NC STATE BASKETBALL
The Aftermath: What happened to NC State Against UNC?
This one was hard to watch, especially at the end. The Wolfpack seemingly never really got it rolling against the Heels and seemed timid and frustrated the entire game. So what happened? Let’s break it down.
1) Leslie didn’t bring it: The best player on the team is going to have to shoulder a responsibility in this one. There’s no way that Calvin Leslie who has absolutely dominated UNC in his career, should come out against a smaller defender (PJ Hairston) and finish with 6 points and 4 rebounds. I’m not sure why he wasn’t aggressive against Hairston, a smaller, weaker defender. He shot only 8 times all game, less than any other starter. Maybe he was trying to play smarter, limit the turnovers? Well, that didn’t work, he still had 6 and on defense, he was alright, but still wasn’t the factor he should have been. Leslie’s had been rebounding better as of late, however on Saturday he only finished with 4, and again, didn’t have a block. Leslie is averaging 1 block per game, down from both his freshman and sophomore season. This kid is still one of the most talented players in the country and the deciding factor on how far this team can go. They’re going only as far as Leslie will take them. They simply need more from him.
2) Defense Needs to be Serious: This is not play time anymore. The games where NC State slacks off on a few possession here and there on defense need to be over. I know they play at a very fast pace and it probably takes a toll on the guys ability to lock down on every possession, but if you want to be a GREAT team you need to cut out the excuses. Tired on defense, get in better shape. That’s the only answer there is. Either that, or keep losing games you should win. If this team wants to do anything that will go down in history, or be remembered years and years from now, they need to become defensive minded. Locking down their man needs to become more fun and more rewarding than throwing down a dunk on the break. There is no way Marcus Paige should ever control a game against Lorenzo Brown and there’s no way Reggie Bullock, a guy who really can only beat you by shooting it, should ever get clean looks because we go underneath screens. It’s just that they’re making too many bonehead plays and losing focus on defense too easily to be a great team right now. The reason this team isn’t #6 in the nation is not because of any reason other than defense. State is 5th in the nation in FG% and 10th in PPG, so offensively this team is right where we were picked to be nationally…however that’s only the offensive end. The Pack has come up short all season long on D and will come up short in March unless something is done about it.
5) The Enigma that is Lorenzo Brown: 12 points and 12 assists. When you look at Brown’s line you have to be impressed. He played great in spurts and was absolutely the dominant PG that NBA scouts should be drooling oer…but then there are times when it just goes away. Times when he drives to the basked, shies away from contact and just throws the ball up…times when he’s going too fast and is too loose with the basketball ( he finished with 4 TOs), times when he’s just no where to be found on defense. Look, this team is asking a TON out of Lorenzo Brown. 12 points and 12 assists is a great game, so no one is taking that away from him, but great numbers does not equal wins. This team needs to lock down on defense. This team needs to start playing stronger. Outside of Howell they’re soft. There, it’s been said. This team is soft and if that doesn’t change soon, if this team doesn’t start inviting physicality and embracing it, then they’re going to get run over by a team that does.
Brett Friedlander (starnewsonline.com)
BEYOND THE ARC: Playing with fire, finally getting burned
1. CJ no-show: C.J. Leslie has always had trouble at UNC’s Smith Center. Saturday’s miserable performance, however, was clearly his worst. Failing to take advantage of a defensive mismatch provided by f the Tar Heels’ smaller lineup, the preseason ACC Player of the Year had as many turnovers as points (6) with only four rebounds while going 3 of 8 from the floor and 0 for 4 from the line – prompting coach Mark Gottfried to call him out publicly after the game.
2. Playing with fire: Miami has flirted with its first ACC loss several times in the past few weeks, including another close call at home against Virginia on Tuesday. Saturday at Wake Forest, of all places, the Hurricanes finally got burned when they took the Deacons lightly, shot 39 percent from the floor, turned the ball over 13 times and fell behind too far to fashion yet another heroic comeback while crashing hard – to the tune of 80-65.
The marquee game of the week is Saturday at Cameron Indoor Stadium, when Duke get its shot at redemption against suddenly reeling Miami. Before that, however, the Blue Devils still have to negotiate a difficult road game at Virginia on Thursday. N.C. State faces a pair of must-wins if it wants a first-round ACC tournament bye – at home against BC on Wednesday and at Georgia Tech on Sunday. UNC meanwhile, will try to keep its small lineup momentum going Wednesday at Clemson.
Lauren Brownlow (accsports.com)
Three To Look Back At/Three To Look Forward To, Feb. 25
North Carolina 76, N.C. State 65
It wasn’t a shock that Carolina, which has been FIGURING THINGS OUT (narrative alert), got revenge on rival N.C. State at home. But the way it happened was a bit of a surprise. N.C. State only trailed by six at the break despite committing 12 first-half turnovers. C.J. Leslie had six turnovers all by himself (five in the first half) and struggled the whole game, even though he was guarded by the 6-5 P.J. Hairston. But N.C. State still took a four-point lead midway through the second half. Then North Carolina made plays, and N.C. State didn’t. Sometimes, it’s that simple. Oh, and Leslie was on the bench during N.C. State’s run and upon his return, North Carolina made its run. So there’s that. Also, UNC had with 27 points off N.C. State’s 17 turnovers. UNC has built some momentum, but a top-four ACC Tournament seed is far from a lock. And N.C. State has a relatively easy slate remaining, but is anything easy for the Pack this year?
Special shoutout: Marcus Paige
The freshman point guard had all 14 of his points in the second half, including many at key moments. He finished with eight assists to no turnovers, his best A/TO performance since the McNeese State game on December 22nd. Stats aside, though, Paige bounced back from a brutal performance in Raleigh against Lorenzo Brown, who utterly dominated the freshman in that game. Paige didn’t exactly dominate Brown, but he showed a lack of fear and was very poised down the stretch. Brown played fine, with 12 assists and four turnovers, but he didn’t own the matchup nearly the way everyone thought he would (or could). While Brown will get some criticism for that, Paige deserves praise as well, and plenty of it. The freshman has come a long way.
North Carolina at Clemson, Thursday, 7:00 p.m.
Oddly enough, this feels like UNC’s toughest remaining game until it hosts Duke to end the season. At Maryland will be tough, and Maryland is a better team than Clemson. But the young Tar Heels will be ready for that atmosphere, and they may not be ready for this one. It’s easy to get up to face a team like Maryland; not as easy to get up to face a Clemson team that has been struggling. And Clemson is where offense goes to die. UNC can afford to drop a game or two and still feel good about making the tournament, but this arguably isn’t one of them.
Player to watch: Reggie Bullock
While Marcus Paige deservedly got most of the praise after UNC’s win, Bullock was the leading scorer for the Tar Heels and continued to do what he does – namely, make smart plays, get big offensive rebounds and, oh yeah, knock down threes. He had averaged 11.7 points in UNC’s “small” lineup until his 22-point explosion against N.C. State (to go with 13 rebounds). He’s averaged 12.9 points in ACC road games, and there have been road games this year where he’s been the only Tar Heel to show up. He’s one the only Tar Heels who has significant experience in this type of environment, and if he struggles, it would seem UNC might, too.
Duke at Virginia, Thursday, 9:00 p.m.
If Duke wins this game, there’s still a very real chance it could at least tie or maybe even win the ACC regular season outright. If it doesn’t? The Miami rematch on Saturday will be fun, but it will only be for pride and possible NCAA Tournament seeding. Virginia is still undefeated at home in league play with an average victory margin of +18.6 points. Duke’s average road margin overall is +2.9, but it includes three losses (two by single digits, one by 27 points). Virginia has looked mighty good lately .. .but so has Duke, winning its last two games by an average of 26.5 points. Virginia could really use this one, a marquee win to secure an NCAA Tournament berth. And the Cavaliers could use it to keep pace in the ACC Tournament seeding race as well.
Player to watch: Seth Curry
If ACC Player of the Year were decided based solely on how someone performed in road games, Seth Curry would be a frontrunner at the very least. He’s had one road stinker (zero points at Miami). But even including that game, Curry has averaged 18.4 points on 46.4% shooting in seven ACC road games. Without it, Curry has averaged 21.5 points on nearly 52% shooting in six games. He’s often saved Duke in some close road wins. Can he do it again against a tough Virginia defense?
Stephen Schramm (FayObserver.com)
ACC Power Rankings: Questions linger as season winds down
3. North Carolina (19-8, 9-5)
Last week: 4
My take: North Carolina still has road trips left against Clemson and Maryland as well as home dates against Florida State and Duke. If the Tar Heels can win three or more of those games, they’ll likely be the ACC’s “it” team heading into the post season.
Good thing they don’t have to go to Wake Forest, huh?
4. N.C. State (19-8, 8-6)
Last week: 3
My take: The conventional wisdom surrounding N.C. State during its recent struggles was that, regardless of the ups and downs of the regular season, the Wolfpack can still put together a deep postseason run. It happened last season. It could happen again.
Now, I’m not so sure.
5. Virginia (19-8, 9-5)
Last week: 5
My take: Virginia could really use a signature win to boost its NCAA tournament résumé. A win at Wisconsin back in November is probably the closest the Cavaliers have to one.
Of course, Thursday night’s visit by Duke presents an opportunity to fill that need.
9. Georgia Tech (14-12, 4-10)
Last week: 9
My take: I know this has been a bit of a lost season for the Yellow Jackets. But the freshmen trio of guard Chris Bolden, wing Marcus Georges-Hunt and forward Robert Carter should give Tech fans reason for optimism.
11. Boston College (12-15, 4-10)
Last week: 11
My take: Yes, the Eagles are young. But when do growing pains turn into just regular pains?
Andrew Jones (FoxSportsCarolinas.com)
ACC Power Rankings: Miami holding on
3. North Carolina (19-8, 9-5)
Maybe the team in the ACC surging the most, the Tar Heels convincingly won at Georgia Tech and then pulled away from NC State and are playing quite well. The smallish lineup is working and Roy Williams is pushing the right buttons with his team.
4. Virginia (19-8, 9-5)
Tony Bennett’s club is building some shields of mental toughness. After a difficult loss at UNC in which the Tar Heels scored more points than anyone has against Bennett since he got into the ACC, the Cavaliers suffered what was essentially a last-second loss at Miami. But they rebounded to rip apart Georgia Tech, 82-54, and remain in excellent position to get a bye in the ACC Tournament.
5. NC State (19-8, 8-6)
The most underachieving team in the ACC so far this season was once again at it. The Wolfpack looked terrific in pounding Florida State, but then couldn’t handle UNC’s second-half eruption and lost convincingly at the Tar Heels. NC State is in serious danger of having to play on Thursday of the ACC Tournament.
10. Georgia Tech (14-12, 4-10)
In a week where the other lower-end teams picked up wins, the Yellow Jackets fell twice, losing big at home to UNC and by 28 at Virginia. This team was close to putting together a nice string of outings, but hasn’t been able to get it going.
11. Boston College (12-15, 4-10)
The bottom teams picked up victories this past week, including the Eagles over Maryland just days after the Terrapins knocked off Duke. Boston College has proven to be quite difficult at home, but is awful on the road, as evidenced by its uncompetitive loss at Duke on Sunday.
Joe Ovies (WRALSportsfan.com)
Talking Points: Triangle squads hit final regular-season stretch
3. Same goes for NC State, up-and-down conference performance notwithstanding. Unlike last season, the Wolfpack actually have a few wins of substance in the regular season and a superior RPI ranking. Unless the wheels fall completely off, however unlikely, NC State is just allowing a favorable seed placement to deteriorate.
4. Once NC State gets to Greensboro and whichever NCAA Tournament bracket they’re assigned, the Wolfpack will only go as far as Calvin Leslie feels like taking them.
Mark Gottfried has earned praise in the way he’s delicately handled Leslie, an enigmatic personality, through the coaching transition and the current season where the lure of the NBA looms in the background. The coach has kept his comments to the media on Leslie’s development even-handed and focused on the macro idea of everyone playing their best basketball toward the end of the season.
Well, it’s almost March and Leslie has been more of a liability to the Wolfpack in rematches against Duke and North Carolina. It’s concerning enough that Gottfried finally addressed what many observers have been saying for weeks on Saturday.
“He’s a great player and great players got to step up and play, period,” Gottfried said. “I love him as much as anybody, but when you’re a good player, then you have to play better.”
Now all eyes are on Leslie to see how he reacts to the latest button push by his coach.
The Wolfpack, in coach Dave Doeren’s first season, will play eight home games, including the first four of the season. The Pack gets likely preseason ACC favorite Clemson in a Thursday night showcase game on ESPN on Sept. 19.
“Opening up with four straight games at home allows Wolfpack Nation to have a huge influence on jump starting our 2013 season,” Doeren said in a statement released by the school.
Doeren’s first game is against Louisiana Tech, which will also be the debut of former ECU coach Skip Holtz with the Bulldogs. Duke hosts Durham neighbor N.C. Central.
Doeren’s first game against the Tar Heels will be Nov. 2. The next Saturday the Wolfpack goes to Duke and the Blue Devils finish the regular season at UNC on Nov. 30. Both UNC and N.C. State will get a visit from East Carolina this season.
Duke, 6-7 a year ago, beat UNC last season and the Tar Heels beat N.C. State. This will be only the third time since the ACC expanded before the 2004 season that Duke and N.C. State will play in football. Duke won the last meeting in 2009.
N.C. State is in transition after a 7-6 finish in 2012. Doeren, who led Northern Illinois to a 12-win season and the Orange Bowl, was hired to replace Tom O’Brien in December.
The Wolfpack also needs to replace Mike Glennon, expected to be one of the first quarterbacks taken in the NFL draft. The Pack’s new quarterback won’t have to go on the road until Oct. 5 (at Wake Forest) and will only have to leave the state twice – at FSU on Oct. 26 and at Boston College on Nov. 16.
Brett Friedlander (starnewsonline.com)
Ready or not, UNC, State, Wake will get prime time FB exposure in 2013
Because of the way the calendar falls, the 2013 season will include two open dates for all teams.
In all, ACC teams will play 11 games against nonconference opponents that were nationally ranked last season. Nine of those games will be against teams that ranked among the nation’s top 10 in 2012.
That includes Virginia Tech’s opener against defending national champion Alabama in the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Classic on Aug. 31, Florida at Miami and Oregon at Virginia on Sept. 5, Boston College at Southern Cal on Sept. 14 and Georgia at Georgia Tech on Nov. 30. The ACC will also play its annual Labor Day night game, with Pitt getting a rude introduction into the league against Florida State at Heinz Field. That game will also be played in prime time.
The ACC Championship Game is scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 7 at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte.
NC STATE BASEBALL
No. 10 NC State hosts New Mexico State for a two-game series on Tuesday at 3 p.m. and Wednesday at 3 p.m. at Doak Field at Dail Park.
NC State head coach Elliott Avent takes on the Aggies (3-4) for the first time since he helmed that squad from 1989-1996. Under Avent, New Mexico State went 225-213 and boasted a 40-19 record in the 1990 season.
The Wolfpack (5-1) will be in good shape if its bats are even half as hot as they were over the weekend. State went 5-0 last week, and scored 43 runs in a doubleheader against Wagner on Sunday. The Pack went 34-for-81 at the plate with 12 doubles, and nine home runs, including three grand slams. Wolfpack batters drew 16 walks and struck out just nine times on their way to scoring in 14 of 16 offensive innings. Brett Williams went 7-for-9 with three doubles, three home runs, and 10 RBIs in the doubleheader.
Weekly Mark Gottfried TV Show
On this week’s episode head men’s basketball coach Mark Gottfried breaks down the UNC and Florida State games with host Tony Haynes. Also on the show, Mark Thomas visits with Dail Basketball Center staff members who help the Pack compete behind the scenes.