ACC Burning Questions: NC State Wolfpack

Posted by Matt Auerbach on October 21st, 2016

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

Burning Question: Will the Wolfpack’s new lead dog be able to replace its top Cat?

A year ago, North Carolina State’s season seemed to have been derailed before it even got started. With the unanticipated departure of All-ACC second teamer and leading scorer Trevor Lacey to the pros, the Wolfpack had lost half of a dynamic backcourt from its surprise run to the Sweet Sixteen. And while Anthony “Cat” Barber did yeoman’s work last season in mitigating the absence of his viable second fiddle, the team just never generated enough traction as the Wolfpack missed the NCAA Tournament for the first time in Mark Gottfried’s five-year tenure. As he embarks on year six in Raleigh, Gottfried once again will be tasked in replacing his leading scorer, as Barber opted for the NBA after a spectacular All-ACC junior campaign.

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Mark Gottfried hopes five-star freshman Dennis Smith Jr. (right) fills a fraction of the void left by Cat Barber’s departure. (The Fayetteville Observer)

Despite captaining an extraordinarily average team, Barber ranked seventh nationally in scoring at 23.5 points per game and second in the country in playing 96 percent of his team’s minutes. In his stead, Gottfried will hand the keys to the offense — an offense that ranked as last season’s 33rd most efficient — to the capable hands of five-star recruit Dennis Smith Jr. Smith, who chose the Wolfpack over Duke, North Carolina and Kentucky, suffered an ACL tear prior to his senior season, meaning he hasn’t seen any game action since 2015 (when he was named the Gatorade Basketball Player of the Year in North Carolina). By all accounts, Smith is now healthy and will undoubtedly have an opportunity to become one of the nation’s most impactful freshmen. Read the rest of this entry »

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ACC Stock Watch: Post-Challenge Edition

Posted by Matthew Auerbach on December 7th, 2015

After a relatively successful aggregate performance during the Feast Week tournaments, the ACC turned in another disappointing result in last week’s ACC/Big Ten Challenge, failing to win the inter-conference event for the seventh consecutive year. It wasn’t all bad last week, though, as North Carolina secured an elite home win against #2 Maryland, and Miami showed some resiliency in responding to its disappointing loss to Northeastern with an overtime win at Nebraska. This week’s Stock Watch zeroes in on a pair of players critical to the fates of two of the league favorites, a school navigating the rest of the non-conference season without its leader and a unit in Raleigh that is struggling to replicate its postseason success of a year ago.

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Brandon Ingram (USAT Images)

Brandon Ingram Wonders Why Anyone Doubted Him (USAT Images)

  • Brandon Ingram, Duke: After a painfully slow start to his freshman campaign, some wondered if the hype surrounding Duke’s freshman McDonald’s All-American was more bluster than substance. Those folks can stop wasting their time. Ingram had arguably the best week of any player in the nation, scoring a career-high 24 points against Indiana on Wednesday followed by a 23-point performance against Buffalo on Saturday. Most notably against the Hoosiers, Ingram came out with an assertiveness we had yet to see from the lanky wing, scoring eight of his team’s first 10 points, including a pair of three-point field goals. Some may give pause to the opposition — Indiana’s defensive issues are well-documented — but sometimes a player as talented as Ingram just needs to have a few shots go in to gain confidence that this level of basketball isn’t too big for him. Last week was certainly a step in the right direction for the Blue Devils’s star freshman.

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ACC M5: Exhibition Edition 2

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on November 9th, 2015

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  1. On Friday night, top-ranked North Carolina played its first ‘competitive’ game without senior leader Marcus Paige — out several weeks with a broken hand — and easily handled Division II Guilford, 99-49. In addition to the loss of Paige, the Tar Heels were also without sophomore Justin Jackson, who missed the contest due to illness. The absence of the team’s top two returning perimeter players gave others an opportunity to step up, however, and three players certainly took advantage. Junior Nate Britt and sophomore Joel Berry combined for 26 points and 16 assists, but they weren’t the only unselfish players as North Carolina recorded 33 assists on its 42 field goals. Freshman guard Kenny Williams also made the most of the available minutes by posting 12 points in 22 minutes of action.
  2. N.C. State was the last ACC school to play a formal exhibition game this preseason, beating Division II Cal State Los Angeles by a score of 71-54 on Sunday afternoon. Star junior Anthony ‘Cat’ Barber led the Wolfpack’s attack with 21 points and six assists. It is widely expected that Abdul-Malik Abu is poised for a breakout season, and his performance yesterday indicates that is a reasonable opinion. The 6’9″ sophomore finished the game with 17 points, nine rebounds, and four blocks in 25 minutes of action. Terry Henderson, on the other hand, had a somewhat shaky debut, as the West Virginia transfer only managed five points in his 25 minutes, missing all four of his attempts from deep.
  3. Miami played its one and only exhibition game last Wednesday, defeating Division II Dowling by a score of 91-40. Sheldon McClellan led the way with 18 points, as the Hurricanes used a fast start (+15 points in first five minutes) to blow out the Golden Lions. Another encouraging result was the performance of Oklahoma State transfer Kamari Murphy, who posted a double-double in his unofficial Miami debut. Murphy has also impressed his teammates — after the game, McClellan said, “He adds a lot of energy and a lot of length on defense. He can do a lot on offense; he just brings a lot to the team.” We know that Miami has a veteran backcourt, so if Murphy can combine with center Tonye Jekiri to give the Hurricanes a strong inside game, Jim Larranaga may have a very balanced team on his hands.
  4. A pair of ACC teams looking to make a move up the conference ladder this season showed promising flashes in their lone exhibition outings on Friday. Pittsburgh’s Jamie Dixon has been preaching defensive improvement this preseason and he apparently means what he says. Returning leading scorer Jamel Artis did not start in the Panthers’ 80-50 beatdown of Gannon, which the head coach explained afterward: “We’ve been preaching all year long, all offseason, all fall, about best defensive players, best rebounders, those are the guys that are going to play, so that’s the guys we went with,” The Panthers’ defense played well, limiting Gannon to 32.7 percent field goal shooting for the game. In other related news, Dixon announced that junior college transfer Rozelle Nix would sit out the current season as a redshirt. At first glance, Wake Forest’s 86-64 win over UNC-Pembroke may not look overly impressive. But considering that the Demon Deacons were playing the Division II preseason #13 team, and doing so without Codi Miller-McIntrye (fractured foot), it really wasn’t a bad effort. It did take the Deacs a while to get going, as they committed 17 first half turnovers and trailed at the break; but behind Devin Thomas, who finished the game with 25 points and 16 rebounds, Wake Forest dominated the second half of play.
  5. Two ACC teams projected near the bottom of the league played their sole preseason exhibitions on Thursday and both performances may have confirmed those low expectations. Clemson needed to rally from a 12-point second half deficit to beat Division II Lenoir-Rhyne, 87-84, in double overtime. This was the Tigers’ first real game in Greenville’s Bon Secours Wellness Arena, their home away from home this season while Littlejohn Coliseum undergoes renovation. If last week’s game is any indication, Clemson’s home court edge may be under renovation as well. Likewise, Boston College was pushed hard by a Division II opponent, defeating Bentley 85-75, after trailing much of the game. It looks like the Eagles may be in for a tough year in the paint, as the smaller Falcons were able to post a significant (+9) first half rebound advantage. Florida transfer Eli Carter was one bright spot for the Eagles, leading all scorers with 33 points on 12-of-18 shooting.
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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.

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ACC M5: 02.26.15 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on February 26th, 2015

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  1. Orlando Sentinel: Let’s start with our game of the night. Florida State almost came back to knock Miami right out of any NCAA Tournament talk thanks to Xavier Rathan-Mayes turning into a video game character for four minutes. Rathan-Mayes scored 26 points in just 3:36 of action (h/t to Michael Rogner). I’m calling it right now: We’re seeing a serious shakeup in the ACC next year. I think Florida State and NC State are both going to be really, really good. Duke needs Tyus Jones to return and Virginia needs Justin Anderson to do the same. North Carolina will be good with most of its players returning, but the Heels desperately need a shooter. Notre Dame and Louisville will both take steps backwards. That leaves plenty of room for a team or two to jump in from the periphery.
  2. SBNation: In our other game of the night, Duke managed to stave off Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. Duke’s defense looks awful (if you had the Hokies putting up an offensive efficiency of over 130.0 — easily the worst Duke has given up this year — please take your lies elsewhere), and while Jahlil Okafor will get the press (and his 30 points that easily could’ve been 35 if he had made some free throws), Quinn Cook is what kept Duke from being blown out of the gym. The Hokies couldn’t miss a three but Cook answered every volley with a shot of his own (including a dagger in overtime). This game highlighted the weird conundrum that is Duke this year: When they’re on, they can beat anyone (and badly); but when the Blue Devils’ defense is struggling, they’re quite average. Nick Fasulo does a good job pointing out how overlooked Cook has been this year, as he’s quietly been one of the most efficient players in the country. His usage doesn’t merit a first team All-ACC selection, but Cook deserves more credit for this team’s success.
  3. Washington Post: Moving on to a less competitive game, Wake Forest forgot to show up against an undermanned Virginia team in Winston-Salem last night. It looked like Tony Bennett’s squad was out for blood (the Demon Deacons should have bested the Cavaliers in Charlottesville a couple of weeks ago), and this is a good story on Virginia’s eraser in the paint, senior Darion Atkins. He’s a huge reason why the Cavaliers’ defense is still one of the best in the country even after losing Akil Mitchell and Joe Harris. He’s also a quiet part of why Virginia hasn’t fallen off too much in Justin Anderson’s absence.
  4. CBSSports.com: Sam Vecenie took a look at the ACC Player of the Year race, and it’s pretty amazing. You have the National Player of the Year candidates (Jahlil Okafor and Jerian Grant); the stat machines without the accompanying team success to make the national spotlight (Olivier Hanlan and Rakeem Christmas); and you have the awesome players who struggle because a teammate is so good (Malcolm Brogdon and Justin Anderson; Terry Rozier and Montrezl Harrell). That doesn’t even get us to guys like Trevor Lacey or Tyus Jones who have been unreal in the clutch this year. Pretty awesome problem to have.
  5. Louisville Courier-Journal: As we approach bracket season, it’s important to not only think about the bubble but also how personnel losses will affect teams’ seeds. It’s unlikely that Rasheed Sulaimon’s dismissal will have any bearing on Duke’s line (the Blue Devils are undefeated with wins over Virginia and North Carolina since he was dismissed), but Louisville without Chris Jones is another story. This is a really thorough look at Louisville’s current profile (along with some explanations of the bracketing rules).

EXTRA (via Will Brinson): Abdul-Malik Abu promised two of the Chapel Hill shooting victims that NC State would beat Duke and North Carolina this year (as a wedding present), and with the win over teh Heels he made good on the gift.

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ACC M5: 01.29.15 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on January 29th, 2015

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  1. BballBreakdown.com: Josh Riddell does a great job reviewing the strengths and flaws of Duke‘s defense. Long story short (but read the article, it has lots of great GIFs to go with the analysis): Duke has the players to be a good defensive team but they’re still figuring things out. This team misses rotations (like the one that left Notre Dame’s Steve Vasturia wide open for the dagger three last night) and doesn’t mask its weaknesses very well, but the Blue Devils need to find their mojo. A lot of things went into Wednesday’s loss in South Bend: Jerian Grant playing unconscious; missed layups and free throws; bricking three straight long jumpers after taking a 10-point lead. Duke’s defense is OK when it gets set, but where its youth shows the most is how different it looks after a missed shot versus a made one.
  2. Raleigh News & Observer: Speaking of developing, NC State’s young players are starting to show some of their promise. Joe Giglio focuses on Abdul-Malik Abu here in this article, but other young players are starting to come out of their shells too (such as the Martin twins). Unfortunately, NC State’s recent heartbreak loss to Notre Dame messed with the Wolfpack’s psyche as the team looked abysmal in a subsequent home loss last night against Clemson. Now Mark Gottfried needs to do something to turn things around, as the team’s best win is weakening (Duke) and its losses are piling up.
  3. Winston-Salem Journal: I like Danny Manning a lot. This isn’t exactly a hot take, but I think he’s going to get Wake Forest relevant again very quickly (assuming he’s not poached). Manning is up front with who he is and he believes in his system. After last night’s close defeat to Florida State, three of the Demon Deacons’ last four games have come down to the wire (a double-overtime loss, a single-overtime loss, and a loss by two points). Manning clearly needs some better players on his roster, but he has a reputation as a very serious recruiter, so I don’t expect that upgrade to take long.
  4. Pitt News: This is awesome. We’ve long heard about the manager games before big rivalries like DukeNorth Carolina, but with more teams getting to game locations a day early manager games are starting to proliferate. The Pittsburgh managers think it has something to do with the ACC, which might be true, but a lot of current ACC teams are from the Big East. The games sound tremendous. There’s no shot clock and no officiating (no reviews!).
  5. College Basketball Talk: We know who is going to take part in this year’s McDonald’s All-American game, but we don’t know who a lot of these prep stars will play for yet. This year only Duke and LSU (what?) have two players in the game, although expect that to change as we get closer to the summer. Unless something changes in the near-future (I’m certain it will), North Carolina will be without a Burger Boy for the first time in the game’s long and illustrious history.
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N.C. State Learning to Live Without T.J. Warren

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on November 24th, 2014

Coming into the 2014-15 season, N.C. State’s biggest issue was to replace the scoring of T.J. Warren, last year’s ACC Player of the Year. With four games now under their belt, the Wolfpack are starting to give us some clues as to how they are going to try and compensate for the almost 25 points per game that Warren put up last year. A look at how Mark Gottfried and the N.C. State administration set up this season’s early schedule reveals a distinct plan of starting cautiously but challenging this young team afterwards. The first three contests were all against teams not in the nation’s top-250 and, as expected, the Wolfpack won each comfortably. On Sunday night, South Florida proved much more of a challenge in the season’s fourth game, as N.C. State led by around six to eight points for most of the way but had to survive a potential game-tying three at the buzzer to hold off the Bulls, 68-65.

N.C. State's Trevor Lacey has led the Wolfpack with good all-around play. (Photo: Ethan Hyman - newsobserver.com)

N.C. State’s Trevor Lacey has led the Wolfpack with good all-around play.
(Ethan Hyman/newsobserver)

Now the schedule really toughens as even before January the Wolfpack will face eight non-conference opponents that are currently ranked in KenPom’s top 90. Ironically, the only one that’s not in that highly rated group is Charleston Southern (#191) who somehow is #65 currently in the RPI. Of course that points out the ridiculousness that the RPI is still the primary metric that the NCAA Selection Committee uses to sort teams. Any system that at any point of the season has Charleston Southern ahead of Wisconsin (RPI #71) is a joke. But let’s get back to N.C. State and how they are compensating without T.J. Warren around. Read the rest of this entry »

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ACC M5: 11.10.14 Exhibition II Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on November 10th, 2014

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  1. North Carolina: North Carolina wrapped up its exhibition season with another rout, this time thrashing Belmont Abbey by a score of 112-34 on Friday night. Once again, it was freshman Justin Jackson who led the way, efficiently scoring 16 points on 8-of-10 shooting from the field. Even against Division II competition, Roy Williams has to be pleased with the pace at which the Tar Heels are scoring and how well they are sharing the ball. In their two exhibition games, the Heels have scored a total of 223 points and tallied 54 assists. Another encouraging sign is that North Carolina has made 73 percent (38-of-52) of its attempts from the stripe in its two preseason contests, after struggling mightily from the foul line last year (62.6%).
  2. Wake Forest: Wake Forest held its only preseason exhibition game in the Joel Coliseum on Friday night,  besting Young Harris by a 96-71 score. New head coach Danny Manning arrived in Winston-Salem with a reputation for developing big men while he was an assistant at Kansas, and he might already be illustrating that impact as junior center/power forward Devin Thomas went for 26 points and 12 boards on perfect 12-for-12 shooting. Two lingering concerns for the Deacs, though, were the 20 turnovers committed and the 25 fouls whistled on them.
  3. Duke: Duke won its second and final exhibition game over the defending NCAA Division II champs, Central Missouri, on Saturday afternoon in Cameron Indoor Stadium. The Mules actually took it to the Blue Devils early, grabbing a 13-7 lead before Duke answered with 17 consecutive points to methodically take control of the game. With their size and talent advantage, Duke racked up a huge edge in free throw attempts (+28), and while center Jahlil Okafor has received most of the preseason hype, fellow freshman Justise Winslow has been the team’s leading scorer in each preseason game.
  4. NC State: The Wolfpack played their lone exhibition game of the preseason as well on Saturday, beating Queens by a score of 78-47. NC State only led by two at the half but dominated afterwards, holding Queens to 24 percent shooting from the field in the second half. The Wolfpack also forced 30 turnovers in the game, and even though the competition wasn’t ACC-caliber, anything close to that mark in the regular season would be a pleasant surprise for a program not known for pressure defense. Two freshmen forwards, Caleb Martin and Abdul-Malik Abu, led the scoring column with 16 and 14 points, respectively, making their bids to replace some of the departed T.J. Warren’s offensive firepower.
  5. Clemson: It looks like more of the same for Clemson this year, and that means defense will once again be the Tigers’ calling card. Brad Brownell’s team harassed Anderson into a colder-than-ice 15.7 percent shooting night in a 62-36 victory Saturday in Littlejohn Coliseum. Unfortunately it might be more of the same for the Tigers’ offense as well. Clemson shot a dismal 31.7 percent from the field and only connected on 9-of-31 three-pointers. Let’s hope Clemson’s regular season games won’t all be as ugly as this one. Each team experienced horrendous scoring droughts, with Anderson in one stretch missing 19 straight shots and Clemson misfiring on its first 15 second half attempts. That couldn’t have been very easy on the eyes.
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Seven Sweet Scoops: Nation’s Top Soph Ready to Commit, Gordon Down to Three, Leaders Emerge For Randle…

Posted by CLykins on November 16th, 2012

Seven Sweet Scoops is the newest and hottest column by Chad Lykins, the RTC recruiting analyst. Every Friday he will talk about the seven top stories from the week in the wide world of recruiting, involving offers, which prospect visited where, recent updates regarding school lists and more chatter from the recruiting scene. You can also check out more of his work at RTC with his weekly column “Who’s Got Next?”, as well as his work dedicated solely to Duke Basketball at Duke Hoop Blog. You can also follow Chad at his Twitter account @CLykinsBlog for up-to-date breaking news from the high school and college hoops scene.

Note: ESPN Recruiting used for all player rankings.

1. Top 2015 Prospect Karl Towns Jr. Ready to Commit

The No. 1 overall prospect in the class of 2015, Karl Towns Jr., plans to announce his college destination on December 4

In a rare turn of events in the recruiting landscape, the nation’s No. 1 sophomore has decided that it’s time to end his college recruitment. Karl Towns Jr. is reportedly set to announce his college destination on December 4, via Brian Fitzsimmons of MSG Varsity. Among the teams that the 6’11” center is considering include Duke, Florida, Kentucky, Michigan, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Rutgers, Seton Hall and Villanova. Out of St. Joseph High School (New Jersey), Towns is a highly sought-after prospect with a great inside-out skill set. With good size and length, his best aspect is stretching opposing defenses with an outside shot that extends beyond the three-point line. With exceptional ball-handling skills, he is capable of getting in the lane and scoring as well as finding his teammates. In the low post lies a notable weakness with his game. While he can utilize his footwork to score around the rim, he often reverts to attempting fade-away jumpers which is a clear sign that he needs to be more physical down low. Only a sophomore, however, he has more than enough time to improve his overall strength. After taking a number of unofficial visits during the last few months to the schools listed, Kentucky seems to be the one school standing out the most. That stems from his involvement with the Dominican Republic National Team last summer, coached by John Calipari. Duke and Florida have outside shots of landing the New Jersey center, and there is also a good chance that an early commitment could mean that Towns could reclassify into the class of 2014 in the future.

2. Early Signing Period Begins

Wednesday was the first day of the college basketball early signing period. Extending until November 21, a number of the nation’s top prospects will make their college decisions official as they sign their national letters of intent. With the rapid flow of reports of signees, you can follow along with all of the recent updates at ESPN Recruiting Nation.

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