Basketball tips tonight! 3 Questions for the Wolfpack

WOW!  I can’t believe the time is already here for exhibition basketball.  Section Six actually has a preview of what appears to be a pretty bad Fort Valley State team with whom we will do battle tonight in Reynolds Coliseum.

NC State opens its 2009 season with an exhibition game against Div-II Fort Valley State on Thursday, and this looks like the perfect opportunity to get out and run. Not only did the Wildcats turn the ball over a metric shit ton, they also averaged 83 possessions per 40 minutes (no doubt a bit TO-inflated) in 2008. They neither shoot nor rebound well offensively, so there are going to be plenty of transition opportunities for the Wolfpack.

Generally speaking, three primary questions/issues surround the Wolfpack as we head into Coach Sidney Lowe’s third season:

(1) The primary issue surrounding NC State Basketball will be point guard until the point guard position is settled.  You know what they say — ‘if you’ve got to have THREE point guards then you really don’t have a point guard.’

“We have three, to start off, which we haven’t had in my three years back here,” coach Sidney Lowe said. “I just hope we will stay healthy at that position. We will need all three point guards as the season goes along. We can’t do it with just two.”

  • We have discussed and tracked the point guard situation for a while now and you can see related posts by clicking on this tag.  This particular entry will take you through some of the broader conversations with a focus more on Farnold Degand and his rehabilitation back to health.

As you painfully recall, NC State’s starting point guard, Farnold Degand, tore his ACL last year during a win over Cincinnati in 10th game of the season. Although the Wolfpack definitely had some struggles prior to Degand’s injury, it is impossible to argue that both Degand and the Wolfpack were creating positive momentum and developing nicely when he was injured. At the time of the injury, Degand’s production was trending upward and he was averaging almost 7.0 points, 3.2 rebounds and 28.6 minutes per game while leading the team in assists (2.9 per game) and three-point shooting (.500, 8-16). Defensively, the quickness he possessed in his 6′4 frame proved to be much more valuable than anyone realized until Marques Johnson and Javi Gonzalez attempted to replace Degand after the injury.

Although State was only 7-3, the Pack had picked-up some key wins against South Carolina, an under-rated Rider team, Cincinnati, Villanova and on the road at Seton Hall to produce a strong RPI and be sitting in a strong position ‘if the NCAA Tournament were to start’ at that time.

(2) Another big question this year will focus on the ‘return to form’ for some of the Wolfpackers.  More specifically – can Ben McCauley and Brandon Costner regain the form they showed two years ago?

  • Similarly, we had a great entry on October 14th regarding Costner that can be read by clicking here.
  • Costner’s star shone bright during the Wolfpack’s trip to Canada a couple of months ago; but McCauley was not allowed on the trip for breaking a team rule. (Link to blog entry)
  • Since then, McCauley has taken a very active leadership role within the program – both on the court and off the court.
  • He was highlighted as the MVP of the Red-White game a couple of weeks ago.  (Link to story)

Senior Ben McCauley looked more like Ben McCauley the sophomore Saturday night at Reynolds Coliseum.

And that’s a positive sign for N.C. State’s basketball team. After experiencing a demise last season, the 6-9 center/forward was battling on the boards, setting screens, and aggressively  posting up, his hands hungry for the ball.

He got it often enough to score a game-high 17 points and help his Red team edge the White 47-44 in a 32-minute intra-squad duel.

  • He sounded like a leader in this recent Q&A with Ken Tysiac that provided some insight into some of the personnel developments and potential rotations for this year’s squad.

(3) Similar to the play at the point guard position, another question that will remain a question is the tempo that the team chooses to play.  To be very frank with you, I could care less what tempo the team plays as long as they win.  I’ve held true to this philosophy for 30 years and I am not going to change.  Just win.

Did anyone really care that we were running a deliberate style dominated with half court sets in March of 2007?  Of course not.  We weren’t running an up tempo offense, we were simply executing our existing offense with extreme precision and efficiency.

However, over the long-term the teams with the best players typically out perform teams with weaker players; and to be positioned to attract the top talent, coaches need to offer a system and style that appeals to the best players and can help propel young stars into the National Basketball Association.

With this said, the Wolfpack is going up tempo this year.

On the court, Lowe has committed to a tactical change after N.C. State ranked last in the ACC in scoring (67.3 ppg) en route to the conference tournament’s 12th and final seed in 2007-08.

After two years of preaching a methodical, half-court style on offense, Lowe wants the team to fast break more. Moving athletic wing Courtney Fells from shooting guard to small forward could aid that change.

I look at the change to uptempo more as an investment in the future than a tactical change of what is needed this season.  To be fair, this team is probably not built to optimally succeed by running and gunning.  BUT, Coach Lowe has got to institute the fundamental shift at some point…so, it might as well be now so that he can show it off to potential recruits while also building the foundation with the young kids on this team for the future.

As usual, S6 is the place to turn for a look at some statistical analysis on the topic.

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08-09 Basketball General

24 Responses to Basketball tips tonight! 3 Questions for the Wolfpack

  1. packbackr04 11/06/2008 at 1:17 PM #

    what time is tip? i assume i will have to listen on the radio?

  2. Texpack 11/06/2008 at 2:59 PM #

    This is always my New Years Day. Exhibition College Basketball is the only exhibition season that I care about.

  3. Alpha Wolf 11/06/2008 at 3:06 PM #

    Let’s just hope that we have a better showing than we did last year against UNC Pembroke.

  4. Ed89 11/06/2008 at 3:47 PM #

    Is it 7:00 or 7:30 TIP???

  5. RabidWolf 11/06/2008 at 4:07 PM #

    7 PM tip. I am honestly looking forward to walking into Reynolds and feeling the old ghosts again.

    I realize this IS a contest against a D-II school, but it will give everyone the chance to get a small taste of what the ‘Pack will do this year.

    Run, baby, Run!

  6. burnbarn 11/06/2008 at 4:10 PM #

    I agree with the tempo.. i think Lowe has to start coaching this season what he will run in the future and make it part of the team’s ‘culture’ of playing..kinda like hanging on the perimeter, shooting threes and not going for rebounds has been our culture in the past.

    K did it when he got to dook.. it wasn’t pretty for a few years but when he got his players it was all understood.

    here’s to a better BBall season!!

  7. SEAT.5.F.2 11/06/2008 at 4:45 PM #

    Kinda hope Degand doesn’t play much. Hope Lowe wants him to ease back in and that also goes for Thomas. Give Javi and Julius the bulk of time tonite Sid. Go Pack!

  8. redfred2 11/06/2008 at 5:14 PM #

    I’ve followed the Fort Valley State, whatever their nicknames are, all of my life, and let me tell you, they’re uh…well…they’re not uh…too…good.

    I think someone above said this is a great opportunity to run. FORT VALLEY STATE??? What the hell???!!! This ought to be a good opportunity to walk, spin around and do blind folded cart wheels all night long, and still score 160 points. I’m not counting on anything, but it will be interesting to HEAR just what takes place tonight.

    Sidney, you’re going to be judged harshly, even against a Fort Valley State, and until there is evidence of some consistency shown on the BB court. I am truly hoping that you took this past off season very seriously.

  9. tcthdi-tgsf-twhwtnc 11/06/2008 at 5:23 PM #

    Should stay play to stay healthy tonight? I would look at the first game as the last NFL pre-season game. No need to play the starters too much. Let the guys get some time then bring in the ‘red team’ so to speak.

  10. redfred2 11/06/2008 at 7:13 PM #

    t-t-t, that first sentence looks like something I would type. 🙂

    Anybody at the game? I’d love to know what Reynolds feels like tonight.

  11. packbackr04 11/06/2008 at 7:32 PM #

    sounds like CJ is alright. he started, although im not really sure what that says about the team.

    also, johnny and Farnold have logged minutes in the first half. including a slam for Johnny Thomas. seems encouraging considering some
    earlier reports about johnnys knee

    we sound better via the radio, but not much better

    30-15 pack

  12. redfred2 11/06/2008 at 7:43 PM #

    Johnny Thomas, MAN I hate that for him!!!

    Here we go again.

  13. redfred2 11/06/2008 at 7:53 PM #

    We’re scoring, and winning, just like everyone in their right mind would expect tonight, but we’re getting out rebounded again, by Fort Valley State no less. Not at all what I wanted to hear.

  14. wpackman33 11/06/2008 at 7:56 PM #

    does anybody know where i can listen online. Something is jacked up with my pack pass

  15. packbackr04 11/06/2008 at 7:57 PM #

    that sucks for Johnny Thomas

  16. redfred2 11/06/2008 at 8:17 PM #

    I just went on GoPack to check the stats, the rebounding numbers are killing me.

    Anyway, while I was there, I checked out the article on Lowe and McCauley’s trip to Atlanta to speak with the ACC media. Don’t get me wrong, I am fully aware that I’m not the one who should be critiquing other people’s writing and spelling skills, but damn, do they even proof read that crap before they put it out there for the whole world to see?

  17. packbackr04 11/06/2008 at 8:42 PM #

    2nd half has not been as pretty as the first. we should put 100 on this team

  18. packbackr04 11/06/2008 at 8:49 PM #

    so…..Fred, thoughts? analysis? it appears its just you and me

  19. redfred2 11/06/2008 at 8:59 PM #

    Mannie Fernandez offered a two year, 45 million dollar deal.

    That’s just $432,692.30 a week, for playing the game of baseball.

    Not bad.

  20. Ismael 11/06/2008 at 9:02 PM #


  21. redfred2 11/06/2008 at 9:04 PM #

    pb04, I was in and out, helping the kids with homework, among other things. Sorry, but I couldn’t really get any feel for the game.

    What did you think?

  22. redfred2 11/06/2008 at 9:10 PM #

    04, so Johnny Thomas came back in, which was GREAT NEWS, but what was the explanation of the 1st half injury?

  23. redfred2 11/06/2008 at 9:52 PM #

    Then there was one. Oh well.

  24. wufpup76 11/06/2008 at 10:48 PM #

    Just got back from the game … Here is my postgame report –

    – Obviously, the big news of the night is the injury to Johnny Thomas, which is very unfortunate … I did’nt see it happen (obscured view), but he was definitely in some pain … He was part of the second unit in the rotation and prior to the injury he looked like he had full range of mobility and had a nice athletic slam that said “my knee is ok” … I really hope the injury isn’t too bad for Johnny as he has had enough injuries already; if he’s healthy, he has the potential to be a major contributor

    – Starting five consisted of Gonzalez, C.J. Williams, Fells, Costner and McCauley for tonight’s game … The starting five played for roughly the first five minutes and then was completely rotated out with Degand, Fergs, Thomas, Horner, and Tracy Smith

    – Brandon Costner looks like an entirely different person … he has lost a lot of weight and appears to be in good shape … At the end of the first half and the start of the second half he sort of reverted back to last season and had some bad turnovers and missed a rebound opportunity … He was benched early in the second half in favor of Horner, and was clearly frustrated by his play … I’m putting this more in the category of shaky confidence left over from last season and pressing too hard to be all world again like in March of ’07 … Either way, we’ve got to find a way for him to get his confidence back all the way and keep it up … he’s vital to this team’s chances of being a pleasant surprise

    – Ft. Valley State was completely overmatched, so try and temper your judgements from this game … There were some positives for the Pack, but the Wildcats were outclassed in most areas (aside from rebounding, I’ll get to that later) and in addition turned the ball over as if that was the goal of their offensive sets

    – The starting five came out and looked pretty good in man D and was able to get a couple of quick and easy transition baskets … C.J. Williams looked slightly hesitant at first but quickly found his rhythm and looked pretty good for a freshman w/ no experience … He hit a nice turnaround baseline jumper about 3 minutes in which went a long way to giving him some confidence

    – The best player on the court tonight was Courtney Fells and it looked like he knew it … There was a different feel about him tonight as you could see how confident he was in everything he did … Great all around game from Fells, which included leadership on the floor and some good hustle on the defensive end … No question about who our leader was tonight

    – Farnold Degand looked good and didn’t appear to have any limitations associated w/ his injury … He made a great hustle play in the second half that ended with him on the floor, and he hopped right up … We’re a different team w/ Farnold on the floor, as he provides defense and rebounding from the 1 … I think he will wind up as the starting 1, w/ Javi getting plenty of minutes (as he should)

    – Speaking of Javi, he had a decent game … The game got really sloppy for a 10 minute stretch in the first half and we were unable to really pull away … Sidney was clearly annoyed, and Javi turned the ball over on a particualarly bad play around the 10:30 mark of the first half … Javi was subbed out and Sidney really got into him for a few seconds, so Javi still has a little ways to go in game management and defense, but the halfcourt sets looked far better than the last half of last season and Javi had some really nice passes and knocked down an open 3

    – When Javi was subbed out, we got our first look at Julius Mays … He looked ok in the first half, a little shaky w/ the ball and a couple of lazy passes as you would expect from a freshman point guard w/ no experience … In the second half, Ft. Valley State applied some on-ball pressure and Mays had a couple of bad turnovers … he looked very much like Javi did at times during his trial-by-fire last season … So, Mays has more than a few things to learn but looked ok for the most part

    – Fergs nailed a couple of open three’s tonight and played really well, particularly in the second half on both offense and defense … Horner was effective but missed some open jumpers … Tracy Smith was the workhorse you’d expect him to be … McCauley had a couple of nice stickbacks including a one-hand follow jam, but got few rebounds and didn’t look great defensively

    – Simon Harris – I wish this guy could see more time … He didn’t come in until the 11:00 minute mark of the 2nd half and immediately proceeded to get an offensive rebound … Within 3 minutes, he had 4 points and 3 rebounds – 2 of them offensive rebounds … Harris finished w/ 9 points and 7 rebounds in 11:00 of play … Sure, it was Ft. Valley State, but Harris did this when he came into games last season … Nothing defines hustle as much as defense and offensive rebounding, and Harris is the best offensive rebounder we have without question … The guy has a nose for the ball and I hope he’s able to work his way more into the rotation

    – Now for the really bad stuff … Rebounding was awful … Way too many offensive rebounds allowed and they out-rebounded us for the game … Poor effort here …

    – We again allowed way too much easy dribble penetration, particularly in the 2nd half … We’ve got to find a way to plug this up immediately or last season’s fate awaits … The few times we switched to a 2-3 zone we looked particularly awful with the first possesion resulting in a wide open lob for them and the next few in our 2-3 we gave up wide open shots … Kinda scary

    Overall, pretty fair effort – aside from rebounding and lax D in the second half … I certainly came away much more enthused about this exhibition as opposed to last season’s against Pembroke where we looked lethargic and severely overrated … Tempo was ok and Degand and Gonzalez played fairly well, and the halfcourt sets went pretty well tonight … As usual, we need to get tougher defensively and find away to get some boards … We’ll see what happens Tuesday night

    Go Pack 🙂

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