ACC Preview: NC State’s Burning Question

Posted by Matt Patton on November 3rd, 2015

This team preview is part of the RTC ACC microsite’s preseason coverage.

Burning Question: Is Cat Barber ready to replace Trevor Lacey?

NC State was poised to be overrated if Trevor Lacey came back. They were a good team that would have been returning nearly all of its minutes. Instead Lacey opted to make money playing basketball, leaving head coach Mark Gottfried in an odd but familiar place. Gottfried’s teams tend to do best when they have chips on their shoulders. High preseason expectations can grind down that edge. He may again be in an ideal place to overachieve — ignoring for the moment the talent across the rest of the league. Lacey is gone, but there’s almost no way the junior guard could have lived up to his performance from last season (see Michael Snaer’s senior season at Florida State for a frame of reference).

This is Cat Barber's team, and they'll be fun to watch. (photo: Jerome Carpenter/WRALSportsFan)

This is Cat Barber’s team, and the Pack will be fun to watch. (photo: Jerome Carpenter/WRALSportsFan)

Gottfried can instead turn to Cat Barber to take the helm. Barber looked terrific last season on the heels of an up-and-down freshman year. He should only keep improving, although his efficiency may drop slightly with increased possessions. Barber also gets a new sidekick next to him in West Virginia transfer Terry Henderson. Henderson should fit into Gottfried’s system right away. He’ll make threes and will likely score a lot more points than fans expect. Henderson wasn’t as high-volume a three-point shooter as some of his teammates in Morgantown, but as the best shooter in Raleigh look for him to take more shots.

Another potential breakout candidate is Abdul-Malik Abu. Abu was one of NC State’s most exciting players last season. He and Beejay Anya give the Wolfpack one of the best shot-blocking duos in the country. If the sophomore adds a little more polish to his post game, he’ll become a nightmare for opposing squads. Speaking of raw athletic talent, there’s also a consensus three-star recruit that Gottfried managed to keep away from none other than John Calipari. Shaun Kirk is an elite athlete who enters the league with as much upside as anyone in the ACC.

The backcourt depth after Barber and Henderson, however, has serious question marks. Caleb and Cody Martin showed signs of promise as freshmen and should make a significant leap forward this season (their height may also prove an asset if Gottfried decides to eschew traditional positions), but neither had the markings of a game-changing player. Four-star recruit Maverick Rowan may turn out to be an offensive diamond in the rough, but it would surprise many if he started at all this season. Rowan was a pure scorer in high school, although he may be relegated as a spot-up shooter depending on how he adjusts to the speed of the college game (he only committed to NC State in August, which won’t make the transition any smoother).

So what does it all mean? NC State will probably look a lot like a solid Gottfried-coached team. The defense won’t be great, although the pairing of Anya and Abu in the paint will keep things respectable there. The offense is where this team will shine. With a point guard ready to push the ball at a breakneck pace, a couple of shooters, and two of the best dunkers in the country, there’s no shortage of firepower on that end of the floor in Raleigh this year. That said, there’s also not much reason to assume this team will play with the necessary and requisite consistency to earn a top-five NCAA Tournament seed. The talent is there, but NC State feels like it is a season away from greatness.

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