The ACC in The NCAA: NC State vs.TemplePosted by KCarpenter on March 22nd, 2013
Though North Carolina State slumped into the ACC tournament in a season that saw the Wolfpack fall short of admittedly lofty expectations, in the conference tourney the team was able to demonstrate some of the potential that led many to believe this team was an easy favorite for the regular season conference title. Strong performances over Virginia Tech and Virginia set a tone for what this team could be in the Big Dance, and a loss to Miami in the tournament semi-finals is hardly something to lose too much sleep over.
In some ways, facing Temple is a bit like NC State facing itself. Like the Wolfpack, Temple looked very strong earlier in the year but struggled in conference play before mostly righting the ship late. Both teams have a potent offense and a defense that often seems indifferent at times. Yet in the team’s differences, we may have the keys to the game. There are two main ways to win a game: shoot better than the other team or shoot more than the other team. Against NC State, it seems likely that Temple will shoot more.
A lot of the offensive efficiency of the Temple Owls is due to the great care that the team takes with the ball. The Owls turn the ball over on only 16.2% of possessions, which is the 9th best rate in the country. Couple that with the indifference of the Wolfpack to forcing turnovers (outside of Lorenzo Brown‘s individual brilliance) and it looks like Temple has an inside track to gaining a few extra possessions through ball control. Against many foes, NC State has been able to offset discrepancies in turnovers with excellence in offensive rebounding, but Temple may have an antidote to Richard Howell‘s relentless attack on the glass. Anthony Lee has consistently been one of the best defensive rebounders in college basketball all season, and though he likely won’t be able to keep Howell boxed out on every carom, he certainly seems equipped to have a better chance than most. It seems fairly likely that the Owls will end up with a few more shot attempts than the Wolfpack.
Of course, what a team does with those shot attempts is perhaps more important than how many they have, and for Temple, it’s important to understand that the guy who will be using the most shot attempts is Khalif Wyatt, one of the most aggressive scorers in college basketball. Wyatt uses 31.3% of Temple’s offensive possessions and has a versatile game that relies on three-pointers, mid-range shots, and forays to the rim that often end up with Wyatt swishing free throws from the line. Worse for State, Wyatt has a keen sense of the moment and two of his biggest games were in Temple’s victories over Syracuse and VCU. He’s a big time scorer who can burn you from all over the court, and has a knack for drawing fouls (6.3/40 minutes). He will test State’s resolve to not only defend, but defend without fouling. C.J Leslie and Howell have both dramatically improved in that area, but Wyatt will certainly push on those tendencies.
If NC State will end up shooting less than Temple, they will most likely end up shooting better. Temple’s defense is worse than even the Wolfpack, and it’s taken some of the finest defenses in the country to slow State’s balanced attack. The best sign by far for NC State has to do with Temple’s perimeter defense, or rather, lack thereof. While the Owls do a reasonable attempt at limiting three-point opportunities, the team has allowed opponents to convert on 35.5% of attempts. Against a hot shooting team like NC State, the Owls will have to do much better or Scott Wood will have a field say from beyond the arc.
Temple is capable of beating NC State, but it will take a careful gameplan and some great individual performances by its players. Otherwise, NC State largely outclasses Temple in just about every conceivable category (excepting turnovers). It has a better offense from every part of the floor, a better defense, and a more balanced array of talent. Even though this is supposed to be a near evenly matched 8th-seed vs. 9th-seed match-up, it certainly feels more like a 6th-seed vs 11th seed tilt. Barring foul trouble for NC State’s bigs and huge heroics by Wyatt, the Wolfpack has to be considered a significant favorite in this match-up.