out the bottom ones, but it's nice to have options. That experience is coming in very handy too. The two seniors in the starting lineup are Courtney Fells and Ben McCauley, who are currently #1 and #2 on the team in scoring. Fells is the leading returning scorer from last year, so you'd expect that. McCauley, on the other hand, has never been a boardmonster like he has so far this year, pulling down 9.3 rebounds per game. McCauley showed what he can do during his sophomore season, but Hickson gobbled up his minutes last year and he went into a huge funk. He's back with a vengeance, and NC State will rely on that outside-inside punch when crunch time rolls around. Brandon Costner is also vigorously grabbing rebounds at about twice the rebound-per-minute pace of last year, after sort of ignoring that part of his game in '07-'08.

The point right now is left to Javier Gonzalez as Farnold Degand returns - slowly - from a knee injury. Gonzalez has been happy to dish the ball to his teammates and chuck the occasional three - one of which he is good at, the other not so much. His four assists per game are much improved over last year. When Degand finally gets back into the swing of things, his play off the bench will probably dictate whether or not he replaces Gonzalez in the lineup.

Off the bench, NC State's main offense comes from Tracy Smith and Trevor Ferguson; Smith from inside with a so-far-team-leading .577 shooting percentage and Ferguson from outside (Ferguson has only put up five two-point balls this year compared with 18 threes.) Smith's scoring prowess shouldn't surprise - he was second only to Hickson last year in shooting percentage. NC State can be a lot more dangerous if Degand proves worthy of regaining his spot in the starting lineup and bumps Gonzalez to play with the second unit.

What the Wolfpack have is a lineup of pretty much anonymous, decent basketball players. It's the sort of lineup that could make them something of an outside contender in, say, the SEC. Not so much when you have to play UNC twice. This isn't really a tournament team, but a good showing in the conference - which for these guys would probably be 7-9 or even 6-10 - could get them an NIT spot.

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