Peter Tiernan (BracketScience.com)
Champ Check: Six have inside track to title
Selection Sunday is 45 days away, but that doesn’t mean you can’t start narrowing in on your choice for the tourney’s ultimate champ. By monitoring a few key factors from now until the brackets are set, you can reduce your list of champion candidates to a handful of teams — and be reasonably sure the ultimate victor will be among them.
Every one of the last 12 champs have owned these eight characteristics:
â€¢ Earned a one, two or three seed;
â€¢ Came from a ”power” conference: ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-10 or SEC (labeled â€œCFâ€ in the table below);
â€¢ Either went to the previous year’s dance or had an All-American (*/12);
â€¢ Were led by a coach with more than five tourney trips and at least one Elite Eight run (CO);
â€¢ Averaged more than 73 points per game (PF>73);
â€¢ Allowed fewer than 73 points per game (PA<73);
â€¢ Owned a scoring margin of at least seven points per game. (SM>=7);
â€¢ Played a schedule among the 75 strongest in the country (S<75);
So which teams currently have these eight champworthy stats? If you focus on today’s AP top 20 — the squads most likely to be among the top three seeds — only 10 of those teams make the champ grade. Check it out:
Under the â€œTOTâ€ column at the far right, an â€œ8â€ means the team met all the credentials. Red-filled boxes identify credentials each team failed to meet. The 10 teams on the champ list are
Duke, Michigan, Kansas, Syracuse, Louisville, Indiana, Florida, Minnesota, Ohio State and North Carolina State. Some notable omissions include Arizona, Butler, Gonzaga and Michigan State.
Notice the thin flags at the far right of the table? These flags identify six teams that meet two other champ stats I’ll be following this year. If you’re a fan of Ken Pomeroy’s possession-based efficiency statistics, these two filters should be of particular interest. I hesitate to include them in the basic champ check because I only have nine years of pretourney KenPom data. That said, every one of the nine champions since 2004 has had an offensive efficiency rank among the top 17 and a defensive rank among the top 25.
When you evaluate the AP top 20 on these two KenPom rankings, four of our potential champs don’t make the grade:
â€¢ Michigan drops off because they rank 39th on defense.
â€¢ Minnesota misses out on defense too — just barely — ranking 26th
â€¢ Ohio State’s offense isn’t efficient enough (20th)
â€¢ And NC State’s defensive ranking is shockingly low at 140th
NC STATE BASKETBALL
Brett Friedlander (starnewsonline.com)
Wolfpack holds team meeting to cut through the â€˜nonsenseâ€™
The N.C. State basketball team may have felt as though it was on top of the world when it upset No. 1 Duke two weeks ago. But itâ€™s been all downhill since then for the Wolfpack.
In an effort to make sure that Tuesdayâ€™s second half collapse at Wake Forest is rock bottom, the players got together before practice Thursday to hash out their problems and get â€œeverybody is back on trackâ€ â€“ as point guard Lorenzo Brown put it â€“ heading into Saturdayâ€™s showdown with arch-rival North Carolina at PNC Arena.
â€œThereâ€™s been a lot of nonsense going on between us, but weâ€™re all grown men,â€ Brown said. â€œWe sat down and talked it out, so weâ€™re perfectly fine now.â€
Brown declined to go into specifics when asked to define the term â€œnonsense,â€ only to say that it was â€œjust little stuff, I guess.
â€œI donâ€™t really want to get into it,â€ he said. â€œItâ€™s in the past now.â€
â€œWe just needed to sit down and settle some things up,â€ senior forward Scott Wood said. â€œIt was good for our team to hear some guys talk and listen to them, let it sink in and realize what we need to get done.â€
â€œIâ€™ve had two of the worst seasons you could have here and Iâ€™ve had one that was pretty good,â€ he said. â€œIâ€™ve seen it all and you can kind of take that experience and show some people that, hey, you donâ€™t want to have a crappy season, because itâ€™s no fun.â€
Joe Giglio (N&O)
Pack â€˜perfectly fineâ€™ after team meeting
Senior forward Richard Howell mentioned the defensive lapses and lack of consistent effort against Wake were discussed in the team meeting.
“It’s all about effort and how bad do you want to stop the other guy?” Howell said. “We had a meeting today and we talked about it and hopefully things like that won’t happen again.”
Senior guard Scott Wood said the meeting was good for the team and it “settled some things up.”
“I think it was good for our team to hear a couple of guys talk and listen to them and let it sink in and realize what we need to get done,” Wood said.
Wood didn’t mention who did the talking but did say he relayed his own experiences, from his first two seasons when the team missed the NCAA tournament, and how it compared to last year’s Sweet 16 finish.
“You don’t want to have a crappy season because it’s no fun,” Wood said.
R. Cory Smith (N&O)
Lorenzo Brown: Leader of the Pack
In the hallway leading from the playerâ€™s locker room at Reynolds Coliseum, Lorenzo Brown emerged and apprehensively answered questions so quietly his words were barely audible.
He was a freshman then and much has changed since that initial interview in November 2010 â€“ not only for Brown but also N.C. State.
His first coach, Sidney Lowe, and God brother, Ryan Harrow, departed, forcing Brown to change positions and add a role. Heâ€™s now point guard and leader. Albeit still a silent leader.
â€œSometimes Iâ€™m just looking around like, â€˜Should I say something?â€™â€ Brown said recently, before laughing. â€œBut now Iâ€™m a lot older and I know what to do in different situations.â€
As he has gone, the Pack have followed. Brown demonstrated his leadership skills when he challenged the Pack to play better after their ACC opening victory over Boston College.
“I think we had our heads up our butts because we were top 10 in the nation, but we got a couple of eye-openers,â€ Brown said. â€œI think we needed it. I think every team needs a beat down, a couple of beat downs, to get it going at the beginning.â€
Following that game, the Wolfpack has dropped two of three entering Saturdayâ€™s showdown against North Carolina.
â€œItâ€™s very important to me to get this one,â€ Brown said. â€œItâ€™s like when youâ€™re young and thereâ€™s a guy that you fight with every day and you never win. Iâ€™ve been here for three years and Iâ€™ve never beaten UNC. Weâ€™ve got to come out with the same intensity as the Duke game and get this one.â€
Caulton Tudor (N&O)
Pack, Heels can think â€˜what if?â€™
Itâ€™s becoming increasingly obvious that N.C. Stateâ€™s basketball team misses DeShawn Painter a lot more than most people expected when the forward transferred to Old Dominion after last season.
The 6-foot-9, 230-pounder was hardly a star (6.2 points , 4.3 rebounds per game) for the Wolfpack, but his ability to provide productive relief for C.J. Leslie and Richard Howell was important to the teamâ€™s late surge and NCAA success.
Painter, from Norfolk, Va., transferred to ODU to help care for an ailing relative and was granted immediate eligibility for his senior season. Heâ€™s averaging a team-high 11.3 points and 7.8 rebounds on a 2-16 team that probably will not win more than a handful of games all season.
In the Wolfpackâ€™s two recent ACC losses at Maryland and Wake Forest, interior defense was soft at times and lack of depth, as expected, were late-game factors.
Luke Nadkarni (technicianonline.com)
Wolfpack renews rivalry again
Without a doubt, the one game every N.C. State fan circles on the schedule is when the North Carolina Tar Heels invade PNC Arena. Rivalry or not, there is always plenty of buzz in the Triangle when these two ACC foes go at it on the hardwood.
Saturday is the latest installment of the series, and with the Wolfpack picked to win the ACC in the preseason, it has attracted even more attention than usual. So much, in fact, that Saturdayâ€™s 7 p.m. tipoff will be nationally televised on ESPN with the networkâ€™s top announcing team of Dan Shulman and Dick Vitale on the call.
Additionally, College GameDay will originate from PNC Arena the morning of the game. Over 7,000 State students requested tickets for the game, with nearly half of them coming away empty handed.
â€œIt should be a lot of fun,â€ Wolfpack head coach Mark Gottfried said Wednesday during his weekly radio show. â€œItâ€™s great exposure for our team, our fans and N.C. State University.â€
Gottfried insists that prior meetings will not play a part in Saturdayâ€™s game plan.
â€œIâ€™ve watched them play this year,â€ Gottfried said on his show. â€œTheyâ€™re a different team, and Iâ€™m not going to base it off of previous games.â€
Additionally, Gottfried isnâ€™t letting the magnitude of the game get into his head. He is approaching it just like any other ACC game, despite the extensive TV coverage and monumental amount of anticipation on the N.C. State campus.
â€œTheyâ€™re all big,â€ Gottfried said towards the end of his show. â€œYou always find the things that will motivate your guys. Our guys will be excited about it.â€
Nolan Evans (technicianonline.com)
College Gameday visits Raleigh
This marks the first time that College Gameday has made a visit to Raleigh for an N.C. State basketball game. The announcement was made in early August amidst a mass of preseason hype surrounding N.C. State and UNC, who were both top 15-ranked teams in the preseason.
The show will take place between 9 a.m. and 12 p.m. at PNC Arena. For the first hour, SportsCenter will air on ESPN and will do occasional look-ins at the College GameDay set. The second hour will air live on ESPNU while the third hour will air on ESPN.
The first 250 students in line for College GameDay will receive a wristband directly behind the show stage with additional seating in the arena available for other fans. Upon arrival, students must check in at the marketing table outside of the east entrance. Wristbands will be distributed starting at 7 a.m. with the doors opening at 8:30 a.m.
There will be a number of giveaways and promotions throughout the course of the event provided by College GameDay and State Farm. The first 2,000 fans will receive free doughnuts prior to entering the arena. T-shirts and other prizes will also be given out during College GameDay. Additionally, one randomly selected student will receive an opportunity to win $18,000 in an on-court promotion.
NOTES AND OPINION: On the Upcoming NC State vs. UNC Game
-NC State will have had 3 full days to prepare for the Heels. They better be focusing on defense and rebounding because, once again, thatâ€™s what this game is going to come down to. Carolina is the best rebounding team in the nation and NC State struggles in this category, aside from Richard Howell, who is a human vacuum on the boards.
UNC has struggled when teams get physical with them. Theyâ€™re soft (aside from PJ Hairston and at times, Reggie Bullock), so bodying them up will be essential. Marcus Paige isnâ€™t really the playmaker that the Heels envisioned (yet), but heâ€™s playing well and within the offense. Brown will have the ability to really frustrate him if he would finally decide to stop gambling on steals and start getting serious about staying between is man and the basket.
– The good news is that Dexter Strickland will be playing. Dex has some business to take care of down in Raleigh. Remember in preseason when he said this:
â€œThey talk (NC State) up every single year and we beat them every single year,â€ Strickland said. â€œThey are the least of our worries. Beat us one year and then they can talk smack. Until then, you canâ€™t put them in the mix.â€
Well, Mr. Strickland, hopefully on Saturday NC State is not the least of your worries, because if they are, then you can go ahead and put them in â€˜the mixâ€™, because itâ€™s going to take a very good game from UNC to beat the Pack.
Joe Ovies (WRALSportsfan.com)
Talking points: NC State can’t figure itself out
1. Does anyone understand this NC State team? Heck, does the team fully understand what it’s capable of accomplishing this season?
As we get further away from the win over Duke, it looks more like a classic case of NC State playing up to the moment. Maintaining a proper level of focus and effort for a much-hyped rivalry game is easy, but the Wolfpack continue to repeat the mistakes of teams that came before them when it comes to dispatching opponents of lesser stature.
“Same ol’ NC State,” folks will say. Can’t really blame them for feeling that way.
The Wolfpack should’ve wiped Wake Forest off the floor Wednesday night for reasons that should be obvious. But NC State provided yet another frustrating experience for themselves, their coaching staff and their fans instead.
2. Let’s be blunt, shall we? College basketball officiating lacks an acceptable level of consistency, so tempo ends up being a guessing game on a nightly basis. While the focus in the Triangle is and always will be on issues related to the ACC, questionable officiating isn’t isolated to this conference. There are bad calls everywhere, and fans are well within their rights to gripe endlessly about borderline calls that didn’t go their way.
That being said, the amount of energy wasted on referees by NC State fans is rather comical at this point. Wolfpack fans should be more upset with their own team for what happened against Wake Forest than with a bunch of guys in stripes. It was NC State that committed dumb fouls, coughed up untimely turnovers, allowed Wake Forest to go on runs of 14-4 and 12-0 in the second half and missed crucial free throws.
Jonathan Stout (technicianonline.com)
Gottfried era: A success… so far
Last season, menâ€™s basketball reached the NCAA tournament in a head coachâ€™s first season leading the Pack -â€” something that had not been accomplished since the Les Robinson era at N.C. State.
Head coach Mark Gottfriedâ€™s squad finished 24-13 overall, 9-7 in the Atlantic Coast Conference last season. The Pack reached the NCAA tournament and advanced to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2005. The program hasnâ€™t finished with 24 or more wins since legendary former head coach Jim Valvanoâ€™s 1987-88 team, which finished 24-8, 10-4 in the ACC and reached the first round of the NCAA tournament. Last yearâ€™s Sweet 16 run was the programs first since 2005, under former head coach Herb Sendek.
Thus far, Gottfried has amassed a 39-16 record. In Gottfriedâ€™s first year and a half in charge, he has already totaled more wins than the two previous menâ€™s basketball coaches in their first two years leading the Pack.
Former head coach Sidney Lowe, who took over in the 2006-07 season, finished with a 35-32 record in his first two campaigns. Loweâ€™s overall record stands at 86-78.
Loweâ€™s predecessor was Herb Sendek, currently the head coach at Arizona State University. In his first two seasons at N.C. State, Sendek compiled a 34-30 record. Much like Gottfried in 2013, Sendek knocked off Duke in 2004 at a time when Duke was ranked No. 1 in the nation. Sendek was named ACC Coach of the Year in 2004.
Neither Lowe nor Sendek reached the NCAA tournament in their first two seasons. Of the two coaches, only Lowe led a team to a 20-win season in his first two years, his first season going 20-16, 5-11 in the ACC.
Nolan Evans (technicianonline.com)
Thomas de Thaey: easily forgotten
In my mind, the answer became clear.
De Thaey quit the team earlier this season to return to Belgium, reportedly to be close to his ailing father and pursue a career in professional basketball.
The same Thomas de Thaey who only played 27 minutes this season in the Wolfpackâ€™s first five games. The same Thomas de Thaey who saw action in just 19 games as a freshman, averaging 5.6 minutes per game.
Now, admittedly, it is highly speculative, but it is peculiar that he would leave State at the drop of a dime and, when the chance came, publicly criticize Gottfried.
If I had to guess, there was probably something going on behind the scenes between the two prior to his departure, which many had inferred from his Twitter account in the days before announcing he would leave.
Given that bit of speculation, it would seem De Thaey is merely taking an opportunity to blast a head coach who wouldnâ€™t give him the playing time he thought he deserved.
He wants Gottfried and the rest of the world to believe that the Packâ€™s problems are centralized on the fact that he is no longer on the bench because coach wouldnâ€™t put him in the game.
I could be wrong, but it makes sense when you look at the remaining circumstances.
It appears to me De Thaey is just a sour apple looking to get a little piece of revenge on his old coach. Warren and Lewisâ€™ father acted rashly, but so do a lot of frustrated individuals. I am no exception to the rule.
At the end of the day, this story will subside and cooler heads will prevail.
Iâ€™m willing to bet that by the end of the season, this story will all be forgotten.
And so will Thomas de Thaey.
Brett Friedlander (starnewsonline.com)
Knee healed, UNCâ€™s McDonald must now sit because of academics
â€œLeslie did not do what we expect of our student-athletes and therefore is not going to play in the next three games,â€ Roy Williams said. â€œHis knee has improved and he would have been medically able to return this week, but he wonâ€™t dress for Georgia Tech, N.C. State and Boston College.
â€œIâ€™m disappointed for him and our team because he worked so hard to get back from his knee injury and has been a valuable contributor for us this season. Heâ€™s a good kid and we look forward to his return.â€
Bret Strelow (FayObserver.com)
Dexter Strickland hopes he gets a “standing ovation” from N.C. State fans
You expecting a warm reception over in Raleigh on Saturday?
â€œOh, man, they’re going to love me,â€ Strickland said with a laugh. â€œI hope I get a standing ovation over there.â€
Strickland, who called N.C. State â€œthe least of our worriesâ€ during the preseason, will help lead UNC (13-5, 3-2) into PNC Arena to face the 18th-ranked Wolfpack (15-4, 4-2). The Tar Heels are currently part of a four-way tie for third place in the league, a half-game behind N.C. State, the preseason pick to win the ACC.
â€œItâ€™s going to be a great game,â€ Strickland said. â€œAll the trash talking earlier, people on Twitter have been hitting me up, saying they canâ€™t wait till I get there. Theyâ€™re so focused on me, they donâ€™t even know about the whole team. Itâ€™s going to be a great game, so Iâ€™m looking forward to it.â€
N.C. Stateâ€™s four returning starters were each asked Thursday about Stricklandâ€™s comments, and none of them reacted with much emotion.
â€œHe has his reasons why he’s saying that,â€ said point guard Lorenzo Brown, who could be guarded by Strickland. â€œWe haven’t beaten them. It’s a new year. We’ll see.â€
“He can talk,” Richard Howell said. “If thatâ€™s what they want to do, if thatâ€™s their game, if thatâ€™s how they want to approach it, thatâ€™s fine, but weâ€™re going to go out and weâ€™re going to hoop.”
Jeff Gravley (WRALSportsfan.com)
Trying to figure out ACC basketball
State was the preseason pick to win the ACC with the preseason player (CJ Leslie) and freshman of the year (Rodney Purvis). They certainly have the talent to win the league but there are a puzzling team. When engaged, they are fantastic but there are too many times when defensively they just look disinterested. Road losses at Maryland and Wake Forest have the 4-2 Wolfpack still in the strike zone. But if they can’t win AT Maryland and Wake, how will they fare at North Carolina, Duke, Virginia and Florida State? The good news for Pack fans, they play Miami one time this year and it’s at home on February 2. But first, they have that little get together on Saturday. ESPN’s Game Day crew is in town and so is North Carolina, a team that has beaten the Wolfpack 13 straight times. “Ten hut!!!”
Early on Tar Heel Coach Roy WIlliams couldn’t get what they worked on in practice to translate into the game. That is changing. It sure looks like Carolina is becoming more and more stable on the basketball court. After an 0-2 start in league play, the Heels reeled off 3 in a row and are not tied with Duke for third in the ACC. Reggie Bullock and James Michael McAdoo are playing like they were expected to play. PJ Hairston has been a big boost off the bench. Another major reason for improvement for the Tar Heels is the play of their freshmen and the defining of their roles. Defend and rebound for Joel James and Brice Johnson. Create problems with your athleticism for JP Tokoto. Point guard Marcus Paige is finding his comfort zone handing out 21 assists in the last 4 games with 11 turnovers. He is learning when and where to feed his teammates for easy buckets.
NC STATE FOOTBALL
Brett Friedlander (starnewsonline.com)
Once-highly ranked WR prospect Flowers leaving Wolfpack
Wide receiver Hakeem Flowers was considered a major recruiting victory for N.C. State when he signed with the Wolfpack in 2011. But after two unproductive seasons, the Greenville, S.C. native has decided to leave the program.
There is no word yet as to where he plans to transfer.
Flowers, who redshirted his first season at State, did not make a catch while playing in nine games this season. He did not accompany the team to Nashville for its Music City Bowl game against Vanderbilt last month.