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. PoppaJohn 11/12/2013 at 1:38 PM #

    “Global Sports Shootout” Poorly named

  2. Texpack 11/12/2013 at 2:31 PM #

    ^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.

    You may see a lot of zone when Cat and Lewis are on the floor together.

  3. redcanine 11/12/2013 at 2:32 PM #

    We’re lucky to play on national television at 5:00. The Credit Union was squeakin’ sneakers before the sun came up… probably because that hot chick is now in LA…


    Our team has balls. I don’t expect us to lose.

  4. wufpup76 11/12/2013 at 2:48 PM #

    “….or a sports training montage.”

    ^Always fade out in a montage … http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SPFCHuEegsk

    “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.”

    ^They gotta guard us too, pal 🙂

  5. Dr. Wolf 11/12/2013 at 3:01 PM #

    Predictions? Pack by 5.

  6. Whiteshoes67 11/12/2013 at 3:15 PM #

    ^I’ve said my piece on the Lewis-Barber thing. Not going to hammer on that all season. I like both of them, just not together for extended minutes. I didn’t think it was a coincidence when we made the huge second half run against app st. That run wasn’t sparked or extended by the starting lineup. Early impressions just tell me the best combo is Barber/Lewis, Lee, Turner, Warren, and Freeman/Washington.

    I’m interested to see who can consistently knock down the perimeter shot, if we rebound, and how well we defend against a better opponent. Gottfried’s teams always score at a pretty good clip if they don’t turn it over.

  7. wufpup76 11/12/2013 at 3:32 PM #

    VT rebounds with a victory over West Virginia

  8. Rick 11/12/2013 at 3:39 PM #

    We have a chance. We go as far as Warren and Lewis take us. This team could be be better than the parts.

    I do not expect Anya to ever amount to much. If he does not have the discipline to avoid obesty I cannot imagine he will work hard enough to amount to much. Maybe I am wrong though.

  9. colapack 11/12/2013 at 4:39 PM #

    Cincinnati first game stats: FG 39.3% 3-pt 33.3% FT 74.2%

    NC State first game stats: FG 61.9% 3-pt 45.5% FT 68.2%

  10. bill.onthebeach 11/12/2013 at 4:40 PM #

    ^Adventuroo asked … “Who is Wood?” ( who’s taking his spot /role on this year’s team).

    I’d answer that ….NOBODY.
    The three point shooter role is going to distributed among several guys… as when one hot …. watch out. Plus… we won’t be reading inane comments about “WBCPD”.

    ^Rick says… “This team could be be better than the parts. ”

    I’d edit that… strike could and put in WILL….
    We had “parts” last season and we have already seen better this year.

    I think we all got the big pieces figured out…
    Tyler / Cuz / Cat / Dez… with the rest of the kids playing significant minutes and roles.

    The Big Question is can we beef up in the paint and we won’t know that until the new look Vandy returns to action.


    Wow … what a night of great BBall ….

    Pack plays Bearcats for Happy Hour…
    UK v. MSU at 7:30pm
    Duke v. Kansas at 9:30pm

    Already told the wife I ain’t cooking tonight… get something take out!

  11. BJD95 11/12/2013 at 4:43 PM #

    Kudos, 76, on “they gotta guard us too, pal.” It is indeed a zero sum game. That’s why I don’t worry that much about matchup difficulties. Plus, Cat is already our best on-ball defender, and it isn’t even close.

    I don’t expect us to play much zone, because we might never get a defensive rebound.

    Love the Des Lee = Alex Johnson comp, leadership wise. They both seem like guys that speak softly, but when they do…everybody listens. Plus Des is lightning quick and always looking to score in transition.

    I think you will see all the 1-3 players (Lewis, Cat, Des, Turner) play around 30 mpg, adjusted a bit based on hot hand and/or foul trouble. No issues with Cat and Lewis together, they meshed great Friday and I really think it will confuse defenses not to be able to isolate where (who) the play will start.

    The problem is always going to be Lewis’ defense, whether Cat is also in the game or not. But he is a fantastic offensive player, and deserves a full allotment of backcourt minutes. He also has more upper body strength, which will help his midrange game immeasurably.

    Love Warren as a stretch 4, it also minimizes having to watch him play perimeter defense (it’s “avert your eyes” bad), plus nobody plays two really big guys together that much anyway. And he would eat a big guy’s lunch on the other end of the court.

  12. Wufpacker 11/12/2013 at 4:58 PM #

    Our game will start out on ESPNU, and will switch over to the flagship ESPN after the conclusion of SCar/Baylor.

  13. wufpup76 11/12/2013 at 5:04 PM #

    VCU-Virginia, Kentucky-Michingan St., Duke-Kansas later …

    Some great match-ups tonight

    Go Pack!

  14. wufpup76 11/12/2013 at 5:07 PM #

    Couple of early turnovers, hopefully we’ll settle down … looks like opportunities to attack will be there

  15. Wufpacker 11/12/2013 at 5:08 PM #

    Execution not perfect of course, but we’re not playing scared/tentative, and have good energy thus far.

  16. wufpup76 11/12/2013 at 5:09 PM #

    Two minutes, two fouls on Washington 🙁

  17. BJD95 11/12/2013 at 5:10 PM #

    Defense again is much better than last season. Positioning and effort is more than half the battle.

  18. Wufpacker 11/12/2013 at 5:10 PM #

    I think I might love Turner.

  19. Wufpacker 11/12/2013 at 5:11 PM #


  20. BJD95 11/12/2013 at 5:12 PM #

    Another reason I like Warren at the 4 – Freeman and Washington need to save their minutes and fouls for the 5.

    There will be a first half King Hippo sighting now. Par-tay!

  21. Wufpacker 11/12/2013 at 5:13 PM #

    That was a nifty little move by Buckets. Got by his man easily, forced him to foul.


  22. wufpup76 11/12/2013 at 5:14 PM #

    We’re gonna have no choice but to have Anya eat some minutes today.

    No pun intended?

  23. bill.onthebeach 11/12/2013 at 5:15 PM #

    ^Hope he doesn’t choke….

    I still think BJD can outjump BJ-Anya.

  24. Wufpacker 11/12/2013 at 5:15 PM #

    For some reason, I didn’t realize Turner was as tall as he is.

  25. BJD95 11/12/2013 at 5:15 PM #

    I’m pretty sure you had KH at “eat.”

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