ACC Basketball

NC State Is In…Now What?

ETHAN HYMAN — News Observer

The NC State Wolfpack are a tough team to figure out. One day they look like a top-five team in the ACC. The next day they couldn’t beat a team made up of five blind middle schoolers. They started the season munching on cupcakes, before stumbling into ACC play losing to four of their last seven non-conference foes (three to top-50 teams Purdue, West Virginia and Cincinnati). However, while they have produced solid wins over Duke and most recently on the road in Louisville, this is a team that has lost to Wake Forest and Clemson (at home) and hasn’t won back-to-back games since beating Wake Forest and Charleston Southern back in early December. Yet, somehow they are “IN” in ESPN’s Bracketology.

With a rotation that features five freshmen (who won’t be confused for McDonald’s All-Americans) and only one junior who actually plays (Adam Smith), Virginia Tech has struggled. They are 10-16 and of those 10 wins, eight of them have come against teams ranked 200 or below in Ken Pom’s rankings. They do have a pair of home upsets over Pittsburgh and Georgia Tech. At 2-11,  they are leading only Boston College in the ACC standings.


  • For weeks now, the Wolfpack have had to scratch and claw their way back into the Big Dance conversation and after keeping things tight in a loss to Virginia and beating Louisville on the road, they went from being a suspect bubble team to a “First Four In.” Good for them. Now let’s see what they can do as the favorite, as the Hokies will be only the second team outside the top-100 they have faced since December 12. Will they relish the respect and crush a weaker team or will the pressure of losing a tournament spot be their undoing?
  • Slowly but surely NC State is becoming a more balanced team scoring. For too long they relied on Trevor Lacey and Ralston Turner for consistent scoring, but the bigs have become more active inside and things are starting to click for Anthony Barber. The former McDonald’s All-American is lightening quick and as his decision making has gotten better, so has his team. Lacey remains the teams best scoring option, because he’s dangerous from deep (over 40% from behind the arc), but by beating his defender off the ball and attacking the rim, Barber has scored 20 or more in three of his last four games. In the win over Louisville, the Cardinals were trying to rally late, but they couldn’t get the ball out of the sophomore’s hands and he wrapped the game up with seven free throws in the end.
  • In the interior, the Wolfpack should simply dominate. Mark Gottfried starts the game with big boys Kyle Washington and Abdul-MAlik Abu, then subs in even more meat with Beejay Anya and Lennard Freeman. That foursome is one of the better offensive rebounding groups in the ACC (all four are in the top-30 in offensive rebounding percentage), although outside of Freeman, they can struggle to get good position on the defensive side, where rebounding is a bigger issue. Meanwhile, Virginia Tech is one of the worst rebounding teams in America (#321 in offensive rebounding, #345 in defensive rebounding). In their recent loss to Miami, the three big men (Shane Henry, CHristian Beyer and Satchel Pierce, i.e. the only three guys who stand over 6’6) combined for 1 point and 3 rebounds. That’s brutal.
  • Because they have no choice, the Hokies rely on the three-ball; lots and lots of threes. They’re actually not too bad at it, 35th in the nation in 3P%, third in ACC play. Adam Smith is the best of the bunch, hitting over 40%, leading the team in both attempts and made threes. However, freshmen Justin Bibbs, Malik Mueller and Ahmed Hill all shoot over 36% from deep.

FINAL THOUGHT: As Virginia Tech’s record clearly indicates, you can’t just shoot over your opponent and win. Look for Buzz Williams to attack the Wolfpack guards as they cross mid-court with his four guard lineup, trying to force turnovers, but with nothing in the middle (seriously a pack of girl scout cookies could perform better in the interior), NC State should feast upon the paint.


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