Our beloved Wolfpack and Frank Haith’s Missouri Tigers of the ‘Show Me State’ tangle tonight in a huge out of conference affair at 8:00 on ESPN2. Haith doesn’t have much of a bench, playing just 7 guys in the regular rotation but those that are playing are pretty dang good. On Offense they are pretty good at everything except they have a tendency to turn the ball over. On Defense it’s the same story, pretty good or great at everything except forcing turnovers. Missouri enters the contest #25 in the RPI as the Wolfpack is looking to make a move from our current slot around #80.
I don’t have the time to do my typical in depth analysis, so I’ve included a quick overview below. Additionally, you can click here
Missouri’s early season schedule was a smorgasbord of cupcakes in November but it has toughen up over the past month. North Carolina State will be the 4th BCS conference school Missouri has played in their last 5 outings. The Wolfpack have 9 wins but their schedule wouldn’t scare too many teams, either. Only Cincinnati and Tennessee come from major basketball conferences, and North Carolina State lost to the Bearcats.
The Tigers are led in scoring by Jordan Clarkson, who drops in 19.9 points a game. Jabari Brown adds 18.2 per contest, and Earnest Ross pitches in with 14.1. The Tigers have a pretty fearsome threesome when it comes to scoring but they get little help from the rest of the roster. Missouri averages 78 points a game, and these three account for 52 of those points.
Clarkson can dish out passes to his teammates too. He lead the team with 4.3 assists a game, while Jonathan Williams, III tops the team with 8.1 rebounds an outing. Ross has the most steals with 18, and Williams has tallied 17 blocked shots.
#5 Jordan Clarkson (6-5 JR) ORating 121.3, Poss. 29.2%
#32 Jabari Brown (6-5 JR) OR 115.8, Poss. 21.7%
#33 Earnest Ross (6-5 SR) OR 111.7, Poss. 23.5%
#3 Johnathon Williams (6-9 FR) OR 104.9, Poss. 16.5%
#1 Wes Clark (6-0 FR) OR 101.8, Poss. 17.4%
#2 Tony Criswell (6-9 SR) OR 112.8, Poss. 16.6%
#44 Ryan Rosburg (6-10 SO) OR 123.4, Poss. 12.2%
Clarkson, Brown, and Ross are the do everything trio on the team. They shoot the ball well everywhere on the court and are great at not only staying out of foul trouble but drawing tons of fouls. This is going to be a huge barometer of where the Wolfpack’s DEFENSE has evolved. The challenge of guarding three superstars on the perimeter has not been a recipe for success for Gottfried coached teams in the past; andState doesn’t have the requisite depth to withstand much foul trouble in the backcourt.
KenPom likes the Pack by 2. It should be a great game. If the Pack can stay out of foul trouble I think we have a chance in this one.
NC State has been getting some (appropriate) attention from ESPN this week. Andy Katz wrote this piece publicly validating the point that NC State’s early season losses should be discounted because of the absence/injury of Jordan Vandenberg.
The excuses early in the season for NC State are now legitimate.
The results back up the reasoning.
The Wolfpack weren’t whole. They were out of sync. And they played two teams — albeit at different levels — that were primed to take down a lost squad. Cincinnati was no slouch and will chase an NCAA bid out of the American. North Carolina Central will be a player in the MEAC, and has a scorer in Jeremy Ingram (29 versus the Wolfpack) and the ability to get to the line (41 out of 45 against State) that will help it in late February.
Jordan Vandenberg was out with an ankle sprain for the first four games — these two losses included — which forced the Wolfpack to play forwards out of position.
Now, it’s suddenly time to take NC State seriously again — for a possible run toward an NCAA berth.
NC State plays No. 25 Missouri on Saturday in Raleigh (8 p.m. ET, ESPN2) with a chance to help the ACC after some disappointing nonconference games by its non-brand-name schools. The contest can also help NC State start to become a player in the league. The Wolfpack open conference play against beatable ACC newcomer Pitt, then visit a Notre Dame team that will have to reinvent itself after the academic ineligibility of Jerian Grant — meaning NC State has a real shot to begin the conference slate an impressive 2-0.
If you want more about the game from the Missouri point of view then you can click here for some comments from Frank Haith this week.
On why playing N.C. State was a good nonconference series for Missouri …
“It’s back where my roots are at, and … growing up in North Carolina with the ACC, I know the tradition with the ACC in basketball, and obviously, N.C. State is a program — I probably was a fan of all three teams at one point. Never Wake Forest probably but Duke, Carolina and N.C. State at some point in time during my childhood. I got into many, many fights with whatever team you were pulling for and all that stuff during my childhood. But I think for us, you’re looking to have quality games on your schedule, and we felt like this would be a really good quality game to start a home-and-home series with, as we did with UCLA, as we’re going to do with Arizona, as we’re doing with N.C. State. We’re not going to be shying away from playing those types of games because I think it’s good for us to get us ready for conference play, to play a game like this. This game will be very similar to what we’re going to play in the SEC against a good, high-level team back that way, so I think it’s a barometer to see where we’re at but also to get us ready for what we’re going to face here next month.”
On how much different N.C. State looks during its seven-game winning streak after Nov. 20 loss to North Carolina Central …
“First of all, Vandenberg didn’t play, and he’s one of their better players. He is a presence, and he didn’t play in that game, and they had some young guys and junior college transfers and some new players, and obviously, it takes time to get your feet underneath you. They had some more games after that, and I don’t look at that game as much as on the road at Tennessee. That’s what I look at. Going in there, they had Tennessee down 17 at the half, and Vandenberg is back and now they’re at full strength. You look at their team, and (Anthony) ‘Cat’ Barber, a freshman point guard, he’s played all these games, gotten all these games under his belt. And he was one of the best point guards in the country, so now he’s playing at a high level. Desmond Lee was a junior college kid. Now he’s playing better. You see them getting better because they’ve got all these parts that are new and different. I’m not as worried looking at that game, the North Carolina Central game, as looking at what they’ve done the last couple games and how they’ve played.”
On if the ACC roots on his coaching staff is helpful when preparing team to play at N.C. State …
“I think they all know what we’re about to go into because they’ve all been there. Tim being at Wake Forest, Dave obviously coaching at Virginia and Mark obviously coaching there at N.C. State, we’ve all been in that building and know what it’s like, the kind of environment we’re going to be faced against and the kind of energy and the kind of talent. So yeah, from our standpoint as a coaching staff, the fact that we all have those kind of roots, we all understand what kind of game it’s going to be, and getting our guys ready, helping them understand it is going to be a big part of it. They will have as much emotion and energy in that building as we’ll be faced with all year.”
Elsewhere, a couple of media outlets have chosen to focus on the strong play of a couple of the Wolfpack’s top payers this year. First, Rush The Court had a fantastic feature on “The emergence of TJ Warren”
Last season Warren was known for his other-worldly efficiency, pouring in 12.1 PPG on a remarkable 62.2% shooting and cementing his status as a player to keep an eye on. A popular misconception after the departures of the talented triumvirate was that N.C. State and Warren would struggle because of a lack of offensive options and overall experience and cohesion. That has not been the case, as N.C. State has cruised to a 8-2 record, beating Florida Gulf Coast, Northwestern, and most recently, Tennessee in solid wins. While their schedule has not been particularly strong, they look to be a force to be reckoned with in a weaker-than-expected ACC. They are now circled on teams’ calendars as a dangerous foe in ACC play, because when you have an elite scorer such as Warren to defend, there is no telling what kind of damage he can do.
Through 10 games this season, Warren is averaging a ridiculous 23.1 PPG and 7.2 RPG, demonstrating he can get to the line more often than last year and handle twice the shot attempts without losing much of his trademark efficiency. His game is well regarded by the advanced metrics crowd, as noted guru Ken Pomeroy has Warren as his eighth-ranked offensive player in the nation, with a 121.2 Offensive Rating. Statistics aside, even the untrained eye can see Warren is operating on a different level from most players and that brings up a particularly logical area for discussion.
Secondly, the News & Observer had an article this morning that “Lennard Freeman quietly contributes to Pack’s winning ways”
Lennard Freeman committed to N.C. State late and has done more early in his career than most people thought was possible.
The freshman forward has started eight of 11 games and averages 7.2 rebounds, good for second on the team and 10th in the ACC.
Not bad for a recruiting postscript who has been a selfless role player for the Wolfpack (9-2), which will host No. 25 Missouri (10-1) Saturday night.
Freeman is not interested in credit for the toughness and hustle he has injected into the program, which had a shortage of both last season.
He doesn’t want personal redemption stories about being overlooked and underrated on the recruiting trail, either. It’s just not how he’s wired.
“I want to win,” Freeman said. “If I have to sit on the bench and we win, I’m happy. As long as we win, I’m happy.”
Freeman, 6-foot-8 and 245 pounds, has been happy lately. The Wolfpack has won seven straight and Freeman has seen his rebounding average rise from 5.5 to 8.1 during the streak.
Of all the players who have benefited from senior forward Jordan Vandenberg’s return from an ankle injury, Freeman perhaps has the most. That’s not by accident, N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried said.