Friday, March 15, 2013

game preview: NC State

Date/Time: Friday, March 15; 2:00


Record against the Pack: 59-81

Last meeting: UVA 58, NCSt. 55; 1/29/13, Charlottesville

Last game: UVA 61, Md. 58 (3/10); FSU 71, NCSt. 67 (3/9)


UVA: 60.3 (#339)
NCSt.: 67.9 (#84)

UVA: 108.9 (#53)
NCSt.: 116.2 (#11)

UVA: 88.5 (#17)
NCSt.: 98.1 (#121)

UVA: .8934 (#20)
NCSt.: .8491 (#40)

Projected lineups:


PG: Jontel Evans (4.4 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 4.9 apg)
SG: Paul Jesperson (5.1 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 1.0 apg)
SF: Joe Harris (17.0 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 2.1 apg)
SF: Justin Anderson (6.6 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 2.2 apg)
PF: Akil Mitchell (13.1 ppg, 8.9 rpg, 1.5 apg)

North Carolina State:

PG: Lorenzo Brown (12.3 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 7.4 apg)
SG: Scott Wood (12.1 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 1.1 apg)
F: Richard Howell (13.3 ppg, 10.7 rpg, 1.8 apg)
F: C.J. Leslie (14.9 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 1.4 apg)
F: T.J. Warren (12.2 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 0.8 apg)

I won't bore you with a manifesto about the stakes here.  It's a tournament.  Which is our litmus test for another bigger tournament.  If you haven't figured out yet what's on the line here then you're in the wrong place.

-- UVA on offense

NC State's defensive iffiness is well-documented these days.  With a thin rotation, they can't afford foul trouble, and while they're actually very good at staying out of it, they don't play aggressively.  Lacking a center, the Pack struggle to rebound on the defensive end.  If Richard Howell isn't grabbing a rebound, nobody else is either.

It could be interesting to see how that goes, because the last time UVA played a team that doesn't rebound well defensively, they absolutely punished on the offensive glass.  That would be the FSU game, where Akil Mitchell grabbed six offensive boards and Mike Tobey five.  Tobey also had a nice game the last time out against NC State with three offensive rebounds.  It's not the Tony Bennett way, but if UVA is getting its points near the rim, it's much easier to steal a few offensive boards here and there.

That is if we get points at all.  The offense has hit a brick wall lately.  Production from Evan Nolte has dried up; the last time he hit two baskets in a game was February 19 at Miami, and his last three-bucket game was nine days before that.  Joe Harris's shooting has been awful the past three games: 2-for-7, 4-for-9 (but 1-for-6 from three), and 2-for-11.  That's basically your key to the game right there.  That kind of shooting from your first-team all-ACC guy is good enough to scrape out an ugly win over Maryland at home, but in the ACC tourney?  Gonna get you killed.

And truthfully, NC State's defense isn't good enough to dictate terms.  UVA has a better-than-even chance if Harris's jump shot is falling, or if Harris can get by his defender consistently.  Otherwise NC State will hang back in a straight-up man defense, watch Harris struggle, and dare someone else to pick up the slack.

-- UVA on defense

You'll probably hear more than you care to about the very limited play of Lorenzo Brown in the last game, after he twisted his ankle.  The other thing you don't want to hear is that it probably did have an effect.  NC State relies very, very heavily on Brown to facilitate what they do, and doesn't have much else in the way of point guards.  The little hobbit kid, Tyler Lewis, is about it, and the Pack don't use him much.

Besides running Brown and occasionally Lewis at the point, NC State works with a thin lineup, using six players for the other four spots.  Four players (Brown, Leslie, Howell, and Wood) get 30+ minutes per game.  Shooting guard Scott Wood (he's listed as a forward but I don't care, his role is 2-guard all the way) sits for barely six minutes a game.  Wood is a fearsome and voluminous three-point shooter.  It was really against Wood that Paul Jesperson opened some eyes to his defense; Jesperson harried Wood into a subpar shooting night and some uncharacteristic turnovers.  His ability or lack thereof to do so again will swing a big part of this game.

Most of the rest of NC State's scoring comes from a trio of forwards: C.J. Leslie, Richard Howell, and the underused T.J. Warren.  Leslie is lanky and athletic; Justin Anderson will likely draw that assignment, and Anderson gives up three inches.  Howell is powerfully built and a strong interior scorer.  Warren is a little bit of both, and shoots a very occasional three.  NC State might be better off if it were more than occasional, because he's 13-for-24 on the season.  Putting all three on the floor at once represents a matchup challenge, because Joe Harris gives up a lot athletically to Warren, who he'd likely have to guard.

Bottom line here: this team can beat you in a lot of ways.  It's cliched, but it really took a 40-minute defensive effort to stop the Pack last time.  It's gonna take the same again.  UVA enjoys one major matchup advantage in Mike Tobey; the only time NC State trots out a center is when they give Jordan Vandenberg a few minutes here and there to spell their scoring forwards.  But NC State is still accustomed to having their way in the paint due to their athleticism, and Brown is very adept at getting them the ball in the right place.

-- Outlook

History, as I've probably overmentioned, is not on our side here.  And though NC State is seen as something of an underachiever, all their losses but one (and that to Miami) have been away from home.  Technically this game will also be away from home, but not in practice.  I fear I have no choice here but to play the pessimist; UVA hasn't been playing well of late and there is a grain of truth to the notion that NC State missed Brown badly during our last game.

Final score: NCSt. 66, UVA 59


Anonymous said...

I fear this loss has pushed us to NIT land. I shouldn't be that disappointed, considering this was a rebuilding year, but dang, after the Duke game, we were ... in. A win against BC and FSU, two games we should've had, likely locks up a bid for us.

Oh well. Here's hoping for a miracle to get into the 68, but if not, this is a good steppingstone for next year, when, if we get solid PG play, we should be one of the favorites in a much better ACC.

pezhoo said...

I heard on the radio UVa was 2-15 against NCS in the ACC tournament. Now 2-16. They really own us. Oh well. The team peaked for the Duke game, most of this team is back. If Hall can figure out the point we will be good again next year. The plan is in place and momentum is building, regardless of how today feels.

Anonymous said...

To be fair, we played Duke without Ryan Kelly. Injuries happen, and we've had our fair share, but Kelly really changes the complexion of that game. We wouldn't be able to double Mason Plumlee so much, and while I think Plumlee was over-hyped as a NBA prospect for a bit (more of a mid-late first type, IMO), he should be able to handle a guy like Akil one-on-one.

Any post-mortem on the season has to acknowledge a couple basic facts. This team lacked a shot creator, and it lacks a dominant interior post player. As I noted above, I think we can compete for the ACC title next year, but things will be significantly easier if one of those two areas develops, in a positive way, for next season.

In many ways, this team significantly over-achieved, when we acknowledge those two problems above. Still leaves a bitter taste to know that we were probably two wins against BC and FSU of locking up a NCAA bid. Here's hoping for a miracle Sunday, but either way, it's good experience for the guys for next year.