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. BJD95 11/12/2013 at 5:18 PM #

    Turner has a nice wingspan, too. He should also be a plus defender.

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

    It’s a bit ugly, but I can’t complain about effort. That’s for effing certain.

  3. BJD95 11/12/2013 at 5:19 PM #

    Is it just me, or does anyone else get confused when you see State guys wearing “2” and “5” so soon?

  4. wufpup76 11/12/2013 at 5:20 PM #

    We’ve gotten a lil sloppy with the ball, and Cincy’s getting some easy scores … We need Lewis on the floor as much as possible.

  5. wufpup76 11/12/2013 at 5:21 PM #

    I’d rather see more attacking the basket, but we’ve knocked down some 3’s , so yay

  6. BJD95 11/12/2013 at 5:22 PM #

    Buckets is forcing it on offense. But still playing very hard.

  7. Rick 11/12/2013 at 5:23 PM #

    We need to keep it close.

    Warren needs to hit that three.

    Cat is fast. Needs control.

    I just started watching as I had to help my son get his homework done. Well over an hour of homework for a third grader is crazy. I had less than that in high school

  8. Adventuroo 11/12/2013 at 5:23 PM #

    OK….ready for the flack….but Coach G is wearing a blue and white shirt….red tie….

    No wonder we are a little ragged. Obviously he does not share my confidence in this “game indicator”

    BUT, we are looking pretty good, being on a hostile court.

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

    ^wufpup… one leads to the another… they can’t stop both.

  10. wufpup76 11/12/2013 at 5:24 PM #

    Sean Farnham’s not wrong, the pace and flow of the game has been all Cincy the last five minutes.

    I like Barber’s aggression, but we’ve become a bit disjointed these past few minutes. That’s ok! Stay aggressive and at this point it’s all about the learning.

  11. xphoenix87 11/12/2013 at 5:24 PM #

    Rebounding is going to be a severe problem this year. This team has to rotate really well in help defense and gang rebound if they want to have a chance.

  12. Rick 11/12/2013 at 5:25 PM #

    BTW they are calling him tonybuckets on twitter.

    I think we start trends not follow them

  13. wufpup76 11/12/2013 at 5:25 PM #

    I don’t think we played any zone against App, so let’s see how this goes.

  14. BJD95 11/12/2013 at 5:26 PM #

    Kilpatrick is just all sorts of awesome tonight.

  15. bill.onthebeach 11/12/2013 at 5:27 PM #

    “I think we start trends not follow them”…


  16. Rick 11/12/2013 at 5:28 PM #

    Cincinnati is everything that is wrong with college baskteball. Ugly hacking mess

  17. xphoenix87 11/12/2013 at 5:29 PM #

    Man, WBS just put that kid on skates. That was beautiful

  18. Rick 11/12/2013 at 5:30 PM #


  19. wufpup76 11/12/2013 at 5:30 PM #

    Good job, Lee – we needed that

    I don’t know if Freeman’s gonna hit a free throw all year

  20. BJD95 11/12/2013 at 5:31 PM #

    Des has amazing body control on the drive. Rodney Monroe-esque.

  21. BJD95 11/12/2013 at 5:33 PM #

    Poor Cat has become a contact magnet

  22. Pack Mentality 11/12/2013 at 5:34 PM #

    It’s nice to actually like all the players on the team for a change.

  23. Rick 11/12/2013 at 5:34 PM #

    On the radio Cronin was talking about how other teams did not want to play them at home because of their “great record”. Hah, its because no one wants to go there and get beat up.

  24. BJD95 11/12/2013 at 5:35 PM #

    Seems like Kilpatrick has much more than 10.

  25. wufpup76 11/12/2013 at 5:35 PM #

    A lot of perimeter shots 🙁

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