March 14, 2012
Today’s Daily Webrun for Wolfpackers
NC STATE BASKETBALL
JP GIGLIO (N&O)
Wolfpack enjoying NCAA tournament moment, but wary of Aztecs
There’s a dental-floss-thin line N.C. State’s trying to walk between soaking in all of the attention coming its way since Sunday’s NCAA tournament selection show and not letting it get to heads.
The video of N.C. State’s reaction to getting into the NCAA tournament, complete with a Whitney Houston soundtrack, has gone viral.
Several of coach Mark Gottfried’s former colleagues at ESPN are picking the Wolfpack to beat San Diego State on Friday and make a run in the NCAA tournament.
Even Las Vegas oddsmakers have taken notice, installing the Wolfpack, the No. 11 seed in the Midwest Regional, as a 2-point favorite over the sixth-seeded Aztecs in Friday’s second-round matchup in Columbus, Ohio (12:40 p.m., truTV).
Guard Alex Johnson became the unwitting star of the reaction video for his impromptu dance moves. He has taken some good-natured jabs from his teammates for his dancing, but he had an easy explanation for the outburst.
“We’re going dancing, so why not dance?” Johnson said.
CHIP ALEXANDER (N&O)
NCAA opponent San Diego State praises Wolfpack
San Diego State coach Steve Fisher already appears to have a pretty good handle on N.C. State.
The Aztecs (26-7) will face the Wolfpack on Friday in their NCAA tournament opener, and Fisher said Monday he had watched three full videos and other highlights of the Pack. Then again, asked if the Wolfpack (22-12) reminded him of any team his played this season, Fisher was a bit stumped.
“Good question,” he said during a news conference. “They’ve got size and strength a little like New Mexico. What I worry about is how we will guard them inside, and they go inside a lot.”
Fisher praised Wolfpack forward C.J. Leslie, saying, “He had a not-so-good freshman year but is having an All-American type sophomore year.”
Fisher noted center Richard Howell once was a 300-pounder but now has shed 30 pounds, noting, “He’s a beast inside.”
But it’s the Pack’s transition game that also has the Aztecs’ attention. N.C. State likes to run when it can, and sophomore guard Lorenzo Brown might be playing his best basketball of the season.
Akula Wolf (BackingThePack.com)
Checking In With San Diego State
– SDSU is thankful to be playing Friday rather than Thursday; the Aztecs don’t run much deeper than NC State, and they’re coming off three games in three days just like the Pack.
An extra day is quietly a huge deal for a team that has just nine scholarship players and regularly uses eight, and is coming off three hard games in three days, and has a starting forward playing on one good knee, and essentially has been on the road for two straight weeks, and with the time change is facing a full day’s travel Wednesday to Columbus.
“Any extra time I can get is better, especially after three games in a row,” forward Tim Shelton said. “My knee is not feeling too great today. And in terms of preparation, and our coaches are so good with game planning, any extra time is just going to help us even more.”
By the way, Mr. One Knee (Shelton) is solid role player but not a player who makes or breaks this team.
Akula Wolf (BackingThePack.com)
Here’s Where The Nerves Come In
“They’ve got three big guys who are not just tall, but they’re big and strong and good,” Fisher said. “I worry a little bit about that.”
You’ve got size, and you’ve got players on the team that are big and strong, and you’ve got good players. That’s a triple play.
That’s very kind of you, Coach Fisher. Those terms are all relative of course–sometimes very relative, right DeShawn?–but more or less accurate. And we hope that they can live up to this tremendous billing, and that they might do so in the paint where they can really make a difference, rather than doing so, say, 15 feet from the basket.
It’s going to be interesting for sure. Now that I’ve started to dig into this SDSU team (preview coming Wednesday night or Thursday morning), the Aztecs’ issues inside have become more apparent. But they have done a good job with defensive rebounding all year, and that could be a difference-maker for them.
Jacey Zembal (TheWolfpacker.com)
San Diego State surprising No. 6 seed
Seniors Malcolm Thomas, Billy White and D.J. Gay moved on, and standout sophomore Kawhi Leonard entered the NBA Draft and went No. 15 overall to the Indiana Pacers, who traded him to the San Antonio Spurs.
Junior shooting guard Chase Tapley was the only returning starter and the Aztecs were starting anew. Hall of fame college basketball writer Frank Burlison (@FrankieBur), who is also the dean of West Coast recruiting, said NC State is basically be playing a brand new squad this season.
“When you look at their team, you’ll see kind of unorthodox sizes,” Burlison said. “They fall in line with more mid-major type schools instead of having the traditional 6-10 center, 6-8 power forward, 6-5, shooting guard and 6-3 point guard.
“They have guys that weren’t particularly heavily recruited but are good solid players, and who fit well of the structure of the way Steve Fisher coaches.”
Sophomore forward Jamaal Franklin has been the centerpiece of the reloading job. The 6-foot-5, 195-pounder won Mountain West Conference player of the year after leading the league with 17.2 points to go along with 7.9 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game. He scored a season-high 35 at Texas Christian on March 3 and has developed his three-point shooting to become an inside-outside force.
QUOTES: Mark Gottfried Radio Show
What stood out in the loss to Carolina was the way your team seemed to play after Calvin fouled out. They were done but fought there way back. What does that show?
It shows you how this team has grown up. If you go back to the Stanford game early in December when Calvin left the game with cramps with 10 minutes to go. We had a nine-point lead and didn’t handle it well.
Our team has grown up. They’ve improved, got better, and trust each other more… for the most part executing offense at the right times, key stops, defensive rebounds… Richard Howell made big shots late and Lorenzo made a couple of phenomenal plays for our team.
How important is confidence?
We’ve got to believe we can win. Our team does right now. Our team believes deep down that we can play with anybody in the country.
We’ve looked at Syracuse, Carolina, Duke, Indiana, we looked at Vanderbilt up close who just won the SEC Championship. We’ve got a shot with a minute to go in that game down one that would have put us up two. We miss and they go down and hit a shot to put them up four.
Now, we’ve got to get better…. shoot foul shots better, handle the ball better. Things we can do to improve on.
Thoughts on Lorenzo Brown’s recent play:
Lorenzo, you look at how he played in that tournament. All three games, he was just sensational. Passing the ball, scoring the ball, and Lorenzo’s defense on Harrison Barnes was spectacular… just a great effort by him.
I think he has got a lot better. His presence, his decision making is improving, but more importantly his defense has improved. When you talk about the responsibility of a point guard, you talk about those offensive things but the point guard is the point of your defense, that’s where you defense starts.
That is where he is getting better. He is improving as a defender in a great way. He can guard different sizes, and he did a great job of defending Barnes.
It seems certain guys get into foul trouble. How will you handle that differently going forward?
Probably not a lot [different]. You don’t want your guys to foul, but our rotation and the way we’ve rotated, usually we’ve come out pretty good. If we need to go deeper in our bench we can go to some guys there.
The NCAA tournament is different in that you’re going to look out there and probably see three referees you haven’t seen all year long… [crowd applause] I got a standing ovation for that one.
The interesting thing about that is it’s a new set of eyes. In other words, there is not a preconceived idea that this guy does this or will foul on that play or typically does this, so it’s a different game. You get in the tournament and as officials do well they get to advance just like the teams. You hope you get great officials every game.
Thoughts on San Diego State:
Coach Fisher has done an outstanding job. There was probably a period where in San Diego you probably wouldn’t have known they had a team.
What he has built is phenomenal. They went to the Sweet Sixteen last year and lost four starters, but are right back to being a tournament team. He’s done a great, great job.
They are a team that relies on perimeter players. They play four guards, spread the floor, and get up-and-down… They run. You can’t let them get open shots.
They are not a big team that goes 6’10, 6’10, and 6’9, but they are going to be a difficult team for us to guard.
Calvin is going to have the assignment of guarding the MWC Player of the Year, 6-foot-6 wing player who is really, really good. He averaged about 19 or 20 in his last 15-20 games.
It’s a tough assignment. They are a very good team. It’s going to be a good game.
The Sports Xchange (PackPride.com)
Aztecs Prove Their Worth
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
SCOUTING REPORT: San Diego State doesn’t have a lot of depth or size and often goes with a four-guard lineup with multipurpose threat Jamaal Franklin moving interchangeably between the post and the wing. Franklin leads the team in rebounding (7.9) and center Tim Shelton is a top-flight defender. Point guard Xavier Thames is a solid point guard and guard Chase Tapley is a strong scorer. Guard James Rahon is a streaky outside shooter. Garrett Green and DeShawn Stephens provide frontcourt depth.
– Sophomore G Jamaal Franklin hit a dramatic last-second game-winning shot in a conference-tournament victory over Boise State en route to being a member of the all-tournament team.
– Junior G Chase Tapley scored 62 points in three Mountain West tournament games while earning all-tournament recognition. He ranks 20th in school history with 1,060 points.
– Sophomore PG Xavier Thames shot 90.7 percent from the free throw line during Mountain West conference play.
Gottfried: “It Should Be A Fun Game”
“When they sub they can play a bigger lineup and play [Jamaal Franklin] more at the three. They start the game with him more at the four, I think they feel more comfortable with him at the four because he is a tough matchup. If they can get away with it defensively it really helps them offensively.”
“Teams that have hurt them around the basket have forced them to play big and pushed him to the three. They are a little more traditional then.”
“It’s going to be a number of guys. I think that Calvin can guard him, C.J. Williams. I think the way Lorenzo Brown defended Harrison Barnes at times was very impressive too. Depending upon the other matchups on the floor there could be a time when Lorenzo guards him. It’s going to be by committee.”
“For a guy like Scott Wood it’s a little bit like getting out of jail. He’s free… he can move around. They don’t necessarily know everything we are doing like everybody in our league does, so that is a positive.”
“I’m not worried about C.J. Williams, but he needs to play better. It’s as simple as that… he’s had a lot of good looks lately but they haven’t went down. I do think he’ll play better.”
Bernie Wilson (AP)
No drop-off for Fisher’s Aztecs
This was supposed to be a transition year for San Diego State’s basketball team.
The way most people envisioned it, the Aztecs would bide their time between their Sweet 16 run of 2011 and the arrival of a big recruiting class next season.
That expected drop-off never happened.
Steve Fisher has built the program to the point that not only are the Aztecs back in the NCAA tournament for the third straight year, but they received their first-ever at-large bid. The No. 6 seed in the Midwest, the Aztecs will face North Carolina State on Friday in Columbus, Ohio.
The Aztecs lost four starters, including Kawhi Leonard to the NBA, from the team that went a school-record 34-3 and lost to eventual national champion Connecticut in the regional semifinals last year.
SDSU Men’s Hoops News Conference Quotes
San Diego State Head Coach Steve Fisher
On whether they plan on running with NC State:
“We’ve got to run selectively. We’ve got to run with intelligence. We’ve got to run when opportunity presents itself for a good, easy shot, but we can’t run, run, run, run, run. The most important thing is we’ve got to make sure we don’t have live-ball turnovers, we don’t take quick, bad shots that allows them, with an unbalanced floor, to get out on a run because they are very good in transition.”
On whether the team’s depth will be a factor in the NCAA Tournament as it was in the MW Tournament:
“I don’t want to think it was a factor. We played eight guys. We played three games in three days. It affected Tim (Shelton) more than anybody and he would not want to admit to that. His knees were really bothering him at the end. Now we’ll at least have a day in between. We’re playing a team in North Carolina State, if you look at their minutes played, they play seven guys. In game one, we’re going to play eight guys and their going to play seven guys.”
Senior Forward Tim Shelton
On his knowledge of North Carolina State:
“Generally, that they like to get out and run. They’re a good offensive rebounding team. They have some big, tough players and obviously their confidence is battle-tested as well. I saw a group of guys who are playing their best basketball right now too. They have a lot of momentum going for them and it’s going to be a tough game.”
Sophomore Guard Xavier Thames
On if there is added excitement in playing an ACC team:
“It’s going to be really exciting. They get to play against Duke, North Carolina, Miami, and teams like that. So it’s good. We’ll see if we can stay with teams like that, in getting a chance to play against NC State. It’s going to be fun.”
On trying to keep up with NC State or slow them down on the court:
“We have to pick spots on when we want to run. We don’t want to get in a trap with those guys. They’re very athletic. We’ll try to pick our spots and wherever we get it, try to reach that bucket or take a wide-open three or something like that.”
Junior Guard Chase Tapley
On playing an unfamiliar opponent such as NC State:
“It’s going to be nice. You’re playing (MW) teams two or three times and they know your every move and what you like to do. Going into the NCAA Tournament and playing a new team, you just get to play your game and they don’t know what to expect. You’re going to get a lot of shots that you haven’t been normally getting these last couple of weeks. It’s going to be a fun experience, overall, playing a new team from a different conference.”
Jamaal Franklin Named Nation’s Most Improved Player
San Diego State sophomore guard Jamaal Franklin has been named the nation’s Most Improved Player by CBSSports.com.
The Hawthorne, Calif., native is averaging 17.2 points, 7.9 rebounds and 1.5 assists for the back-to-back Mountain West regular-season champions. Franklin is also shooting 79.3 percent from the free-throw line and has registered 12 double-doubles, all of which have come in his last 19 outings.
SDSU Men’s Hoops Selection Sunday Quotes
Wes O’Donell (bleacherreport.com)
San Diego State Basketball: Keys to Aztecs’ 2012 NCAA Tournament Run
The San Diego State Aztecs aren’t the same team they were last year, but make no mistake about it, they’re a dangerous team yet again.
The Aztecs finished the season as one of the top 25 ranked teams in the country (18 in AP, 21 in USA) and are hoping to replicate the success they had in the big dance last year.
It won’t be easy; they’re a No. 6 seed in the Midwest Region, but they have the talent to make it happen.
What are their keys to success? Simple.
Biggest NCAA Tournament Hurdle
The Aztecs got no help from the committee and wound up having to play a dangerous N.C. State team in the first round.
The Wolfpack are far from consistent, but they can surprise as well as anyone.
Knocking off the ACC team is going to be a huge test for the Mountain West Conference power.
And should they win, they’ll likely see Georgetown in the second round.
Last-Second NCAA Tournament Prediction
They won’t make it back to the Sweet 16 this year.
If they find a way to outlast N.C. State in the opening round, they’ll fall at the hands of the Hoyas.
The Aztecs simply didn’t take enough talented teams this year to be considered a legitimate threat to a Big East-tested team like Georgetown.
Louis Hamwey (bleacherreport.com)
NCAA 2012 Tournament Predictions: Cinderellas Sure to Appear in the Elite Eight
San Diego State will make a run all the way to the Elite Eight at this year’s NCAA basketball tournament. The Aztecs are just one of the Cinderella teams that will take the tournament by surprise and upset a few along the way to the regional finals.
UNLV, Memphis and Wisconsin are among the other teams that will play this year’s darlings, going farther than anyone predicted before the tournament starts.
Here is a breakdown of how it will happen.
San Diego State
The Aztecs (26-7, 10-4 MWC) are the No. 6 seed in the Midwest region and will faceoff against NC State Friday to open their tournament.
That first game may be their most difficult as an athletic Wolfpack could shut down the strong outside shooters. But I expect SDSU to scrape by and get to the next round.
A team full of young players will benefit from being tested in their first game and come out much more at ease despite the stiffer competition in what will be Georgetown. The Hoyas are a strong squad, but will be outscored by hot handed Aztecs.
From there, State faces off in the Sweet 16 against Kansas. The place the team was eliminated from last year will be the upset of the tournament. The Jayhawks will take an early lead, but the Aztecs will fight back and eventually win a very close one, booking their place in the Elite Eight.
Jessica Isner (bleacherreport.com)
NCAA Bracket 2012 Predictions: NC State Will Keep Georgetown Out of Sweet 16
North Carolina State seems to be one of those teams that lives for two things: making the NCAA selection committee’s job miserable and for busting brackets.
That is precisely why the No. 11 seed in the Midwest Regional cannot be counted out—and why Georgetown should watch its back.
The Wolfpack seemed to have played itself out of contention for this year’s tournament during a rough February in which they lost four straight games to No. 4 Duke, No. 21 Florida State, No. 7 North Carolina and Clemson.
Then, as if sensing that the committee was watching and it needed to make magic happen to keep its NCAA hopes alive, it reeled off a win against Miami and then played itself into the ACC tournament semifinals before dropping a 69-67 heartbreaker to UNC.
After the loss, NC State was still a bubble team, but the selection committee decided to award it with an at-large berth for good reason: The Wolfpack can be counted on to make March Madness interesting.
For the past two years, Georgetown has been upended in the first round of the tournament. This year, they’ll make it past Belmont—but NC State will be right there, waiting to do what it does best.
Joe Lunardi (espn.com)
Tourney Team Preview: San Diego State
Joe Lunardi (espn.com)
Tourney Team Preview: North Carolina State
David Glenn (accsports.com)
David Glenn Chats With Mark Gottfried, March 14 (AUDIO)
David Glenn recently caught up with N.C. State basketball coach Mark Gottfried on Glenn’s afternoon radio show.
Among the topics they discussed: What it was like to be the 68th team announced on Selection Sunday; what makes Gottfried say that the Wolfpack is capable of reaching the Final Four; Gottfried’s early success at getting N.C. State into the NCAA tournament; the small margin between middle-seeded teams; the coaching blunder during the N.C. State-North Carolina game; facing new sets of referees in the tournament; and a few quick keys to the San Diego State game.
The Wolfpacker Podcast: NCAA Tournament Preview (AUDIO)
The Wolfpacker editors Matt Carter and Jacey Zembal join host Ryan Tice to examine the team’s ACC Tournament performance and previews the Pack’s NCAA showdown with San Diego State. We also have a quick update on the Amile Jefferson watch.
Jacey Zembal (TheWolfpacker.com)
NC State’s program receiving positive buzz (AUDIO)
NC State coach Mark Gottfried started to smile at the thought of playing an opponent who wants to get up and down the court.
The No. 11-seeded Wolfpack play No. 6-seeded San Diego State at 12:40 p.m. Friday in Columbus, Ohio. The Aztecs (26-7) are known for their running game and the Wolfpack are excited at the possibilities.
NC State has become the trendy pick in the Midwest region, but Gottfried knows that attention is fleeting. He also knows that San Diego State has some talented players, led by Mountain West Conference player of the year Jamaal Franklin.
Gottfried expects to play sophomore power forward C.J. Leslie, senior shooting guard C.J. Williams and possibly even sophomore point guard Lorenzo Brown against the high-flying 6-foot-5 forward.
Wood: Wolfpack a more cohesive team this season
Williams: Finally, the Wolfpack goes dancing
Gottfried: It’s a business trip
NC STATE BASKETBALL
NC State women’s basketball will make its 30th postseason appearance after receiving a bid to the 2012 Postseason Women’s National Invitation Tournament (WNIT) on Monday night. The Wolfpack will host High Point at 7 p.m., on Thursday, March 15 at Reynolds Coliseum.
WNIT tickets go on sale Tuesday at 8:30 a.m., on GoPack.com or by phone at 919-865-1510.
Sixty-four teams make up the WNIT field, with 31 automatic berths and 33 at-large teams. The Wolfpack (18-15) earned one of the 33 at-large berths, which requires an overall record of .500 or better to be considered for selection.
This is the Wolfpack’s second postseason appearance in three seasons under Harper. It’s also Harper’s third appearance in the WNIT after leading Western Carolina into the tournament during the 2007 and 2008 campaigns.
No. 19 NC State kept its momentum rolling with an 8-1 road win over Elon thanks to a group effort from the Wolfpack pitching staff, scattering seven hits to surrender a single earned run, and power hitting for a combined six RBIs from Andrew Ciencin, Jake Fincher, and Brett Austin.
Ciencin broke the game open with his third homerun of the year, a two-run shot to left center to cap the Pack’s five-run fourth inning, on his way to a 2-for-4 day with a double, two RBIs, and two runs scored. Fincher provided a triple and a double in his 2-for-4 performance, scoring twice and driving in two as well. Austin went 2-for-5 with two RBIs, a run, and a stolen base.
“We did a great job to get it to 6-1 on some big hits,” said NC State head coach Elliott Avent. “An error kept the inning going for us, and we took advantage. Ciencin hit that huge homerun to take control. I think our guys are starting to understand that with our pitching, defense, and speed, all we need to do is stay calm and continue generating quality at-bats.”