Channeling His Childress: TJ Warren Leads NC State into Rematch with SyracusePosted by Matt Patton on March 13th, 2014
The ACC Tournament finally came to life Thursday night when NC State took the floor against Miami. The Raleigh contingent was boosted by departing Maryland fans, as Wolfpack red bled into nearly every section at the Greensboro Coliseum. NC State still held on to the NCAA Tournament bubble, but desperately needed at least one marquee win to have a chance. Miami looked to play spoiler. Durham native TJ Warren had other ideas.
Warren is the best scorer in the ACC. Good luck finding someone to play devil’s advocate. He scores off the dribble, in the post, spotting up, you name it. Watching the Wolfpack grind out a win over Miami tonight, it was clear how Warren held his efficiency despite taking on nearly twice as many possessions. He picks his spots really well and has a great handle. Miami threw the book at NC State to stop him. Surprisingly, Jim Larranaga opened the game in man-to-man, switching to a zone before opting for a triangle-and-two as Ralston Turner found his groove. None worked. In the first half Miami did a good job playing Warren physically and switching on everything, but between Warren’s constant off-the-ball movement and Turner’s threes, the Hurricanes eventually wore down.
He needed a sidekick in Greensboro, but Warren has made a year of wearing teams down. He does it with a versatile game that takes the defender out of his comfort zone. ShotAnalytics.com covered Warren’s offensive skill set on Wednesday, and the shot chart only tells half the story. You can see all of his shots around the rim, but you don’t see the mismatched posts, floaters in traffic, or defenders caught leaning the wrong way to give him an open lane to the basket. You don’t see the offensive rebounding. Warren’s ability to adapt to what the defense gives him is what makes him such a prolific and efficient scorer. Your best bet is to make him a three-point shooter, but his stats lag behind reality, probably reflecting poor long-range shot selection rather than shooting aptitude. Regardless, keeping him out of the lane is paramount. Look for Syracuse to pack its zone and force the Ralston Turners and Desmond Lees to beat them beyond the arc.
This is probably Warren’s last year in Raleigh, and it would be a shame if the ACC Player of the Year’s season ended in Greensboro or in the anonymity of the NIT. NC State will need him more than ever Friday against Syracuse. He’s made to take advantage of their 2-3 zone, and after a really tough loss in front of 30,000 Orange fans last month, you can bet NC State will be looking to take advantage of a crowd advantage of its own. This is also Warren’s chance to carve his name into the ACC history books. Back-to-back 40-point games will make season recaps and certainly sealed his POY honors, but it’s the ACC Tournament that will stand in the ACC Vault for generations to admire.
So TJ Warren, you better channel your inner Randolph Childress tomorrow. A trip to the Big Dance may be on the line.