NC STATE BASKETBALL
Joe Giglio (N&O)
Wolfpack goal: Avoid ACC tournament Thursday game
There are four teams in front of N.C. State in the ACC standings with four games left in the regular season. That’s one too many if the Wolfpack wants to avoid playing on Thursday in the ACC tournament next month in Greensboro.
N.C. State (19-8, 8-6 ACC) takes the final turn down the homestretch of the conference schedule in need of wins, starting with tonight’s home game with Boston College, and help from other teams.
“We NEED these last 4 games,” N.C. State freshman guard Rodney Purvis posted on his Twitter account on Tuesday. “No other way around it.”
State probably needs to sweep its final four games – Boston College, at Georgia Tech, Wake Forest and at Florida State – to give itself the best chance to earn a bye into Friday’s quarterfinals of the ACC tournament.
Both Virginia and UNC have to play Duke and both get the Blue Devils at home. Virginia and UNC also both have to play Maryland, which is 7-7 and trying to play its way into the NCAA tournament, and the Terps can still get one of the top four seeds for the ACC tournament. UNC goes to Maryland on March 6 and the Cavaliers host Maryland on March 10.
N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried has said all season he wants his team to play its best in February and March. The Wolfpack, 3-3 this month, is running out of time to find its stride.
It wasn’t until there were two games left in the ACC last season when the Pack started to put together its best stretch of basketball. State beat Miami and Virginia Tech before the ACC tournament last season, then two games in Atlanta and another two in the NCAA tournament.
N.C. State is 4-0 against Boston College (12-15, 4-10) under Gottfried, which should help with their confidence tonight against the Eagles, whom they beat 78-73 in the conference opener on Jan. 5.
Brett Friedlander (starnewsonline.com)
State needs Leslie to be motivated, productive to have any chance at postseason success
His lack of production wasn’t the only reason State lost 76-65 to the Tar Heels in a game that – at least for now – has bumped State out of a first-round ACC tournament bye. But it certainly was a major factor, as Gottfried made sure to point out in his postgame comments.
“I love him as much as anybody, but when you’re a good player you’ve got to play better,” the coach said of Leslie.
“Richard (Howell) got 17 rebounds today. Are we expecting Richard to get 30 rebounds? Holy mackerel. Somebody else has got to rebound the ball. Calvin has to step up. Period.”
Saturday’s disappearing act in Chapel Hill was particularly mystifying because it came against an emotional rival, in a game that mattered, with all the lights and cameras pointed directly at him — exactly the kind of situation in which a player of Leslie’s stature should rise to the occasion and shine. Instead he did the opposite.
Leslie’s sometimes questionable motivation isn’t anything new. It just wasn’t supposed to be an issue anymore after the former five-star prospect lifted the Wolfpack onto his talented shoulders and led it into the NCAA tournament’s Sweet 16 last spring.
Celebrated as being older, wiser and more mature, he was voted the ACC’s preseason Player of the Year and anointed leader of a team ranked as high as sixth in the national polls. Both he and State have fallen short of those expectations so far.
The question is which buttons have to be pushed to light the requisite fire beneath him?
Gottfried has clearly chosen the public humiliation route. It will be interesting to see what he does next. Perhaps he should follow the lead of UNC’s Roy Williams and let his star sit on the bench awhile during tonight’s home game against Boston College so he can think about what he needs to do to help the team – not to mention how he might be hurting his own standing in the upcoming NBA draft.
It would be a calculated gamble, considering Leslie’s penchant for moodiness and the possibility he might misinterpret the challenge as a sign his coach has lost faith in him. He could just as easily check out the rest of the way as much as he could his game to a higher level and lead State to another deep postseason run.
At this point, Gottfried doesn’t have much of a choice.
Jeff Gravley (WRALSportsfan.com)
The curious case of C.J. Leslie
Leslie is a microcosm of the Wolfpack’s season. Sometimes both the team and the player are good. Sometimes they leave you scratching your head. The bottom line is Leslie and the Wolfpack are too talented to be in the position they are.
Looking at last year’s stats compared to this year, Leslie averages .7 more points, .3 more rebounds, .2 more assists, fewer blocked shots, fewer steals and more turnovers. That’s not a great margin of improvement. But moving past the statistical comparison, the most puzzling thing about Leslie is those times when his effort doesn’t meet the moment.
He was benched in the game at North Carolina, and his teammates said he apologized at halftime of that game. His coach has gone out of his way not to publicly chastise the guy he calls Calvin. But after the North Carolina game, Mark Gottfried told the world, “He’s (CJ) a great player and great players got to step up and play, period. I love him as much as anybody but when you’re a good player, then you have to play better.”
When referencing rebounding Gottfried said, “Are we expecting Richard (Howell) to get 30 rebounds? I mean, holy mackerel, somebody else has to rebound the ball. Calvin has to step up, period.”
That’s as direct as the second-year coach can be. Will it work?
I spoke with someone who has known Leslie since he was in the 9th grade and he told me Leslie hasn’t heard too much criticism from coaches along his basketball journey. They were afraid if they got too strict with Leslie, he would leave their program and go somewhere else. In some cases, the person told me, Leslie would withdraw from challenging situations.
So how in the heck is he going to thrive in the NBA environment?
I spoke with an NBA scout about Leslie, and he said the junior has improved greatly since his freshman season. He spoke glowingly about C.J.’s incredible first step and ability to get to the rim.
“Did you see him against Florida State?” the scout asked me.
I countered with, “Have you seen those moments when he looks incredibly disinterested?”
“I can’t figure that out,” the scout responded.
NC State Hosts Boston College Wednesday
Boston College (12-15, 4-10 ACC) vs. NC State (19-8, 8-6 ACC)
8 p.m. | Raleigh, N.C.
PNC Arena (19,700)
SERIES RECORD: Boston College leads 8-7
LAST MEETING: NC State, 78-73, 1/5/13
TELEVISION: The ACC Network
Play by play: Tim Brant Color: Dan Bonner
NC State returns to PNC Arena for the first of its final two home games when it hosts Boston College Wednesday at 8 p.m.
NC State will be seeking its fifth straight win over Boston College in a series that began in the 1967-68 season. There have only been 15 previous meetings between the two schools.
The Wolfpack has won the last four meetings in the series with the Eagles since Mark Gottfried’s appointment as NC State’s head coach, including a 78-73 victory at Conte Forum on Jan. 5.
Scott Wood provided the heroics for State in this year’s first meeting by scoring all 12 of his points in the game’s final 3:46. Held scoreless to that point, Wood hit a pair of quick 3-pointers and went 6-for-6 at the line to help the Pack win its ACC opener.
With a victory Wednesday over the Eagles, the Pack would have its second consecutive 20-win season, making Gottfried the first NC State coach to post back-to-back 20 wins in his first two seasons since Everett Case recorded 26 and 29 victories in his first two years (1946-47 and 1947-48) at the helm of the State program.
The Pack will also be looking to win its 15th home game of the year for the first time since the 2005-06 season.
Gameday: NC State Faces Must-Win Against Boston College
NC State takes on BC tonight at 8pm in a game that’s a lot more important that people are making it out to be. Think about this, if the Wolfpack don’t show up and somehow lose to the Eagles they are pretty much out of the running for 4th place in the ACC and will have to play on Thursday in the ACC Tournament. They also will put themselves squarely on the bubble, right at the wrong time.
However, let’s not too caught up in the negative. There are a ton of positives to look at with this Wolfpack team. For one, they’re 14-1 at home this season with their only loss coming at the hands of Miami (by 1) while Lorenzo Brown was out. Sure, they haven’t met expectations set by the media in the preseason, but I think those expectations may have been too great. Two things were overlooked…this team simply doesn’t play great defense or have great jump shooters. Let’s go a little more in-depth:
Put up or shut up on defense
NC State has one of the top 10 best offenses in the nation. The problem is, their defense is pretty bad. They play at a fast pace and they understand how to score at that pace, but they don’t seem to have the energy , or maybe it’s the ‘want-to’ to defend at that pace. This can’t happen. This team needs to show better defense before postseason play, and time is running out. There’s no switch to flip on when the ACC Tournament comes or when the NCAA arrives…this team is going to need to get into a habit of practicing good defensive fundamentals. They simply need stops. Teams are playing right with them. Almost every game this ACC season has been back and forth with the Wolfpack. They’ve only had one real blowout and that was last week against FSU. They need to start taking the defensive end as serious or more serious than they take their offensive output and they need to start tonight.
Keys to the game against Boston College
- Take away their confidence early and get the crowd involved. This is a team with only one ACC road win, and one that is young. If it gets loud or State gets a big, early lead, they could run away with it.
- Get Leslie involved. This team is going to go as far as he takes them, like it or not, so they need to keep him involved, keep him active and get him to start playing the way we all know he can…at a dominant level.
- Get Purvis rolling. They need him in March and they need him bad. This might be the perfect chance to get him back in the groove and get his swagger back in action.
- Stop Ryan Anderson. This is the ONLY guy who has the capability of beating NC State single handedly. He’s BC’s go-to guy so they’ll need to neutralize him. He’s averaging 16 and 8, so stopping him isn’t the easiest thing.
- Freshman Oliver Hanlan has also been good as of late for the Eagles. He’s scored over 20 points twice over his last 5 games. He’s going to be a player and right now is riding with some good confidence. State needs to do a good job of limiting his looks.
- Defense and Focus. That’s really it. It State can put together one game of complete focus where they defend EVERY possession for 40 minutes then we’ll see what they’re really capable of. I think the closest you saw to this was the Duke game in Raleigh. State played a pretty complete game. They also ALMOST did it in Raleigh against UNC, but seemed disinterested and tired towards the end. When will we see this team put it all together? Hopefully soon…time is running out.
Michael Lananna (accsports.com)
ACC Freshman Watch, Feb. 26
I can thank Rasheed Sulaimon, Olivier Hanlan and T.J. Warren for making this week’s freshman rankings incredibly difficult to put together. All three had big, big performances in the past week, but, of course, all three can’t be number one. I thought Freshman Watch would become easier as the season rolled along, but apparently I was mistaken. I’ll give it the good ol’ college try, though.
Like always, if you disagree with my rankings (and I’m sure many of you will this week), feel free to leave a comment or to find me on Twitter. Here’s a look at the last power rankings if you’d like to compare.
Now, let’s look at this week’s rankings.
1. Rasheed Sulaimon, Duke (12.44 ppg, 44.1 FG%, 2.19 apg)
To separate the three-headed monster at the top of this freshman class, I’m going with the hottest-hand approach. Now, Sulaimon, Warren and Hanlan have all put together huge performances in the past couple of weeks, but I’d argue that Sulaimon is shining the brightest at this point. Coming off a 27-point effort against Boston College, he’s shooting a combined 17 for 26 (65 percent) in his last two games, including six for nine from deep. In his last four games, he’s averaging 18.25 points. And one other factor to consider: He’s third among all ACC players in plus/minus per game during conference play, according to scacchoops.com. So Sulaimon’s my No. 1 guy this week, but that’s no disrespect to either of the two players below him.
Previous rank: No. 3
2. Olivier Hanlan (14.42 ppg, 42.6 FG%, 2.41 apg)
When Olivier Hanlan is on his game, he can take it over. And in the last few weeks, he’s been on far more often than off. However, he has had a couple of duds in his last four outings. In Boston College’s slim 66-63 win against Wake Forest on Feb. 13, he shot three for eight and scored just nine points. In his most recent game against Duke, Hanlan shot five for 13 and had four turnovers while Sulaimon went off for 27 points on the other side. Those are minor nitpicks — Hanlan is still the ACC’s leading scorer among freshman, and he had a strong 26-point game against Maryland. But I have to be a bit nitpicky to separate the top three this week.
Previous rank: No. 1
3. T.J. Warren, N.C. State (12.11 ppg, 62.2 FG%, 4,0 rpg)
When T.J. Warren put together his historic 31-point, 13-rebound game against Florida State last Tuesday, I knew I would be in trouble with this week’s rankings. At that point, Warren — suddenly reinserted into Mark Gottfried’s starting lineup — seemed like a clear frontrunner for the No. 1 spot, but then Sulaimon and Hanlan followed through with great games of their own. Warren couldn’t match that same level of production in his second consecutive start at UNC. He scored 10 points and pulled down 10 rebounds for a double-double, but he also had four turnovers in a sloppy showing by the Wolfpack. Still, if Gottfried sticks with Warren in the starting five, there’s no doubt Warren can shoot back up to the No. 1 spot. He displayed his immense talent against Florida State, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw a couple more performances similar to that one before the season ends.
Previous rank: No. 2
Joseph Person (N&O)
NFL combine: NC State, UNC have winners and losers
A look at the winners and losers from the NFL’s scouting combine in Indianapolis, including several from the state:
David Amerson, CB, N.C. State
After an abysmal junior season when he was a human highlight film – for opposing receivers – Amerson needed a big showing in Indy to get back in first-round conversations. Amerson, a big corner at 6-foot-1 and 205 pounds, ran the 40 in 4.44 seconds, posted a vertical jump of 35 1/2 inches and did 15 reps in the 225-pound bench press. Now, can he convince teams he can still cover?
Jonathan Cooper, OL, North Carolina
Cooper was smart and engaging during his press conference and, presumably, his meetings with teams. But he also tested well, getting through the 40 in 5.07 seconds and doing 35 reps in the bench, second among offensive linemen. It also helped that the other top guard did poorly (see below).
Manti Te’o, LB, Notre Dame
John Harbaugh’s expression said it all. The NFL Network cameras showed the Ravens’ coach shaking his head after Te’o labored through the 40 in 4.82 seconds. Hard to think of anyone who’s had a worse January and February than Te’o, from getting exposed by Alabama in the title game to the fake, dead girlfriend hoax to his combine flop. If only his 40 time were a fake.
Mike Glennon, QB, N.C. State
The 6-7 Glennon wasn’t awful. His 4.94 clocking in the 40 was respectable, and he showed off the arm strength that has been his trademark. But like the other top quarterbacks who threw – Syracuse’s Ryan Nassib and West Virginia’s Geno Smith – he was inconsistent and lacked the “wow” factor.
Brett Friedlander (starnewsonline.com)
N.C. State’s Wolff shines as a workout warrior at NFL Combine
Earl Wolff spent most of his career overshadowed in an N.C. State secondary dominated by flashier playmakers such as David Amerson and Brandan Bishop. Tuesday, the steady three-year starter stepped out of those shadows and became the ultimate workout warrior on the final day of the NFL’s Scouting Combine.
The recently graduated Wolfpack safety was a top performer in each of the four disciplines in which he participated – posting the best broad jump, the second-best 40-yard dash and the fourth-best vertical jump among players at his position to steal the show in Indianapolis.
Though Wolff was the only ACC safety at the Combine, he was one five former conference defensive backs – including Amerson – showing off their skills for representatives of all 32 NFL teams.
Here are the complete results for those players: