Hoops: The Young Pack Faces Its First Road Test Early Against Cincinnati

Basketball season has just begun, and the Wolfpack has played but one game so far in its 2013-14 campaign, but tomorrow they are leaving the friendly confines of the PNC Center and their home floor for a game against the Cincinnati in the Bearcats’ arena.

Not only is it a road game, it’s also a game that will be nationally televised,  it’s a game that will be well attended and it promises to be an affair that will be the sort of pressure cooker that is rare for November 13th in any college basketball year.  To be only the road so early is quite different than many other major programs, some of whom might not venture beyond a neutral court until conference play starts in the new year — and for NC State, despite the difficulties and challenges a road game so early poses, it’s a very good idea and perhaps exactly what the team needs as it gels for the season.

Catch him if you can: Wolfpack freshman Cat Barber

Catch him if you can: Wolfpack freshman Cat Barber

The opener against Appalachian State was encouraging, given that the bulk of NC State’s core from last season has left the program: starters C.J. Leslie, Lorenzo Brown, Scott Wood and Richard Howell are gone, leaving head coach Mark Gottfried to replace five of its top six scorers from a 24-11, NCAA tournament team.  While those departures may leave the Wolfpack looking weak and vulnerable on paper, anyone who watched the opener last Friday had to leave a bit encouraged: after shaking off first-game jitters, the new players meshed with returning team members Tyler Lewis and TJ Warren quite well when they were on offense, and on defense, despite a decided lack of height on the floor that they weren’t going to wave a red cape and cry out “ole!” to the opposition.

That’s not to say that State is by any means a top 25 program right now, but it also fair to say that Mark Gottfried’s cupboard is not exactly bare either.  We saw that Cat Barber is indeed as fast as lightning and that if he gets a lane to the basket, he can score as quickly as anyone we’ve seen in Raleigh in quite some time.  We saw that transfer Dez Lee is also dangerous with the rock and that he is a persistent scoring threat, the kind that will draw defensive attention and generally give other teams headaches.  We saw glimpses of Raulston Turner’s outside shooting, despite scoring only seven points. We saw that free throws were not necessarily going to be a misadventure the way they often were last season.  And again, we saw glimpses of cohesive defense.

But that was against Appalachian State, and that’s not the sort of team you measure yourself against effectively if you are an ACC team.  Tomorrow’s game will give us a much better picture.

Cincinnati is a team that prides itself on defense, and that is what they use to win.  Obviously, that will be a challenge, especially for inexperienced and not-fully-grown freshman players who are going to find out that the next level is not as easy as their AAU and shoe camp circuit days.  And while Cincinnati is not anyone’s idea of a 100+ point averaging squad, Sean Kilpatrick Justin Jackson and Titus Rubles can give defensive nightmares to the Wolfpack, especially given its height and experience deficiencies.

Add to that challenge will be the fact that it is a road game coming at a time when the young Wolfpack players are just starting to form their in-game personality.  Cincinnati has a pretty raucous student section, and they are looking at this game as a national showcase for themselves.  The 5pm game is the appetizer for the highly anticipated #Kentucky versus #2 Michigan State and the Kansas – Duke affairs, and it is fairly rare air for the American Athletic Conference team that’s not often in such a favored timeslot by ESPN.  In short, this will be a hostile atmosphere, and it almost certainly won’t resemble a first round holiday tournament game where the loudest sounds are squeaking sneakers and players yelling to one another.

All in all, that makes this a tough contest for the Wolfpack, make no mistake about it.  Win or lose, however, it will serve as one of the best object lessons that Mark Gottfried could possibly give his young squad.  Young teams need to be seasoned in cauldrons like this to know first-hand what to expect at Cameron Indoor Stadium, or Smith Center, or at the Carrier Dome — all places they will visit later on.  Young players used to having their way against prep ballers need to learn what it is like to face older, stronger and more experienced players intent on stopping them from getting to the hole.  On the other end of the floor, they need to know what it takes to keep those same older, stronger and more experienced players from scoring.

Bottom line: this is a tough ask for the NC State team. It’s too early to expect them to win, but it’s never to early to hope that they do and to support them no matter the shape of the scoreboard.  Win or lose, this is exactly what the doctor ordered and win or lose, it is the sort of game that will pay dividends this year and beyond.

Gametime: 5pm

Coverage: ESPN

13-14 Basketball NCS Basketball

322 Responses to Hoops: The Young Pack Faces Its First Road Test Early Against Cincinnati

  1. Wufpacker 11/12/2013 at 4:05 AM #

    I’m excited to see how these youngsters handle themselves in a hostile environment against a quality opponent.

    Win or lose, the experience gained could be invaluable for later.

  2. Texpack 11/12/2013 at 4:48 AM #

    DVR is set so I can watch this one after family commitments are taken care of.

    Look for Cincy to go after Dez Lee. He has the kind of in your face personality that will get the juices of a thug program like that all fired up. Hopefully Gott has them prepared for the atmosphere and we maintain our poise.

    A win tonight would be a huge plus for this team come March, but I’d mostly like to see poise, competitiveness, and unity in the face of adversity.

  3. ncsu1987 11/12/2013 at 7:08 AM #

    I absolutely love that this game was scheduled so early! The experience will be amazing for this young team. To paraphrase my favorite coach, here’s hoping they’re able to put themselves in position to have a chance at the end.

  4. BJD95 11/12/2013 at 7:14 AM #

    This is clearly a “nothing to lose, everything to gain” kind of gain. Even if we lose, it can end up a net positive in terms of lessons learned.

    MG clearly learned his lesson re scheduling from his time at Alabama. It’s a breath of fresh air seeing a coach not design a schedule to ensure NIT eligibility.

  5. vtpackfan 11/12/2013 at 7:30 AM #

    A win would be over the mountain fantastic.

    Although will be happy with:

    No Okie State type bed wetting.

    No bad injuries- except, maybe to their bald ginger troll of a coach.

  6. redcanine 11/12/2013 at 7:45 AM #

    Let’s go up there and start some trouble. Piss on their rug for 40 minutes.

    Didn’t our football squad get our fallics handed to us last time a plane from Raleigh landed in Cincy?

    Don’t put me through that mess again. Play hard.

  7. wolffpride 11/12/2013 at 8:31 AM #

    Yeah, Cincy handed us our asses in football couple of years ago. They owed us though for the whooping we laid on them in Raleigh in what would be Russell Wilson’s last year. Does anybody remember the series we had against the Bearcats when Lowe was coaching? If I recall correctly, we won both games. Here’s hoping for number 3 in a row.

    I hate slow down basketball, watch soccer if you’re not fond of scoring. I hope we run all over them. Hopefully our guards cause a mismatch and we get some defensive pressure on them. I read that they are not a good shooting team. This will be a rough game for our post players. Rebounds will be key, and please no ACC refs.

  8. PoppaJohn 11/12/2013 at 8:44 AM #

    This is a great game for us. Going on the road the second game of the season? Excellent! Who’s Duke playing their second game? Kansas on the road. (in Chicago) Look at their preseason schedule, very similar to ours – they have a similar set of ‘between games’, but their anchor games are just a higher tier of difficulty. (Kansas, UCLA, NIT, Michigan) We’ll get there. I love Gott’s scheduling.

    Will we win? Probably not, but hopefully they’ll come away with an idea of how hard they have to play and that they have to learn to play together. That’s a great lesson for a new team to learn this early. I want them to come away thinking, “we could have beaten them if we’d just done our part.” And on the other hand? We could win this. This is not like the FSU football game in which we didn’t belong on the field with them. Without knowing their team, I’ll bet we have as much talent – just much less experience.

    Playing a string of nobodies this time of year is little better than more practices. We don’t grow. Can’t wait.

  9. packalum44 11/12/2013 at 9:23 AM #

    7.5 point dogs. We will beat the spread. Our back court is better than last year. Zo and Purvis were overrated (referring specifically to Vitalle rating us best back court in the nation at start of the season). Zo was rarely criticized for his poor defense b/c he was so beloved. He got beat off the dribble regularly.

    With Cat, Desmond and Ralston on the floor, we have one of the more athletic backcourts in the ACC. Good lateral quickness. If tubby was 50 pounds lighter he has the length and girth to be an instant improvement defensively over Richard who was far too short to be a serious problem for good forwards.

    Lewis (more b/c of height than lateral quickness) and Warren (lateral quickness) will continue to be liabilities.

    Overall we will improve defensively especially defending on the ball and disrupting guards and penetration.

  10. TeufelWolf 11/12/2013 at 9:42 AM #

    If the main problem with Anya is his weight/conditioning, why don’t the coaches just excercise him in practice? At least until he gets to where he needs to be? That or “encourage” supplemental PT sessions.

  11. TeufelWolf 11/12/2013 at 9:42 AM #

    ….or a sports training montage.

  12. Adventuroo 11/12/2013 at 9:46 AM #


    Technically, the game in today, November 12, not November 13…..so that adds a fractional more amount of “early season” to the contest.

    Good article….did not understand when I downloaded the PDF that it was a “media” event game. Now I know it is a “Marathon” for ESPN.

    Bookies (three sources) have us as the FAVORITE (If I read it correctly) by 7 – 9 points. That SHOULD include the home court advantage.

    Since we folks that paid our dues and now do not have to “report for duty” daily do not have to worry about the commute home (during Fishel’s light flurries or sprinkles), will have the gas logs on and my all red “lucky” outfit on. However, in all fairness, Coach G’s choice of shirt color and tie color seems to have more influence than my bright red Hanes undergarment…..

    I WONDER if we see the “Cat-Ty” starting lineup tonight….If so, hopefully it will be MUCH quicker than the proverbial Bearcat….which is a really ugly little critter that can’t really walk well and hangs out in the canopy and smells like “hot popcorn”

    For a laugh…..or perhaps to increase your knowledge of trivia…..go here….


    GO PACK….

  13. nav 11/12/2013 at 9:57 AM #

    I thought it pretty ironic that Cincy’s first four games are NCCU, State, App, and Campbell and State’s first four are App, Cincy, Campbell, and NCCU.

    Go figure.

  14. Whiteshoes67 11/12/2013 at 10:03 AM #

    ^Adventuro raises the enduring question for me. How much time together for Cat and Lewis? Cinci has one of the better guards in the country, with size and athleticism. Turner or Lee will need to guard him for most of the game. If you play Lewis and Cat, that means one of them is stuck guarding somebody considerably bigger on the wing or post. It just doesn’t work. May provide us an edge in speed/quickness but is that advantage enough to offset the size deficiency and inability to guard effectively? I think we learn a lot tonight.

  15. state73 11/12/2013 at 10:30 AM #

    Looking forward to tonight’s game. I think many will be surprised to see Warren and Lewis emerge as the team leaders before the season is over. GO PACK!

  16. Pack Leader 11/12/2013 at 10:49 AM #

    LOVE the idea to test them early. In today college basketball, an early contest on the road for a young team gives them more positive than negative (unless it turns into Sids first year @Cinci… think we had 35 turnovers at half).

    Excited to see if the 3guard lineup can be effective, Lee seems like the real deal! Just hope we can rebound/defend.

    RUN RUN RUN… we will win if we get out in transition!! GO PACK!!!

  17. vtpackfan 11/12/2013 at 10:58 AM #

    Let’s see if Turner has a shut down defender mentality. The guy will still go off at some point but it will be interesting to see how how Turner/Lee/Barber.

    Gott has a lot of faith in Dez and Cat’s ability to get through screens. Some of the parts needed to defend strongly as a team with the exception of a shot blocker.

  18. Tuffy2 11/12/2013 at 11:08 AM #

    This team might just surprise tonight.

  19. tjfoose1 11/12/2013 at 11:35 AM #

    “I think many will be surprised to see Warren and Lewis emerge as the team leaders before the season is over.”

    Emerge? You mean you think they are not already? Who else would it be? TL the court leader, TW the play leader, and Dez Lee the leader leader a la Alex Johnson + CJ Williams.

  20. Pack85EE 11/12/2013 at 12:01 PM #

    Cat Barber 6’2″, Des Lee 6′ 4″. Is 2″ that much of a trade off? I wonder what their wing span is? With Cat as quick as he is, I assume he can cover any guard. Coach seems to think he’s our best defender. Teen Wolf, 5’11” is another story but he was a good team leader against App State.

  21. vtpackfan 11/12/2013 at 12:06 PM #

    I’m not convince Dez is a true scoring threat until I see this game. His combination of power and quickness was a huge advantage versus the App backcourt. Against guys with his strength and speed he will be a big adjustment from JuCo.

    No matter how he does tonight and early on it appears he is a great fit and role model. W-L expectations are luke warm and it’s signs of teamwork and commitment to play with intensity that is a under the microscope this year.

  22. Classof89 11/12/2013 at 12:15 PM #

    “I thought it pretty ironic that Cincy’s first four games are NCCU, State, App, and Campbell and State’s first four are App, Cincy, Campbell, and NCCU.

    Go figure.”

    Actually, it’s not ironic at all. It’s the “Global Sports Shootout”. Not all that global, considering four of the five teams are from NC. We definitely didn’t make the cut for ESPN’s A list or B list of preseason college basketball events this year…

  23. nav 11/12/2013 at 12:53 PM #

    ^thanks 89. First time I’ve heard of that.

  24. packof81 11/12/2013 at 1:03 PM #

    With a 5pm game time, I’ll be able to catch the 2nd half while I eat dinner. Sure is an odd time for a game.

  25. Adventuroo 11/12/2013 at 1:35 PM #

    Foose Said…

    “I think many will be surprised to see Warren and Lewis emerge as the team leaders before the season is over.”

    Emerge? You mean you think they are not already? Who else would it be? TL the court leader, TW the play leader, and Dez Lee the leader leader a la Alex Johnson + CJ Williams. – END OF FOOSE COMMENTS

    OK….Foose or ANYBODY…..

    Lets go back to the 2011-12 team….

    Lewis is Brown….

    Warren is Leslie (with normal head size)…

    Dez Lee is CJ Williams and Alex Johnson….who did not, I think, start.

    Who is Wood….or will Lee fill in for him as a “starter”? He looked great the other night….

    Who is Howell…..Vandy during the first few minutes looked a LOT better…..he is leaner and seemed to have more confidence….. We need a Howell and Big Boy (Anya) does NOT seem to be quite there….yet

    Turner and Washington also have gotten some PT and they both, at times, look good.

    Just wondering, how does ANYONE fill out the rest of the line-up?

    The Cincy game will be a test where the students (primarily) will not be there.

    I would hate to argue with the learned PRESS about the pre-season polls…..and they may be right…..based on their stellar past predictions (Finishing FIRST last year in the ACC for example). Time will tell and injuries, as they usually do, will be a big part.

    Gottfried does NOT like the term Chemistry….maybe something in his personality…..but the way the team WORKS as a TEAM was really clicking in 2011/12 and was certainly missing in 2012/13.

    That seems to be the BIGGEST unknown. They looked a little sloppy in the two exhibition games, but really looked good against Happy Appy….and when you are winning, you certainly seem to LOOK HAPPY and ENJOYING playing…

    GO PACK….

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