Saturday, January 4, 2014
season preview: NC State
Media prediction: 10th of 15
Record: 24-11 (11-7); ACC 5th seed
Postseason: NCAA 8 seed; lost in 1st round
KenPom: 34th of 347
Returning scoring: 21.2%
Returning rebounding: 17.7%
Returning assists: 15.1%
1st team: F Richard Howell
2nd team: G Lorenzo Brown
3rd team: F C.J. Leslie
Rookie: F T.J. Warren
(Italics indicate departed player.)
PG: Anthony Barber (Fr.)
SG: Desmond Lee (Jr.)
SF: T.J. Warren (So.)
PF: Lennard Freeman (Fr.)
C: Jordan Vandenberg (5Sr.)
G Ralston Turner (rJr.)
G Tyler Lewis (So.)
F Kyle Washington (Fr.)
F BeeJay Anya (Fr.)
Coach: Mark Gottfried (3rd season)
Twice: Miami, North Carolina, Pittsburgh, Wake Forest
Once: Boston College, Clemson, Duke, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Maryland, Notre Dame, Syracuse, Virginia, Virginia Tech
NC State took a fall in the preseason poll for the same reason as Miami: losing everyone. Despite an early loss to NC Central, however, they've handled the transition better. They've got a little extra help: forward T.J. Warren returns after being part of their heralded freshman class last year, and he's living up to every bit of his five-star reputation.
Out from under the shadow of NC State's veterans, Warren is exploding onto the scene, scoring almost 24 points a game right now. When on the floor, Warren takes more than a third of NC State's shots, one of the highest usage rates in the country. He's also a solid rebounder who crashes the offensive boards especially hard. If he were shooting threes at a better clip he'd be nearly unstoppable, but he was a better than .500 shooter from that range last year so it's not out of his reach.
The rest of the Wolfpack are basically complementary to Warren's stardom. Freshman point guard Anthony Barber is doing a good job of balancing scoring and distributing while limiting his turnovers. Desmond Lee provides decent secondary scoring, and LSU transfer Ralston Turner (who sat last season per transfer rules) provides excellent three-point heat off the bench. Turner is the only one shooting over .300, though, and since NC State generally shoots threes badly, doesn't take many in the first place, and hasn't gotten to the free-throw line much, the Pack currently get the highest percentage of their points from two-pointers in the country.
Most of the frontcourt is there to rebound and defend. Freshman Lennard Freeman can score a bit, but he's lightly used. His backup, Kyle Washington, is - basically a backup. 7'1" center Jordan Vandenberg had a slow start to his season with an ankle injury, but if his ankle can hold up, NC State would be well-advised to use him more. Vandenberg represents the entire senior class at NC State (it's a team that's highly tilted toward underclassmen); he's seen limited action in his career but so far this year has been a highly efficient scorer and outstanding shot-blocker. His backup, freshman BeeJay Anya, is a strange physical specimen; he's only 6'9" but clocks in at 325 pounds and has freakishly long arms. He's a lightly-used defensive specialist for now.
NC State's ACC season has started with a disappointing loss to Pitt after holding an 8-point halftime lead; nevertheless, they should find a moderate amount of success in the conference this year. They're not a likely favorite contender for the title, but they did do what UVA could not: beat Tennessee in Knoxville, giving them an OOC win to hang their hat on come selection time. They can be somewhat one-dimensional, as they rely so heavily on Warren and mid-range scoring. However, they're at least a bubble team and their conference season will be an exercise in convincing the selection committee to give them a double-digit seed. Call it 50-50 from here as to whether they can get to the Dance or merely the NIT.
So I really should've acted like there's a basketball game today, and previewed it, but then I also should've not put on my procrastination shoes during the whole holiday season and gotten like three weeks behind. This coming week I'll work to finish these darn previews. Meantime, look for notes on the bottom like this, if something has happened worth noting. Kind of like:
-- The impending assistant coach exodus. Or rather, ongoing exodus, with Anthony Poindexter and Vincent Brown officially off to Connecticut, where they'll work for former UVA assistant Bob Diaco. Dex was on staff with Diaco at UVA, and no doubt recommended Brown, who arrived with London - though Brown did work as a graduate assistant on UVA's staff while Diaco was here. Since Poindexter will be UConn's DC, it makes sense he'd want to work with at least one familiar face.
I'm on record as saying that when London goes, as seems inevitable, a clean sweep of the coaching staff should follow. So starting that a bit early doesn't bother me a great deal. Yeah, Poindexter's a UVA legend. And he's getting a raise and a promotion by leaving. Brown is not, but his motivation is equally understandable: get off the sinking ship, fast. Brown gets another 3-4 years of job security out of this, and the chance to choose his own destiny rather than sitting around waiting for the axe next winter. In fact, it's Brown whose loss will hurt UVA the most: I think he's easily the most capable of UVA's position coaches, and his recruiting responsibility was Georgia, a place where UVA was having a reasonable amount of success and should always have a presence. That said, I've got no real heartburn over ever losing any member of the current coaching staff. Not even Poindexter. I don't think his coaching has been a positive for UVA, on balance. Diaco should be warned to hold special teams meetings in another county from Dex.
Poindexter's departure does one other thing for UVA, too: it relieves a future new head coach of the pressure to keep him and/or removes any potential bad blood from firing him. That's the risk of hiring popular alums as coaches: nearly all coaching hires end badly. With Chip West a possibility for departure as well, UVA must replace two and perhaps three defensive coaches.
That'll be hard to do; nobody wants to work for a coach who's widely believed to have just one more year left. The likely course of action is to promote a GA to a full-time job (Jonathan Lewis's eligibility in that regard is up, and he already works with the D-line, Brown's responsibility this year) or find a I-AA or even high school coach. UVA will not otherwise be able to attract a name of any kind.
-- Let's also have a recruiting board update in honor of Jamil Kamara's commitment. As follows:
-- Moved WR Jamil Kamara and DE Darrious Carter from blue to orange. Kamara's announcement completes a year-long journey that's really even longer, since his name first began to appear during the spring of his freshman year, which would be 2011.
-- Removed LB Melvin Keihn from green (VT.) Screwing up this recruitment is another piece on the pile of evidence that London's pitch has worn thin and no longer resonates. Keihn is from Gilman, a school where UVA should do exceedingly well and has in the past - think Darius Jennings.