Sunday, January 16, 2011

season preview: NC State

NC State Wolfpack

Media prediction: 4th

Last season:

Record: 20-16 (5-11), 11th in ACC
Postseason: 2nd round, NIT
KenPom: 68th of 347

Returning scoring: 69.1%
Returning rebounding: 68.6%
Returning assists: 67.7%

2009-'10 All-ACC:

1st team: none
2nd team: F Tracy Smith
3rd team: none
Rookie: none
Defensive: none


PG: Javier Gonzalez (Sr.)
SG: Lorenzo Brown (Fr.)
SF: Scott Wood (So.)
F: C.J. Leslie (Fr.)
PF: Tracy Smith (Sr.)


G Ryan Harrow (Fr.)
C DeShawn Painter (So.)
F Richard Howell (So.)
G C.J. Williams (Jr.)
C Jordan Vandenberg (So.)

Coach: Sidney Lowe (5th season)


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

NC State might be the best bad team in the conference. Or the worst good team. At any rate they're unlikely to achieve the 4th-place finish predicted for them, which could have a negative effect on Sidney Lowe's already shaky job status.

The Pack should be a contending team, as they're adding some very talented freshmen to what looked before the season like a solid core of returning players. Two of those freshmen have been regular starters all season, and the third, Ryan Harrow, earned the nod in the Pack's most recent game against Florida State. Harrow mans the point and is outplaying his counterpart, senior Javier Gonzalez, who might have started his last game. Harrow and fellow freshman C.J. Leslie, NC State's biggest-name recruit in quite some time, are second and third on the team in scoring; Leslie is also the team's rebounding leader.

Leslie is part of a deep frontcourt. The team's heart and soul, Tracy Smith, is just coming off of a knee injury that caused him to miss three weeks. Smith is the best scorer on the team; think Mike Scott, but with less rebounding. Also listed at forward is three-point specialist Scott Wood, but Wood plays more like a biggish guard - his main job is to catch and shoot. If State needs height, they turn to Jordan Vandenberg, the only true center on the roster, though he's not even remotely offensive-minded.

Despite the lack of redwood trees to man the paint, NC State is actually deceptively big. They've got a large collection of 6'8" forward types and their guards are big, tall players too; only two regulars (Gonzalez and Harrow, the points) check in at under 6'5". Brown is a big guard, as is his backup, C.J. Williams. Given that, you'd think this would be a strong defensive team, but they're actually not good on that end of the court. They allow more shot-blocks than they have themselves, and they're one of the worst teams in the country at creating turnovers: according to KenPom, they rank 320th in opponents' turnover percentage.

The Wolfpack have good balanced scoring, and they should present a matchup challenge to a lot of teams with their size. But it's not a good sign that they start three freshmen these days. NC State hasn't done anything on their resume to make a case for the NCAA tournament, and they blew two chances to do so in their first three ACC games, with losses at BC and FSU. They're likely to be relegated to the NIT again. It looks like a classic case of underachievement - they have the talent to be better - and that could mean the end of the line for Sidney the Big Red Blazer.

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