Offseason Positional Analysis (PF)

As we wait for football to heat up, it’s as good a time as any to analyze the coming basketball season. Over the next few weeks, we will analyze the logical rotation and depth chart, based on position. We analyzed the point guard position, the two guard slot, and small forward previously. Next is the Pack’s strongest position – power forward.

Last year, NC State boasted what looked to be a three-headed monster in the post. Brandon Costner and Ben McCauley had always been solid, and occasionally great in 2006-07. JJ Hickson was easily the most talented player on the team, with a work ethic to match. National publications rated the Pack’s frontcourt among the nation’s elite.

It didn’t work out that way. Ben McCauley had an illness early on, and Costner was slowed by offseason knee problems and the extra weight he carried. Hickson was even better than advertised, but Ben and Brandon each had trouble working off of his strengths. Both regressed markedly as rebounders and defenders. Despite being physically suited for the position, McCauley was never comfortable at the 4 (where the most minutes were available). Costner’s lack of conditioning held him back early, and an off-court incident with a teammate sent him into a downward spiral that left him virtually invisible by February.

Down the stretch, Coach Lowe called Tracy Smith’s number with more frequency, and he responded with tough, agressive play and very solid rebounding. His defense was inconsistent, but it was not due to effort or mindset. Offensively, he showed promise – but his free throw shooting was abyssmal. Dennis Horner also found himself in the mix, primarily because he proved incapable of handling the 3 (as did Costner). Costner and Horner both struggled with their outside shot, with Costner airballs an all too common spectacle. Without posing a perimeter threat, offensive spacing suffered mightily, and opponents focused their defensive efforts almost exclusively on Hickson. A long, humiliating stretch of defeats ensued.

On the bright side, many people have told SFN that Costner re-dedicated himself in the offseason. His body is better conditioned. He knows that he must carry the scoring load in the low post again. And he has always played best with a chip on his shoulder. Don’t forget that he was a near-unanimous preseason all-ACC candidate, with some talk of being an all-American.

Who should start? Brandon Costner, if his head is right (which I expect it will be). Costner is the only player on the roster with true “star” potential. Remember, this is the man who dominated the ACC tourney as a redshirt freshman, and was projected to challenge Tyler Hansbrough for POY last year. Underneath last year’s bruised feelings and 15 pounds of White Castle, I believe that guy still exists.

What should the rotation be? Costner can play up to 35 mpg if properly conditioned, but it’s safer to limit him to 30-32 minutes, to save wear and tear on his body. Even sans the extra weight he carried last season, he’s a big guy. PF is also the position with the most quality depth, as nobody cringes at the thought of Tracy Smith playing significant minutes. Smith should log 8-10 mpg at the 4, and significantly more when injuries or foul trouble strike. Dennis Horner will also log some minutes here – how many will depend on his production. We won’t have to play Horner much – he must earn his PT this year.

Position Grade: B+

About BJD95

1995 NC State graduate, sufferer of Les and MOC during my entire student tenure. An equal-opportunity objective critic and analyst of Wolfpack sports.

08-09 Basketball

21 Responses to Offseason Positional Analysis (PF)

  1. choppack1 07/31/2008 at 9:42 AM #

    We appear to be in solid shape at this spot. If Costner struggles, Smith has shown he has ACC calibre talent.

    One last years great mysteries was why Smith didn’t see more minutes. He played well in his brief appearance at Clemson.

    Also, keep in mind, Costner has had injury issues 2 of his 3 years at NC State. I think it’s dangerous to place too much in this basket – kind of like placing our hopes in Farnold Degand returning as effective as he was before his injury.

    At least we do have depth here. Both Costner and Smith are ACC calibre 4s.

  2. Rick 07/31/2008 at 9:45 AM #

    I have questions about any person that is so mentally fragile. IMO you cannot count on a guy like that to win the big games.

  3. Trip 07/31/2008 at 9:57 AM #

    I’ve got hope for Costner. I think he’ll remind us of who he is next year. If not… Smith is still a fine replacement. I think Costner will have a huge chip on his shoulder and will retake the scoring crown.

  4. TheDireWolf 07/31/2008 at 10:00 AM #

    What was Costner’s off the court problem? Either way I think a big year from him is very possible.

  5. wolf2003 07/31/2008 at 10:42 AM #

    I think the issue was Gavin had slept with his girlfriend.

  6. packbackr04 07/31/2008 at 10:43 AM #

    one of the other players (who is no longer on the team) boinked his GF

  7. Girlfriend in a Coma 07/31/2008 at 10:53 AM #

    Grant “pulled a Harrington.”

  8. Rochester 07/31/2008 at 11:05 AM #

    Tracy Smith’s trouble at the stripe is duly noted, though it seems like he improved significantly as the season wore on. It was like he couldn’t hit a free throw for nothing at the beginning of the season, but by the end he wasn’t all that bad. I expect he’ll be at least an average free-throw shooter this year.

  9. WV Wolf 07/31/2008 at 11:19 AM #

    Rochester is right about Tracy Smith’s free throw shooting. To start off the season in the non-conference games Smith was 4-14 (.286) but in ACC games he was 18-22 (.818)

  10. 66pack 07/31/2008 at 12:24 PM #

    Optimism is building in the ranks–in a few more weeks we will be elevated to a contender.

  11. wufpup76 07/31/2008 at 12:38 PM #

    Go Brandon 🙂

    Even if Brandon’s shot doesn’t come all the way back, if his defense and rebounding improve it would help this team a great deal … I would hope he is asked to concentrate on those areas first, b/c his shot will come naturally

    Also, I hope Tracy gets plenty of minutes, and they don’t always have to be at the 4

  12. statered 07/31/2008 at 1:50 PM #

    I was listening to Boomani Jones yesterday talking about the pro am league in Durham (I know, I know). At any rate what he said was not promising – that BC still had that sleepy look in his eyes and would not get aggressive. I hope he is wrong but I fear he is right.

  13. happypackdad 07/31/2008 at 1:56 PM #

    Why would he bust it & risk injury? He has nothing to prove until he suits up for the Pack.

  14. howlie 07/31/2008 at 2:19 PM #

    Though little response to the idea, I believe we must use two wings; a point; and two PF’s [we have no center–call Ben one if you want, but he’s not]. Smith, Costner, Horner, & McCauley will be in the double-PF rotation down low.

    Smith is a wonder all his own, and I’m not sure he has the kind of ‘symbiotic’ passing that Ben & McCauley HAD in the high-low game 2 years back. So, I assume Smity and Horner will play ‘bruiser-ball’ and be double-bangers down low… whereas Ben & Brandon will play more of the passing/slashing/jumper game.

  15. DAMangum 07/31/2008 at 2:27 PM #

    The talent has never been questioned, it’s the heart that’s the question. Hopefully it will be there this season.

  16. Redblogger 07/31/2008 at 2:35 PM #


    “I was listening to Boomani Jones”

    Stop! Listening to him will kill every brain cell in your head.

    I have had the misfortune of listening to him a few times this past week, I guess he is filling in for Dave Glenn. But if Jones says BC is still not “back” then it fills me with hope for the next season, because everything else I have ever heard Jone say was so wrong and asinine, he must be wrong about BC as well.

  17. happypackdad 07/31/2008 at 2:40 PM #


  18. b 07/31/2008 at 3:36 PM #

    We have five guys who are built for this spot, but 2 of them will have to be on the floor together at any one time. In reality Ben and Tracy are the 5’s, and Costner and Horner are the 4s. Technically Harris is a short 4 with his bulk and playing style, though I think Sid uses him more as an energizer/garbage man at the 3.

    I vote the best rebounders get the most time at 4, but we only have that luxury if someone steps up in the back court. Sid has been between the basketball version of Scylla and Charbdys most of his time here. He has had to make offensive concessions in the backcourt and defensive concessions in the front court, all the while knowing if we have a single player on an off-night then we lose.

  19. vtpackfan 08/01/2008 at 1:56 PM #

    I’m predicting that TS will play on average more minutes per/game then BC by seasons end. What I’ve heard out of Lowes mouth when it concerned the type of game Tracy has, it went usually “he’s a scorer, you don’t need to get him the ball with set plays.”

    Nothing against BC, but my expectations are very low at this point and expect that our pts per game in the ACC will also be. Lowe will have to become tough on some of his “stars” and make some tough decisions concerning the short term future of this program.

    Alot of people say that “Smith is a good guy to fall back on”. To me it sounds like people already have it into their mind that there is not as much margin of difference between the two, menaing it shouldn’t be a shock should the roles be reversed mid season.

    In fact, I sort of like the sound of ..”and we have Costner to fall back on.”

  20. redfred2 08/03/2008 at 4:49 PM #

    “Grant “pulled a Harrington.””

    Hmm, I’ve heard all sorts of names in my day, but I’ve never heard anyone who calls theirs a “Harrington”.

  21. hball57 08/05/2008 at 6:36 PM #


    As in Adam Harrington.

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