This afternoon at 12pm (RSN) the Pirates (who are afraid of everything, Buckets, Vandwagon, Wicker furniture) will be coming to Raleigh to battle the freshly tested Wolfpack of NC State. Last time out for both squads the Pack were able to secure a big resume building victory at Tennessee while the Pie-rats finished a track-meet with VMI and came away with a 103-94 victory. NC State is 19-1 against ECU, with the lone loss coming on Dec. 8, 2007 in the Pack’s only visit to Greenville, NC. I’m still wondering if that was all just a bad dream and one day I’ll wake up and Bobby (Ewing) will still be alive. The last time I saw the Pack live was that game in Greenville and now my next game will be this one in Raleigh. Here’s to a different ending.
ECU is another rebuilding team who lost 4 starters from last year’s squad, 6 players total, one of which transferred to Georgia Tech. On top of all the graduation ECU’s lone big man this year, 6-10 SO, Marshall Guilmette, is lost for the season due to a knee injury. Guilmette, through 5 games, was performing very well and provided a low post presence for the Pirates even if his numbers weren’t jaw dropping. Now Head Coach Jeff Lebo is down to a seven man rotation with his tallest player at 6-8.
The Pirates are an uptempo team with an efficient offense. They shoot the ball well, especially from Three Land, are good at getting to the line and hitting their FT’s. They are also pretty good at defending the 3, steals, and not sending their opponent to the line – which is a good thing since they are almost as bad as the Pack at defending FT’s.
I think it’s time to put in the Big Guy.
Things ECU is bad at: defensive rebounding, blocking shots, and 2FG defense…you just know Buckets was seeing put-backs in his dreams last night…all of which leads to a bad defensive efficiency. Most of their problems on defense likely stem from the complete lack of size under the basket.
- #1 Akeem Richmond (6-0, 180, SR) Guard – Richmond hasn’t met a 3pt shot he hasn’t liked. Of the 147 FGA’s this season, only 16 have been inside the arc (49-131 3FG). He also get’s to the FT line and knocks them down (.867). Since he’s taking 26% of ECU’s shot and those are basically 3′s every time, and still he’s sporting an ORating of 124, then there’s really no point in falling for any fakes towards the basket. There also, is without a doubt, no need to go under a ball screen fellas.
- #22 Paris Campbell (6-3, 185, JR) Guard – Campbell is the lone returning starter from last year’s 23 win team. Even though Campbell has increased his possessions by 7.5% and taking nearly 9% more of ECU’s shots, this not only hasn’t slowed him down but he’s increased his ORating by 18.5 (122.7). There isn’t much Paris hasn’t done well this year and while Richmond is a (good) one trick pony around the arc, Campbell is who we should be more worried about.
- #2 Caleb White (6-6, 190, FR) Guard – White is playing great as a freshman, ORating of 126.4, 66% eFG, while only taking up 17% of the team’s possessions. He’s playing his role and doing it well, though he does seem to get into foul trouble each game.
I’ll be honest, I have no idea which of these remaining four guys will get the start since Lebo constantly shifts them so I’m just going to group them all together.
- #4 Prince Williams (6-5, 200, SO) Guard, #34 Michael Zangari (6-9, 230, SO) Forward, #25 Brandon Stith (6-7, 215, FR) Forward, #11 Antonio Robinson (6-4, 175, JR)
Of the group Stith is playing the best, he’s rebounding (especially offensive), he’s blocking, he’s shooting well, he’s just not hitting his FT’s very well. Zangari playing almost as well as Stith, just not blocking the ball like him or rebounding as well. Both the player formerly known as Prince and Robinson are great at dishing the ball, the problem is they have a tendency to dish it to both teams equally. One note about Williams is he’s taken 71 FTAs (.775) and 71 2FGAs (.493).
Richmond, Campbell, White, Stith, and Robinson all have a positive Roland Rating, while Williams and Zangari each have a negative RR.
Will NC State be able to take advantage of a clear low post height advantage or will early foul trouble plague the Pack and negate our strength in the paint? Will the Pack get caught in the classic trap game after it’s win in Knoxville and the high profile home game against Missouri next week, against an opponent who considers this their Final Four? Or will the Pack continue to make strides in improvement and not only focus on their current opponent and win but not get distracted if they get a big lead and let it slip away just to keep us watching?
KenPom likes the Pack by 11.