HUGE Weekend for NC State Basketball

Make NO MISTAKE about it — NC State’s tournament-like schedule (Friday/Sunday) of home games against Davidson (7pm tonight on Fox Sports South) and Cincinnati (7:30pm Sunday on all Fox Sports networks) represent pivotal and highly important games for the Wolfpack’s 2007-2008 post season dreams.

Beacuse of State’s two unacceptable losses to New Orleans and East Carolina the Wolfpack enter the weekend with a record of just 5-3 with six out of conference games remaining and sixteen ACC games on the schedule. (Don’t forget that NC State played one of the tougher ACC schedules last season, and this season the Wolfpack plays Top 10 Duke twice instead of just once.)

Curry Tonight, State hosts highly respected Davidson and sophomore phenom Stephen Curry. The fact that the Wolfpack doesn’t have a sharpshooter on our entire roster and Curry wasn’t recruited by the Pack is a painful pill to swallow for many. The contrast is made more clear by the fact that Curry has made more three pointers this season while competing against a tough schedule than the entire NC State roster has hit en route toa 29.4% three-point shooting percentage.

For our own sanity we won’t play the “what if” game here. Just know that State MUST guard Curry unlike we have guarded anyone all season. If some nobody from ECU can put thirty on us then the sky is the limit for Curry if he gets hot.

Davidson sets up to be a potentially miserable scenario for the Wolfpack. A lot has been made that Davidson has been ‘close’ many times but needs to breakthrough against a name to earn some respect. The Wildcats seem to expect that “name” to be NC State. Although they sport only a 4-5 record, the Wildcats have been nationally ranked this season and have suffered close losses to Top 10 UCLA, UNC-CH and Duke. (Compare that to State’s trip to Top 10 Michigan State). In their early season losses,

Davidson led North Carolina with six minutes left and gave up an 18-point first-half lead against UCLA before losing. Those losses, and losses to Western Michigan and Charlotte, had a similar theme.

Davidson as been competitive in the paint against some of the best post players in the country, but they poorly defend what NC State doesn’t do very well – the three point shot. The Wildcats allow 44% shooting from outside of the arc; but the Wolfpack only shoots 29.4% from behind the arc. Obviously, the Pack MUST capitalize on open looks from behind the line.

Another problem for the Wolfpack is that Davidson does well what we defend poorly – the three pointer. State’s defensive field goal percentage may look good on paper, but we all know that the Wolfpack plays horrendous perimeter defense. (See the kid from ECU). The Wildcats have the 20th highest ratio of 3-point field goal attempts to total field goal attempts in the country as 44% of their attempts from the field have been from behind the three point arc.

Section Six takes the preview of the Wildcats to a deeper level in this entry. You need to read the preview because he really hits the macro-keys of this match-up (and NC State’s problems).

The Wolfpack defense relies entirely on unforced errors, and that’s no way to make a living when you rebound as poorly as we do.

Marques Johnson
The Pack will have the services of Marques Johnson for the first time tonight since he announced his transfer from Tennessee last year. Unless Johnson has a better shot than has been advertised and is a more aggressive defender than the rest of our squad then I’m not sure how much of an impact that he will have.

The Charlotte Observer has some related nuggets that will be of interest to you. One set of comments baffled me:

At 6-foot-5 and 205 pounds, Johnson is bigger than Degand and freshman Javier Gonzalez, the other backup point guard.

When Johnson does get in the game, the Wolfpack might switch to a more deliberate pace.

“He’ll get you into your offense, defend, hustle, nothing fancy,” Lowe said

A more deliberate pace? Is that a joke? What does that mean? Will we be playing in the 40s and 50s? How could we play a more deliberate pace than we do today?

Take note, no matter which players are on the floor NC State will continue to play close games and deliberate paces until we assert ourselves on defense and start rebounding – both of which will allow us to create some easy points in transition and take some pressure off of our half court offense.

Quick Cincy
Despite Cincinnati’s name recognition, the Bearcats are currently 4-6 with a miserable RPI of #249. They lost to Belmont by 11 points, beat Western Carolina by only 2 points at home and have struggled in other games that you would expect them to have won more impressively. State must avenge last year’s embarassment at Cincy – no Engin Atsur; Gavin Grant tryign to play the point; turned the ball over THIRTY times. No matter how bad Cincinnati looks on paper, if State can win as we should, the Bearcats are a ‘name program’ in a major conference that won’t help our RPI but won’t optically hurt us as people review our resume.

Full Season Perspective
Whether Coach Lowe and the team have chosen to hit the panic button or not, everyone needs to have their eyes open to where things currently stand if the Wolfpack truly wants to earn an NCAA Tournament bid. Beacuse of State’s two unacceptable losses to New Orleans and East Carolina, the Wolfpack enter the weekend with a record of just 5-3 with six out of conference games remaining and sixteen ACC games on the schedule. So, one cannot under-state the importance of this next phase of the Wolfpack’s schedule that is being called a “tough stretch” by the media.

I’m going to reverse-engineer some numbers and some assumptions to highlight the importance of the next two games for State:

* An 8-8 record in ACC play used to guarantee an NCAA Tournament berth; that tenant has been challenged recently and is not as much of ‘rule’ given the ACC’s imbalanced schedule.

* With losses to bad teams like UNO and ECU conventional wisdom already posits that State needs to finish the out of conference portion of our schedule strong and may have to go 9-7 to earn an NCAA Tournament appearance.

* I’m not sold on that^ yet. State’s 16 ACC games are tough, and include EIGHT games against teams currently in the RPI’s Top 53. With this said, our conference schedule will serve to strongly support our RPI and give us plenty of opportunities to have a strong resume with an 8-8 record.

* The key to the debate of ‘how many conference games do we need to win?’ actually lies in the Wolfpack’s final record in out of conference games. State is currently 5-3 with six more OOC games. In addition to this ‘tough stretch of Davidson, Cincy and Seton Hall (currently #51 RPI) the Wolfpack should be able to win against Western Carolina, Presbyterian and NC Central

* If the Pack wins all six remaning OOC games and starts conference play at 11-3, then I think we will be fine with an 8-8 ACC record. That would mean that State would have wins over one sure NCAA Tournament team (Villanova) and three other potential teams (Davidson, Rider and Seton Hall).

* If State falls once (Davidson? Seton Hall?) and starts conference play at 10-4, then I think we CAN make the tourney at 8-8 as long as we have the proper “mix” of wins and losses. A 9-7 record in this scenario would definitely get us a berth in light of the strength of the conference.

* If State loses two more times and starts conference play at 9-5, then the Pack most definitely will need at least a 9-7 ACC record for an NCAA Tournament berth.

Parting Shot
Earlier in the year we ran an analysis of how the Pack performed when Trevor Furguson was on the floor compared to how we performed when he was not on the floor. The numbers were striking. Section Six has an updated view of the comparison of the impact of State’s two most utilized lineups this season and the numbers are equally striking.

The summary of the analysis is that the line-up of Degand/Fells/Grant/Costner/Hickson have coutscored opponents by 39 points while the line-up of Degand/Fells/Grant/Costner/McCauley have been outscored by opponents by 12 points. A 51 point differential in just 8 games averages to be just under 6.5 points per game. That is a HUGE number.

As you can tell from that information, JJ Hickson is a key component of what State does well on BOTH sides of the floor. Relatedly, this is a super article about JJ Hickson and the Wolfpack’s need to adjust.

About StateFans

'StateFansNation' is the shared profile used by any/all of the dozen or so authors that contribute to the blog. You may not always agree with us, but you will have little doubt about where we stand on most issues. Please follow us on Twitter and FaceBook

07-08 Basketball

77 Responses to HUGE Weekend for NC State Basketball

  1. Mr O 12/21/2007 at 10:28 AM #

    Great writeup. Will read some of the links later.

  2. gopack968 12/21/2007 at 11:52 AM #

    I just hope the fans show for the game. We need more than 12,000 at home for an important game. Not sure that an extra screaming 8,000 voices will make the difference, but it can’t hurt.

  3. Rick 12/21/2007 at 12:24 PM #

    “There are no questions about Hickson’s work ethic. He’s up at 5:15 every morning and at the Dail Basketball Complex by 5:45, working with strength and conditioning coordinator Charles Stephenson.

    “I have the gym to myself,” he said. “I work on ballhandling, shooting, my post moves. I go hard. If I’m not sore after it, I know I didn’t go as hard as I can.”

    Anyone wonder why he is so good? The guy is a beast because he works so hard. Why would you sit him for McCauley or Costner who frankly look like they could care less.

    I say make Costner mimic Hickson for the next 3 months. He won’t be a dough boy anymore.

  4. packbackr04 12/21/2007 at 12:31 PM #

    I cant believe there was talk of Costner going pro after last year. he looks downright terrible thus far, and on top of that, hes totally overweight. Like gobby overweight. Not just a little out of shape. He is disgustingly fat. which is an issue of heart and desire. Kid needs to drop 20 pounds and 20 pts a night for the rest of the year before any pro scout is going touch him.

  5. MattN 12/21/2007 at 12:32 PM #

    Must. Win.

  6. packbackr04 12/21/2007 at 1:07 PM #

    here are some telling statistics from Wilmington Star Paper:

    *State has 93 assists and 120 turnovers, the worst assists-to-turnover ratio in the ACC. In fact, it’s almost twice as bad as the next closest conference team (Maryland).

    *State is last in the ACC in scoring offense, averaging 66.8 points.

    *The Pack is seventh in scoring defense, allowing 63.6 points.

    *State is fourth in the ACC in blocked shots averaging 6.13.

    *State is 11th in scoring margin at +3.1.

    *The Pack is second in the ACC in field goal percentage defense, limiting opponents to just 38 percent from the floor.

    *NCSU is 11th in 3-point field goal shooting at 29.4 percent.

    *State is last in rebounding margin, the only ACC team to be outrebounded thus far.

    *The Wolfpack is last in the league in steals with just 31. Clemson, Wake Forest and UNC average more than 10 per game.

    *State’s last in offensive rebounds, averaging just 10.25 per game.

  7. ShootingGuard 12/21/2007 at 1:46 PM #

    Coming into the season, I thought we would probably lose 3 non-conf games…I thought Davidson would be the “mid-major” we took lightly and lost to while losing a “tough” one at MSU and either losing a close one in Orlando or perhaps laying an egg at Seton Hall. Now, unfortunately, we used up 2 of our losses to UNO and ECU, and really need to win 2 of the next 3 to keep our heads up with a shot at doing anything worthy enough in the ACC to get us to the NCAA’s.

    I don’t buy into NOT getting into the NCAA’s with an 8-8 record unless we lose all of the next 3 games.

    If we win 2 and maybe even 1 of the next 3 games, we would be on the bubble and staying home at 7-9, but 8-8 would probably do the trick because Nova will prove to be quality win and going 8-8 in the ACC will likely mean winning at least once versus UNC or Duke and, even if not against them, some other guys like Clemson who will likely prove to be quality.

    I am not saying I WANT to lose any of the next 3 games nor am I saying that I want to go just 8-8 in ACC play nor am I saying that we should lolly gag and not try to destroy everybody we play. I’m just saying let’s don’t quit if things don’t go our way because anything can happen the rest of the season, despite what has happened so far.

    Hopefully, our guys were watching Pitt last night and realized that, even if you are not a great shooting team and the refs are totally against you, you can beat good teams like Duke by playing physical and not giving an inch defense or on the boards. Beat on ’em and stay close and, eventually, you will get a shot to fall.

    If I were Sid, I would build on what he did last game that worked for 30 minutes and should extend to 40 minutes with some fire. Tell the kids to get their asses out their and beat on that other team, and, if you take ONE play off, your ass is on the bench because there are at least 10 guys that want minutes. Whoever is hungriest at that moment gets the minutes. There are no starters, only players and finishers!!

    Courtney Fells is key as usual the next 2 games. He is often asleep on the road, but, like UNC last year, he has had his moments at home. We need him to have a weekend THIS weekend like he did down in Orlando. Be a player and a finisher this weekend Courtney!!

  8. VaWolf82 12/21/2007 at 1:56 PM #

    At this point in the season, it is hard to imagine a scenario where 8-8 and a first-round loss in the ACCT will be good enough to get into the NCAAT. Of course, with the way State has been playing, it’s hard to imagine 8 ACC wins.

  9. STLPACK 12/21/2007 at 2:17 PM #

    i’ll be Ti-Vo’ing tonight’s game to watch after a X-mas party and be watching sunday’s game live. We have to get these two!

  10. packgrad93 12/21/2007 at 2:38 PM #

    Fells will be on Curry & using a lot of energy so I wouldn’t expect a ton of pts from CF.

  11. packbackr04 12/21/2007 at 2:55 PM #

    We dont need a ton of pts from courtney, nor was that what Shootingguard was saying. what he was saying is we need courtney to show up and act like he gives a shit! we need him to act like a leader. we need him to act like he is the best athlete on the court (which, next to JJ he prob is the best athlete on the floor). we need him to play tough d, to move and make cuts on offense, and hit a couple of big buckets when the game is on the line(hopefully from the outside when Davidson is packing it in on us)

    why are all your posts so antagonistic?

  12. choppack1 12/21/2007 at 3:01 PM #

    packbackr – Thanks for the updates on the #s.

    If there’s one thing that has me po’d thus far this and has reduced my hope, it’s how bad we have been on the defensive end. I really thought that our effort level would change w/ the addition of more fouls and a bench. However, our D thus far has been awful. Yes, teams are shooting a lousy % against us, but we don’t rebound the misses and we never steal the ball.

    Today, the real season starts. Our team has lots of practice time to work out the kinks. Hopefully, a schedule that is not so herky jerky will lend itself to some better effort and performance.

  13. Trip 12/21/2007 at 4:23 PM #

    Heading out to the game pretty soon, I’ve got a good feeling about this game… I really wanna see what Johnson can do, but, honestly, if I were Lowe, I’d probably give most of the minutes to Degand/Javi since they are quicker (Stopping Curry) and have already put in a ton of minutes as far as gameplay experience goes, Johnson will get his minutes in the next few games. (WCU/Cincy) This game is just too big to give a guy who hasn’t played a real game in a year, even if he is possibly better than the other 2.

  14. tooyoungtoremember 12/21/2007 at 4:32 PM #

    Wanna know who to play of Degand, Javi, and Johnson? Have them all shoot open threes and free throws right before the game. Whoever makes the most gets the start and the most minutes and pray that the results from warmups will carry over into the game.

  15. burnbarn 12/21/2007 at 4:33 PM #
    (if that does not work omit the ‘-‘

    I am very concerned about the team statistics… I didn’t realize we were last in the league in som many catagories and that we are in the bottom half in most. I shouldn’t be surprised..just was not aware.

    Here’s to a good weekend for the team.

  16. redfred2 12/21/2007 at 4:34 PM #

    How about a line up with JJ and McCauley, versus the one with JJ and Costner? I have believe that Ben could feed the post or kick it back out better than any of the back court players have shown thus far.

    pb04, that’s a fairly depressing list of accomplishments you posted up there.

    As far as Fells goes, and everyone else on the team for that matter, I’m tired of waiting and wandering to see how they’ll respond night in, and night out. It’s well PAST time for these players to start focusing and asserting themselves on the BB court. As far as Curry goes, I don’t think that he can be stopped. But, to put the shoe on the other foot, he could be slowed down if the man/player he’s responsible for defensively makes him exert some real effort on the other end.

    I don’t know how you make him do it, but Fells either needs to CONSISTENLY force the action on the offensive end, something like every time down the court, or his butt needs to be parked on the bench. He generally does just enough during games for the team to start looking for and depending on him, then he vanishes into his corner, no where to be found.

  17. burnbarn 12/21/2007 at 4:34 PM #
  18. wufpup76 12/21/2007 at 4:35 PM #

    no matter what happens tonight, i really would like to see some AGGRESSIVE play … a “take it to the other team” type of attitude

    win or lose, i would at least see that aspect as a positive … i think gavin overestimated when the team would ‘gel’ when he said we may not lose 4 games … we just look too tenative to me on offense and that starts at the point guard position … i’ve said it before, i like both farnold and javy, and i hope marques can give us a lift, but i’m waiting for this team to be “unleashed” so to speak

    right now, coach lowe is having to ‘set’ almost each offensive posession b/c i don’t think he fully trusts our young pg’s yet … if we could just get to a point where we had some stability at pg i think this team could improve quickly (making the big assumption that we continue to improve our defensive play and rebounding)

    while i agree in general with SFN’s post as far as a sense of urgency being needed, i don’t quite see this next strecth of games as a possible “doom” scenario for making the tournament if we lose a couple – although it would be close … it’s only my opinion (with all due respect SFN 🙂 ) but, i think there is time for the team to come together in the next few weeks … i think back to UVa last year and also Hodge’s senior year when the team started ACC play 3-7 and still made the tournament

    of course, not all season’s are created equal and the team can do away with bubble talk by simply winning a bunch of games 🙂

    i’ll be at the game this evening and SFN willing will share my thoughts and observations afterward … go pack !!!

  19. burnbarn 12/21/2007 at 7:05 PM #

    We are playing very good overall.. we have had 8-10 mental lapses either on offense or defense that have cost us. Our defense has been good for the most part but Curry is showing flashes of his father…if only he had his size. We really play him well except someone has a lapse in concentration and he takes advantage.

    On offense we are not as good, but players are playing a little better than the past. Simon played great d on curry off the bench and really hustled and got a big hand from the crowd. Everyone is hustling and seems much more focused than in the past.

    It is great to know the home team has a chance to win this game. We still have 20 minutes…. which team shows up?
    The ECU team or the first half team?
    I get the feeling it is going to be the first half team and they may play better offensively than in the first.

  20. chilly water 12/21/2007 at 7:05 PM #

    Its state vs. curry and the 4 dwarfs, ———ZERO OFFESNIVE REBOUNDS FOR DAVIDSON in the entire first half

  21. burnbarn 12/21/2007 at 7:06 PM #

    forgot to mention Costner has had a nice half and it is good to see it. He still loses concentration.

  22. DT44 12/21/2007 at 7:16 PM #

    still way too many unforced giveaways

  23. WolftownVA81 12/21/2007 at 7:46 PM #

    wral has delila on it. Thought they were our flag ship staion?

  24. Astral Rain2 12/21/2007 at 8:06 PM #

    This team is not going to be afraid of tourney pressure. I know the fans will be well used to it.

  25. foz 12/21/2007 at 8:08 PM #

    I think this was a GOOD win, not a great win. I saw several things thatbwe have improved on (rebounding, hustle) that impress me. If BC scoring early is the differrence, then lets get him the ball early. Alot we can still do better, but a definite improvementy!

Leave a Reply