ACC in the NCAAs: Scouting North Carolina State vs. KansasPosted by KCarpenter on March 23rd, 2012
North Carolina State, by this point, has hopefully demonstrated that it has the talent to match up with just about any team in the nation. The Wolfpack has height, speed, athleticism, and skill. Kansas, however, has all that, tournament-tested experience and perhaps the second best player in college basketball, a guy named Thomas Robinson. Like so many games that NC State has competed in this season, this is a game that may very well come down to foul trouble. To win this game, C.J. Leslie, Richard Howell, and DeShawn Painter need to stay on the floor, which may be a challenge considering how good the Jayhawks are at drawing fouls. Yet, in Kansas, NC State faces a team that shares their weaknesses as well as their strengths.
Lorenzo Brown, Leslie, and Howell are all excellent at drawing fouls and Kansas’s big men are fairly susceptible to foul trouble. Jeff Withey‘s physical style means that he often finds himself with more than a few fouls while the rest of the big man rotation, outside of Thomas Robinson (who still gets called for 3.5 fouls per 40 minutes), fouls like there is no tomorrow. Kevin Young gets called for 5.4 fouls per 40, while Justin Wesley‘s 8.6 fouls per 40 is about as double-take inducing as it gets. If NC State can win the foul battle, avoiding fouls on defense while drawing contact on offense, the Wolfpack may be able to leverage an advantage in the frontcourt while picking up easy points from the free throw line. NC State’s ability to keep Georgetown‘s Henry Sims on the bench with foul trouble was a major key to last Sunday’s upset and I think a Friday night victory follows a similar game plan.
The next key for NC State is going to be even more difficult: the Wolfpack has to win the game at the perimeter. Kansas, though not a perimeter-oriented team, compliments its inside-attack with excellent three-point shooting. Tyshawn Taylor is the most effective three-point threat on the team, but all of the starting guards are willing to let fly from deep. To have a shot at toppling Kansas, NC State needs to smother the perimeter and prevent the Jayhawks from taking easy open three-pointers. On offense, NC State has to make three-pointers of their own. I know that’s an easy and obvious thing to say, but with one of the very best defensive front-courts in college basketball, a few three’s from the outside will do a lot to stop the Jayhawk guards from collapsing on Leslie and Howell. Scott Wood has been an assassin all season long and the Wolfpack’s guard cohort has been faqirly accurate from deep. The issue here isn’t accuracy, however, but volume. NC State has taken a very low number of three-point shots, with perimeter attempts making up only 25.9% of the team’s field goal attempts (the average in college basketball is 33.0%, Kansas shoots 30.8%). To beat the Jayhawks, the Wolfpack can’t be gun-shy; they have to take and make open three-point shots.
Beating Kansas is a tall order for any team. NC State has the talent to keep the game close, and if the Wolfpack plays smart, they can be in this game until the end. To win this game, however, NC State is going to need a few lucky breaks: the Wolfpack needs to be hot from outside, the Jayhawks need to go cold, and the referees whistles need to go in NC State’s favor. I know that conspiracy-minded basketball fans in Raleigh are scoffing at the very notion, but think of it this way–maybe all the perceived slights of the season are just a set-up for a massive karmic payback. That’s not a lot to go on, but out-toughing Withey and Robinson in the interior offers even less.