Hoops Exams Are Coming Soon for the Wolfpack Team

As anyone who’s ever attended NC State can tell you, this week is the least wonderous time of the year: it’s the heart of exams for the students, a time that means late nights studying, tense hours in the classroom for even the best prepared, and the final sprint to the finish of fall semester.

State’s basketball players are in the middle of that, just like all the other students are at the moment, but for the Pack’s cagers, they have exams after their fall finals are done: after the annual return to Reynolds Coliseum and a game against Detroit, they have a tough three game stretch that will test their basketball mettle.

utFirst up is a road trip to Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville to face the Tennessee Volunteers (currently 6-2, RPI #114) and a game that the Pack would love to have a victory from to flesh out their season’s resume.  The Vols are called one of the ten most underrated teams in the country by ESPN, but like the Pack, they are stitching their team together with a mix of new faces and old hands: Jeronne Maymon missed last season with a knee injury, Antonio Barton transferred from Memphis and three freshmen arrived, and while they are not yet formidable, they will be a challenge to a young Wolfpack team, especially one that features as many young players as this year’s addition.  Win or loss, the dose of road medicine will probably pay dividends down the road in conference play, but you can be sure Mark Gottfried and his staff would love for it to pay off on December 18th.

ecu logoAfter that, State returns to the friendly confines of the PNC Arena for a matchup with East Carolina, and this is a game that has danger written all over it…for the Wolfpack.  East Carolina is currently 8-2, ranked 40th in the country in scoring, and are ranked #221 in RPI, but make no mistake — the Pirates went to Cameron Indoor Stadium and gave Duke all they wanted on November 19th before falling 83-74.  While State’s fans hardly give ECU basketball a second thought regarding any rivalry, the Pirates and their fans would love to take home a win from the PNC Arena, and they will come ready to play, and you can bet too that their fans will show up in good numbers as well.  No doubt the coaches are aware of this potential trap game, and will have their charges ready for what the Pirates bring, but the young Pack had better be ready or another unexpected in-state loss could easily happen on December 21st.

missouri logoFinally, to round out the tough stretch of three games, the nationally ranked Missouri Tigers will pay a visit to Raleigh to present perhaps the most formidable challenge to the Pack since they played (and lost to) Cincinnati.  Mizzou just upset the then-#17 UCLA Bruins, and are currently undefeated at 9-0.  That victory at home got them into the Top 25 this week, and the SEC school will come to Raleigh expecting victory.  The Wolfpack will have its hands full and will need its best effort of the pre-conference schedule — Mizzou has an OOC unbeaten streak currently standing at 79 games.  In their win against UCLA, Jabari Brown, Jordan Clarkson and Earnest Ross each scored at least 20 points.  Ross is a native of Cary, and you can bet he will want to come home and put on a show.  Clarkson, their 6-5 point guard, is this week’s SEC player of the week following his 23-point, 5 rebound, 5 assist and 2 steals performance against UCLA, and will be a serious matchup for freshman player Cat Barber.

Speaking of Barber, he is quickly turning into the straw that stirs the Wolfpack’s drink and he is probably the one player that propelled the Wolfpack to a grinding victory against Long Beach State last weekend.  While other players were getting the points and making the highlight reels, it was Barber’s defense that put sand in The Beach’s gears by slowing down Mike Caffey and not letting him completely take over the game.  Mark Gottfried agrees, remarking post-game that is what kept Cat on the court than anything was his defense on Caffey. “n the halfcourt sets I thought Cat did a great job of defending him.”  In all three of the Pack’s December “Exam Period” Barber will have to bring that defensive mind-set, as well as improving on it and his offensive skills at breaking down opposition defenses with the ball.  So far, Barber has done well on his learning curve, and while there are undoubtedly some bumps in the road to come for him, the freshman point guard is quickly becoming a mainstay in the Wolfpack backcourt.

The other freshman – Freeman, Washington and Beejay Anya – will also have important roles to play, even if in some cases their minutes are limited.  Mark Gottfried is already starting to narrow his rotation a bit as the season progresses, giving more to Freeman, but for guys like Kyle Washington, the minutes they get will be minutes that will have to have meaning if the Pack is to emerge from this tough stretch with wins in their pockets.  Good play from the young forwards will be necessary to spell the starters, fill in if the top rotation players get in foul trouble, and to change the pace of the game when necessary.  While a player like T.J. Warren is vital to the Pack’s hopes, he can’t play every minute of every game, especially if he is to be effective in close contests when the clock is melting and the Wolfpack absolutely, positively needs a bucket.  The good news is that even that they are inexperienced and in many ways unpolished weapons, to a man they have solid skills.  Freeman is especially playing well, but don’t be too surprised if Washington comes in and does some good things.

Jordan+VandenbergYou may as well call Jordan Vandenberg a freshman in many ways when you get right down to it — the former pine-riding reserve has been thrust literally into a central role for the Wolfpack this season, and with it, a lot of the hopes and dreams of the team are on his 7-1″ frame as well.  Vandy puts the Pack’s players in the right spots — for example, his presence on the floor allows T.J. Warren and Lennard Freeman to patrol the paint more freely, and on defense, the 245-odd pound Australian is not a player that many players can just blow by and lay in an easy bucket.  Truthfully told, State will go as far as the Vandwagon will take them, and the self-effacing center seems to know it.   He was almost apologetic at times looking at Mark Gottfried during the Long Beach State game after making a mistake or a silly foul He is playing hard, is effective and he seems to be taking his improvement very seriously.

Jordan Vandenberg ?@jpv14wolfpack 7 Dec

Haha people acting like its the end of my career already … It’s okay though … #staytuned

Who knows?  With his size, effort and defensive skills, Vandy may end up in Europe next year, playing hoops for a living.  That’s a long way from the end of the NC State bench a couple of years ago, and this year, and in the next two weeks, the Wolfpack really needs the big guy to come up…well, big.  Right now, to say that he’s exceeded expectations would be an understatement of gigantic proportions, but as time goes by and the games get bigger, Vandy will need to step up his game even a little bit more.  It looks like he’s capable of doing just that, and it would not at all be a surprise any more if he did.  Without a doubt, he’s the most improved player in the ACC so far this year.

Beejay Anya, despite his conditioning issues, is a player with skills as well, and he is a guy that can steal minutes when it’s what’s needed.  Not many players that are recruited to the D1 level from DeMatha aren’t good players, and NC State has a long and storied list of DeMatha alumni who’ve played vital roles for the team.  That may be in Bejjay Anya’s future, but as he works and improves his college ball physique, he’ll be a spot player, but again, a spot player who’s not a terrific liability that has to be hidden and protected at all costs.

In the backcourt, it would also be helpful if Desmond Lee can continue his effective play, and it would be a stellar bonus if Raulston Turner could find his promised magical touch from beyond the three point arc.  Tyler Lewis will also be needed, one for a change of pace from Barber, and two, to bring his experience to the game in times that its needed.  Lewis can be a calming influence on a freshman-laden team, and he is money from the free throw line when he gets shots from the charity stripe.  While Barber is certainly cementing his role as the Pack’s starting point guard, Lewis is still a valuable player and one from who good play is needed to win games.

All in all, this is a State team that has a chance here to prove itself and to ready itself for the rigors of ACC play that’s just around the corner as soon as the holidays are done.  While it is too early to call them a great team yet, it is a team that is improving, is gaining experience and is a pleasure to watch they start to write the next chapter in Wolfpack basketball.  For starters, they are a team, and they seem to enjoy and revel in each other’s successes.  They play hard on defense too, and that has overcome their offensive shortcomings in some games this year.  They may not be a VCU lockdown team when the other team has the ball, but compared to last year’s Wolfpack, these guys are a breath of fresh air.

With hard work and good luck, perhaps they’ll go into 2014 cresting on a wave of momentum and confidence that they picked up in their next four games.  It’s going to be fun to watch.

13-14 Basketball

Home Forums Hoops Exams Are Coming Soon for the Wolfpack Team

This topic contains 16 replies, has 14 voices, and was last updated by  Dogbreath 3 months, 2 weeks ago.

Viewing 16 posts - 1 through 16 (of 16 total)
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  • #34927

    Dogbreath
    Participant

    Exam week. In Chapel Hill otherwise known as R&R week.

    #34928

    Wulfpack
    Participant

    I have really enjoyed watching this TEAM this year. Barber is an amazing talent, and Vandy has been a pleasant surprised. I am happy to see it. I still don’t expect too much out of this team, but hope to be proven wrong. Right now I see us as NIT material with a small outside chance of an at large bid. But that is why they play the games as they say. Need to try to get at least 2 of these three and hope for a solid run in conference play.

    #34929

    Fastback68
    Participant

    So many interesting members on this team and it must be a challenge for the staff to allocate 200 minutes of playing time per game. I pray Anya has his own biggest loser success story to tell the NCAAT announcers during a March or early April dark horse run. I’m injury gun shy as a State fan and would love Vandy and Anya to divide 40 minutes of effective play each game. I hold my breath every time Vandy jumps. This team deserves an injury free season. Anyway, it’s so refreshing to have so many perimeter and post combinations. Eat freash and stay healthy. Go Pack!!!!

    #34930

    WolfInVolCountry
    Participant

    I have been pleasantly surprised with this team. Not having to deal with all the drama from last year’s failed-potential is refreshing. These guys know that they have to work hard to be anywhere close to post season play. Only lament I have is the “D”. It seems like Gott can’t get that defensive intensity level up, and that will be make-or-break for this team.

    That being said, I will be in Knoxville next week wearing RED and yelling “GO STATE”.

    #34931

    PoppaJohn
    Participant

    Missou may be too much for these guys, but I look forward to the game. That will be a great measure of what to expect night in and out in the league. I agree w/ Wulfpack, we’re probably an NIT team – but like any Pack fan, I’m hoping for more.

    I had them going 9/4 in the preseason, losing to Cincy, LBS, Tenn & Missou. We traded Central for LBS, but otherwise are right on that track. Historically young teams struggle on the road – I would love to pick up that Tenn game to start our league play with a road win under out belts. They beat Wake, so won’t be easy.

    ECU looks scary, they’ve only lost to UNC-W and Duke and had Duke on the ropes until late. One of those lose/lose games we get no credit for winning, and a black eye for losing.

    #34932

    JasonP
    Participant

    Great write up. Love the Vols’ logo with the coon hound on it. Nothing says “Tennessee” quite like a hound dog.

    All 3 of those games are tough and I’d love to see the team come out 2-1 in that stretch. Not going to be easy, but should be excellent primer for going into league play.

    #34933

    Blackfish
    Participant

    Cat Barber, may be the best talent we have seen in twenty five years, State has been a part of my diet for 40 years, and this kid is the real deal, every year I sit and watch as Duke and UNC seem to have a player who appears out of no where with all the skillset needed to run a team.

    It would appear this year that we have found ourselves a basketball player.

    Oh boy would I like to see Freeman get more minutes he looks like a man with something to prove and at his age he could develop quickly playing against better talent…

    Im more impressed with this team than last years ,win or lose these guys resemble a develloping team, I predict a good run through the conference with some suprising upset. maybe 50% win ratio in league play, and a whole lot of nail biters for opposing dominant teams.

    #34934

    Texpack
    Participant

    It will boil down to two numbers for this team. 3 point shooting percentage and defensive rebounding percentage.

    I posted earlier that Washington, Freeman, and Anya will be the best three man inside rotation in the country when they are juniors. These guys all have a lot of upside, a solid work ethic, and good basketball sense on the floor.

    Our performance level so far suggests that there will be 4-5 one possession games that will determine our NIT/NCAA fate.

    #34935

    PoppaJohn
    Participant

    Every game I get more excited about this team, and then I read something like this to bring me back down to earth. Not saying he’s totally right, but it’s still early and we did lose to Central. And I predict a rough couple of weeks coming up after exams.

    Quote from SI’s Seth Davis …
    “If you’re making a list of good players on bad teams, make sure you include N.C. State sophomore forward T.J. Warren. He is averaging 23 points and 7 rebounds; once his three-point shooting kicks in, he’ll be unstoppable.”

    Read More: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/college-basketball/news/20131209/john-beilein-michigan-big-ten-mitch-mcgary-hoop-thoughts/#ixzz2n68oyJqA

    #34936

    PackerInRussia
    Participant

    “I hold my breath every time Vandy jumps.”

    Well, at least you don’t have to hold it for very long.

    Alpha, I agree completely about the “team” aspect. As I was watching the game against the Beach the other day, I was thinking about how much more enjoyable it is to watch this group play together.

    #34937

    PoppaJohn
    Participant

    “Well, at least you don’t have to hold it for very long”

    Hilarous … but true

    #34938

    maverick_ncsu
    Participant

    ^ +1. Thanks for the laugh on a very slow Tuesday.

    #34939

    choppack1
    Participant

    Texpack – I agree with you on the keys..I have every impressed with barber

    #34940

    MrPlywood
    Participant

    Vandy’s performance in the LB game was pretty much what I expected from him this season – few points but a presence on D and rebounding. The other higher scoring games have been gravy. His early season results seem to have inspired him to work even harder, which is great, and having his teammates acknowledge his efforts by feeding him for slams has been fun to watch. Here’s to more improvement across the board.

    i’m on the #vandwagon

    #34941

    Alpha Wolf
    Keymaster

    SI’s Seth Davis …
    “If you’re making a list of good players on bad teams, make sure you include N.C. State sophomore forward T.J. Warren.”

    But are they a bad team? I’m not convinced of that. What I am convinced of is what I have seen: an inexperienced but talented group that can be very good especially as they get more experience.

    Will they lose a few ‘WTF’ games this year? Undoubtedly. But will they surprise at times, and can they play over their heads and take down a more heralded team? Absolutely.

    This is a work in progress, and the best sign is that they are hanging together and playing with intensity and purpose. A guy like Seth Davis, someone who rarely likes to say good things about NC State in the first place, won’t see that because he doesn’t watch them since they aren’t a top 25 team.

    I say wait and see, and watch this group brew into a potent force. They’re getting better on defense and from that will come good things.

    #34942

    Rochester
    Participant

    Seth Davis is a douche and has always been a douche and will always be a douche. We might not yet be a good team, but we are definitely not a bad team. There’s a significant difference between bad and inexperienced. I see signs already that we’re improving, and there’s a long way to go.

    The Central loss hurts our resume, but things have changed significantly since that game. For one, having Vandy back makes a big difference. For another, that game seems to have triggered a change in roles for several players. Barber goes into the starting lineup. No more two-PG lineups (or at least very minimal). Turner moves from starter to reserve (essentially in favor of Vandenberg). And Anya moves to the bench. Better defense and no one is playing out of position anymore.

    I love Tyler Lewis, but the team is clearly better with Barber running things right now. Against a team with a more heady than quick PG, Lewis’ defensive shortcomings might not hurt. But he’s just not capable of stopping a quick PG who can drive right by him. (For example, Barber.)

    So, yeah, Seth Douchevis can look at the loss to Central and toss us in the “bad” team pile, but there’s so much more to the story.

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