ACC Summer Recess: NC State Wolfpack

Posted by mpatton on August 7th, 2012

Over the next four weeks we’ll be taking a step back and looking at each team in the ACC to assess where each program — and the conference as a whole — stands before we totally turn our attention to the 2013-14 season later this fall. Today’s target: NC State.

Where They Stand Now

Mark Gottfried and Lorenzo Brown Have Big Expectations (AP Photo/E. Hyman)

The Wolfpack are still riding a wave of momentum from a Sweet Sixteen performance in Mark Gottfried‘s inaugural year. After perennially underperforming with alumnus Sidney Lowe at the helm and hearing the media blast the school for running off Herb Sendek, NC State’s administration made the switch to the former Alabama coach who matched Sendek’s best postseason performance in his first season on the job. Gottfried added structure, and his talented roster improved throughout the year showing flashes of true greatness thanks in large part to the maturation of CJ Leslie and Lorenzo Brown. But 2012′s postseason success makes the bar much higher in Raleigh — Jay Bilas even put the Wolfpack on top of his preseason ACC power rankings. The questions now are: How will the new pieces fit with the current roster, and can Brown and Leslie make the leap to consistently dominant players?

Who’s Leaving

Guards Alex Johnson and CJ Williams both graduated. Johnson played the role of sparkplug: He was good for at least one heat check three and a lot of hustle. He also appeared to be a vocal leader on the team, both from the court and the bench. Williams was a more significant offensive contributor, averaging 10.6 points per game on 50 percent shooting. His versatility on the wing will definitely be missed on the defensive end of the floor.

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Rushed Reaction: #11 NC State 66, #3 Georgetown 63

Posted by WCarey on March 18th, 2012

Three Key Takeaways

  1. As Henry Sims and Jason Clark go, so does Georgetown. The two seniors definitely did not have their best games and it hurt the Hoyas mightily. Sims was plagued with foul trouble throughout the game and was never able to be an effective offensive or defensive presence. Sims finished the game with just four points, three rebounds, and two assists. The senior big man only attempted three field goals, turned the ball over twice, and fouled out. After a very effective nine for 12 performance from the field against Belmont on Friday, Clark struggled with his shot all afternoon hitting just three of his 11 attempts. The senior guard struggled to get open looks and, at times, forced some bad shots.
  2. You can shoot 37% from the field and 61% from the free throw line and still pull an upset. NC State did not put up the best shooting numbers and struggled from the line all afternoon. However, the Wolfpack hit seven of their 15 attempts from behind the arc and owned the offensive glass by a margin of 17 to 8. Forward Richard Howell had six offensive boards himself. The scoring for the Wolfpack was very balanced with forward CJ Leslie, forward Scott Wood, and swingman CJ Williams each tallying 14 points, while guard Lorenzo Brown added 12. NC State also did a good job of keeping its energy level high throughout the game as it never felt like the Wolfpack had dropped into a lull.
  3. Mark Gottfried has done an outstanding job in his first year at NC State. When Mark Gottfried was hired by NC State last April, many pundits openly questioned the move, but he has the Wolfpack in the Sweet 16 in just his first season. Gottfried inherited a team that many considered to be a disaster under former head coach Sidney Lowe last season. The 2010-11 Wolfpack only won 15 games all season. Today, the 2011-12 version won their 24th. While Gottfried will get much of the credit for being the head coach, credit must also be given to assistants Orlando Early, Rob Moxley, and Bobby Lutz.

Star(s) of the Game. Lorenzo Brown, CJ Leslie, CJ Williams, and Scott Wood, NC State. The four combined for 56 of NC State’s 66 points and each made at least one key basket. Brown scored 12 points to go along with seven assists and six rebounds. Leslie put up 14 points, eight rebounds, and three blocks. Williams scored 14 points and played great defense on Jason Clark all afternoon. Wood scored 14 points, while hitting on four of five of his attempts from beyond the three-point-line. It was a great team win for NC State and these four led the way all afternoon.

Quotable. “It’s a group that gave its all.” – Georgetown head coach John Thompson III. A very true statement considering how successful Georgetown was this season after being picked to finish 10th in the Big East in the preseason.

Sights & Sounds. One of the more interesting things I saw was postgame when legendary Georgetown head coach John Thompson (and father of current Hoyas coach), who was doing the radio broadcast for Westwood One went out of his way to shake the hand of CJ Leslie following a postgame interview. Classy move by the Hall of Fame coach.

What’s Next. NC State moves on to its first Sweet 16 appearance since 2005. The Wolfpack will face the winner of the #2 Kansas and #10 Purdue. Interestingly, the last time the Wolfpack made it this far they did it by beating a #2 seed Georgetown team while they were a #10 seed. Their fans are hoping they can advance further this time as in 2005 they lost in the Sweet 16 to Wisconsin.

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NCAA Tournament Game Analysis: Second Round – Friday Afternoon

Posted by EJacoby on March 16th, 2012

RTC Region correspondents Brian Otskey (East), Kevin Doyle (South), Evan Jacoby (Midwest) and Andrew Murawa (West) contributed to this preview.

#6 Cincinnati vs. #11 Texas – East Region Second Round (at Nashville, TN) – 12:15 PM ET on CBS

These are two teams with similar statistical profiles but the Texas Longhorns are missing Alexis Wangmene, a big senior forward who would have added an extra body for Rick Barnes to go up against Cincinnati’s Yancy Gates in the paint. With a guard-oriented team and a thin front court, the Longhorns have some difficulty against the physical Bearcats. Cincinnati doesn’t have a deep front line either but Gates is the team’s third leading scorer and a key cog in its offensive flow. Neither team shoots the ball particularly well but Cincinnati has an edge on the perimeter with multiple players who can make a three. Texas ranks sub-200 in defending the triple and that’s something that could cost it the game. Cincinnati is a streaky hit-or-miss team with four capable guards surrounding Gates on the floor. As for Texas, leading scorer J’Covan Brown is pretty much the team’s only major threat. If Cincinnati can lock up Brown defensively, it will win the game rather easily. If Brown manages to get free and score close to his average of 20.1 PPG, the Bearcats will be in for a nail biter. Although Brown is the best player on the floor in this game, the edge has to go to Cincinnati because of its more balanced talent on the perimeter (including limiting turnovers), Gates in the post and the team’s overall experience. The majority of Cincinnati’s rotation is made up of juniors and seniors while four of Texas’ top six scorers are freshmen.

The RTC Certified Pick: Cincinnati.

#6 San Diego State vs. #11 N.C. State – Midwest Region Second Round (at Columbus, OH) – 12:40 PM ET on truTV

Jamaal Franklin is a Ferocious Competitor on Both Ends for SDSU (US Presswire)

A very popular upset pick, North Carolina State comes into this game on a roll having won four of its last five games with the only loss in the ACC Tournament semifinals to North Carolina by one possession. But NC State was on the bubble just one week ago; this team has been inconsistent throughout the season. The Wolfpack lost four games in a row prior to that strong finish to the season. The key to pull this upset will be to keep pressure on a strong SDSU defense, keyed by pounding the ball inside to find points in the paint with C.J. Leslie, Richard Howell, and C.J. Williams. It’s doubtful that San Diego State will give Scott Wood any wide open looks from three. The Aztecs, meanwhile, may have the two best overall players in this game with Mountain West Player of the Year Jamaal Franklin (17.2 PPG, 7.9 RPG) and savvy guard Chase Tapley (15.7 PPG, 43.3% three-pointers). Both players shoulder a lot of the scoring load but have been reliable in big games this season against strong MW competition. SDSU is a much stronger defensive team (93.5 defensive efficiency) and holds opponents to 40% shooting from the field. NC State has a 99.9 ‘D’ efficiency and allows too much easy offense. We’ll take the Aztecs, the stronger team all season long that has Sweet Sixteen experience from last season.

The RTC Certified Pick: San Diego State

#8 Creighton vs. #9 Alabama – Midwest Region Second Round (at Greensboro, NC) – 1:40 PM ET on TBS

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Scouting North Carolina State vs. San Diego State

Posted by KCarpenter on March 16th, 2012

Announced last on the NCAA Selection Show (conspiracy?!), North Carolina State made the tournament after a brief absence from meaningful post-season play and was rewarded with what seems to be a fairly favorable draw against San Diego State. Coached by the legendary Steve Fisher, this San Diego State team that was supposed to be in severe rebuilding mode after losing most of last year’s veteran-loaded team to graduation and/or the NBA, but something strange happened. Sure, they lost more games than last year’s  team that went 32-2 before NCAA Tournament play, but who didn’t outside of Murray State. Still, instead of falling off the face of the Earth, the Aztecs made a really strong run this year, knocking off a number of pretty good teams. UNLV, New Mexico, and Colorado State, fellow NCAA teams from the Mountain West Conference all took at least one loss to San Diego State. The Aztecs also swept their three-game series against the Pac-12, beating Arizona, California, and Southern California as well as beating a pretty good Big West team in Long Beach State. Now, these wins look okay on paper, but they come with a number of caveats: The Pac-12 was truly terrible this year, wins against Cal and Arizona look worse and worse as more time passes, and beating USC was never really all that impressive. Though the wins against fellow Mountain West teams looks pretty good, it has to be understood that the Aztecs also lost at least once to all three of these teams. So while this is a nice collection of wins, I’m not sure that it says anything definitive about San Diego State’s quality.

Despite Being The Lower Seed, Gottfriend & The Wolfpack Should Like Their Chances

What I can say is that San Diego State has largely started 6’7″ Tim Shelton at center for much of the year. While the Aztecs can bring decent size off the bench in 6’11″ Garret Green and 6’8″ Deshawn Stephens (and they typically give reasonable minutes to both), San Diego is pretty small compared to NC State’s front court, which is a problem. San Diego State is a good defensive rebounding team, but the Wolfpack is one of the more formidable offensive rebounding teams in the nation, boasting a legitimate star of the offensive glass in Richard Howell. On the opposite end, the Aztecs (with the exception of Deshawn Stephens) are largely indifferent to the offensive glass, seeming to philosophically embrace a San Antonio Spurs-esque approach which encourages getting back on defense over crashing the offensive glass. All in all, this seems to add up to a distinct advantage for the Wolfpack on the glass on both ends. This difference in rebounding good be significant for teams that stylistically share a few attributes.

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ACC Tournament: NC State Survives Boston College

Posted by mpatton on March 8th, 2012

Whatever the final score might say, Boston College was right with NC State until the last ten minutes. This is a story Eagles fans know well.

Boston College showed its youth early. The Eagles started the game 0-7 from the field with five turnovers. At that point, I wondered if they could keep the deficit below 30. NC State led 14-0, and it wasn’t even that close. The Eagles were being couldn’t hold onto the ball settled for contested threes when they could get off a shot. The deficit remained at double digits until Lonnie Jackson knocked down two threes in the last three minutes to cut the NC State lead to eight. Out of the Wolfpack timeout, Alex Johnson turned it over, giving Boston College the chance to cut the lead to five with a three. Instead, Patrick Heckmann missed a lay-up (he’s definitely still recovering from the month-long bout with mono earlier in conference play); Dennis Clifford committed an offensive foul; and all hell broke loose.

Steve Donahue's Work Cut Out for Him, but Pieces Starting to Emerge for the Eagles.

Still only down eight with the ball with 30 seconds left, Boston College looked ready to seize control of the momentum by adding to an 8-0 run to close out the half. Instead, Jordan Daniels committed a huge freshman turnover. He turned his back to Lorenzo Brown to look at Steve Donahue for the play. Next thing you know Brown picked his pocket and made him pay on the other end with the and-one. Brown missed the free throw, but another Boston College turnover (the team’s thirteenth of the half) led to CJ Williams’ first basket of the afternoon. Suddenly a potentially 10-0 or 11-0 run in favor of the Eagles was an 8-5 stretch, and the lead was back to 13. Those costly mental errors plagued Donahue’s team all season. They reflect the backcourt youth.

Conclusion and thoughts on NC State after the break.

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ACC Game On: 01.26.12 Edition

Posted by KCarpenter on January 26th, 2012

Well, Maryland managed to defend the honor of newly-christened Gary Williams Court for about 30 minutes before succumbing to the temptations of lousy help defense. Beating the Terps doesn’t look like a great win on paper, but it’s a great win for a Duke team that still seems occasionally unsure of their own identity. Virginia Tech lost to Brigham Young thanks to poor offensive execution and despite a relatively strong game defensively. It was a game that came down to the last play, but the Hokies just couldn’t pull it out. Florida State put up a command performance in stomping Wake Forest with the wicked defense of the Seminoles holding star player Travis McKie to a pitiful 1-of-13 shooting night. Couple that with an over 50% shooting night from the field and the Florida State juggernaut looks as hot as ever.

A Cold War Goes Hot

An NC State vs. UNC Game That Means Something? It's Been a While...

  • North Carolina State at North Carolina at 7:00 PM on ESPN

In Chapel Hill, this game hasn’t meant much in the Roy Williams‘ era. The heat from a once-vicious rivalry cooled as the Wolfpack drifted further and further into irrelevance. Now, NC State fans are always hot for this game, but the recent history of this match-up has left Chapel Hill fans indifferent. But for the first time in a long while, Tar Heel fans are nervous. Quietly, Mark Gottfried has developed a powerful and versatile balanced attack. Lorenzo Brown, Richard Howell, C.J. Williams, and Scott Wood all have a legitimate case for being the ACC break-out players of the year (ignoring Terrell Stoglin), each making massive strides in their respective games. Meanwhile C.J. Leslie still remains an immensely talented wild card, capable of taking over a game at both ends, though his inconsistency remains an issue. They match up well with the Tar Heels, having a combination of size and speed to counter North Carolina’s usual advantages in this area. Still, North Carolina is a great team and as well as the Wolfpack matches up on the perimeter, it’s unclear if their is a frontcourt answer to the Tyler Zeller and John Henson tandem. Also, a real concern: the Wolfpack’s three-point defense has been abysmal and with Reggie Bullock getting the start alongside Harrison Barnes, an early barrage of perimeter shots could break NC State’s back early. I think this game will be close, but the Tar Heels take this one. The real intrigue for this game is how it sets the stage for what’s almost certain to be the dramatic second meeting in Raleigh.

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ACC Morning Five: 11.08.11 Edition

Posted by mpatton on November 8th, 2011

  1. Scout – Inside Carolina: This is a terrific article on Michael Jordan‘s recruitment to North Carolina from Al Featherston. Everyone has heard about how Jordan was cut from his high school team duing his sophomore year before later etching his place in basketball history in Chapel Hill and the NBA. Jordan wasn’t actually a national prospect until Roy Williams let the cat out of the bag (first to a media friend) against Dean Smith’s wishes. It also probably helped that fellow North Carolina powers, Duke and NC State, were between coaches at that point. The story also gives an interesting look at national recruiting three decades ago, long before the Internet, when coaches basically relied on two summer camps to see the top prospects.
  2. Washington Post: It’s easy to wonder if Seth Greenberg is on the hot seat based on Virginia Tech’s recent love of the NIT-side of the NCAA Tournament bubble. But don’t forget that the year before Greenberg arrived in Blacksburg, Virginia Tech was 3-9 in the Big East, good enough for last place. He’s made the Hokies into a perennial 20-win team on the brink of its first NCAA Tournament in years. Also with the construction of a new state-of-the-art practice facility, I think Greenberg will continue to see recruiting success in southwest Virginia.
  3. USA Today: The Carrier Classic is back in the news, but this time with more philosophical questions. The game is on Veteran’s Day (this Friday), and will be played on the deck of the aircraft carrier which carried Osama Bin Laden’s body to its burial. Speaking with Islamic scholar Akbar Ahmed, Marlen Garcia cleared up any questions about insensitivity with regards to Islam. Luckily she doesn’t believe that there are any — which should allow fans to enjoy the game for what it is instead of worrying about its setting and any indirect political fallout. However, fans should worry about the weather… yes, even in San Diego.
  4. Orlando Sentinel: Florida State‘s record may be a perfect 2-0 after exhibition season, but Leonard Hamilton still has a lot of things he’d like to work on. Most notably, the turnover bug (nine in the second half of a dominating win over Georgia Southwestern) is still troubling the Seminoles, who finished ranked #311 out of 345 teams by Ken Pomeroy last season. The good news is that both Bernard James and Michael Snaer played very well, and the team’s smothering defense only allowed Georgia SW to make eleven shots from the field on four assists. There’s still definitely room for improvement, but I’m bullish (which is definitely the word of choice) on FSU coming into this year.
  5. Burlington Times News: If you can get past the terrible title pun, this article is actually informative. While initial reports had NC State’s lone senior CJ Williams out for a few weeks with a hairline fracture in his thumb, he was cleared by the doctors and suited up for the Wolfpack’s exhibition against Flagler. Williams went 2-3 from beyond the arc and dished out five dimes in an inconsistent NC State effort. The real offensive star of the game was sharp-shooter Scott Wood, who caught fire going 6-8 from downtown. NC State’s first game is at home against UNC Asheville.

And finally, in memory of one of the greatest heavyweight boxers ever, check out Mark Kram’s 1975 piece on “The Thrilla in Manilla” between Muhammad Ali and the recently-departed Joe Frazier (you can also watch the fight below). Frazier was by all accounts one of the toughest fighters who ever lived. He was born in Beaufort, South Carolina, and spent his formative years working on a farm. His professional career was headlined by three fights against Muhammad Ali. Frazier died on Monday after battling liver cancer for the last few months of his life.

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ACC Morning Five: 10.31.11 Edition

Posted by mpatton on October 31st, 2011

  1. Miami Herald: In our ironic post of the day a Miami Herald op-ed contributor took the NCAA to task for its recent proposal to grant an optional extra $2,000 for cost of attendance. Best quote: “Why should the University of Miami not have the power to provide whatever amount of money required to get a commitment from that player?” Well, Miami did (allegedly) provide money, parties and just about everything else for its recruits (and student-athletes) thanks to former booster Nevin Shapiro. Even as I jest though, Darren Heitner’s opinion is an important one. He’s a lawyer and professor at Indiana University. This article is far from the only one of its kind. The cost of attendance scholarships are only a drop in the bucket.
  2. ACC Sports Journal: Dan Wiederer presents his recap of North Carolina‘s turnaround in the middle of last season starting right after the Tar Heels were blown out by Georgia Tech. It’s easy to forget how much last year’s team struggled to start the season. Even after the Georgia Tech debacle, UNC looked like it was going to be blown out by Miami before a steady run brought them close enough for Harrison Barnes to knock down the first of his clutch shots for the win. Wiederer presents the story chronologically, looking at game performances and giving some additional insight into the sudden departure of Larry Drew II. Both parts are a must-read.
  3. Raleigh News & Observer: Bad news for NC State. Wolfpack guard and only returning senior CJ Williams is out indefinitely with a hairline fracture in his left thumb. Mark Gottfried projected Williams as a starter and a double-figure scorer for NC State this season. Williams is lucky, though, in that the injury is to his off-hand, which should allow him to return sooner than if it was on his strong hand.
  4. Baltimore Sun: Maryland has an army of five walk-ons this season thanks to a depleted roster. That doesn’t even count John Auslander, who walked on last season but received a scholarship from Mark Turgeon this year. The story also profiles walk-ons Spencer Barks and Jonathon Thomas. Right now it sounds like the non-scholarship players are mainly for bodies in practice in the like, but Turgeon isn’t opposed to playing some of them a few minutes if needed.
  5. Charlotte Observer: Duke and North Carolina got their exhibition games going over the weekend with the Tar Heels taking care of UNC Pembroke, 102-58, and the Blue Devils pulling away from a pesky Bellarmine team, 87-62. UNC Pembroke stuck with the top-ranked squad from Chapel Hill until the end of the first half before giving up a 14-0 run, and North Carolina never looked back. Duke had a little more trouble with D-II National Champion Bellarmine, and the youth of the team showed in its turnovers. Duke committed 20 turnovers on the evening and didn’t open up a sizable lead until the second half. I’ll say it now: this team is very inexperienced.

Picture of the Day: In honor of Halloween, here’s a Duke jack o’ lantern (h/t @DarrenRovell)

Happy Halloween!

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Conference Report Card: ACC

Posted by Brian Goodman on April 28th, 2011

Matt Patton is the RTC correspondent for the ACC.

Conference Recap

The ACC had a down year though North Carolina’s Kendall Marshall-led resurgence and Florida State’s Sweet Sixteen appearance helped a little bit. Before and during the season, Duke was the runaway favorite in the conference: Kyrie Irving’s toe injury obviously was the pivotal point that brought Duke back down to earth. Equally pivotal (in the reverse direction) was Marshall’s move to starting point guard for North Carolina. With Larry Drew II at the helm, there is no way the Tar Heels could have come close to surpassing Duke for the regular season title. The down year did not really surprise most people, and despite lofty preseason expectations (read: people forgot how highly rated North Carolina was to start the season) I think the perception is that the league at least lived up to preseason expectations with a couple of notable exceptions: NC State, Wake Forest, and Virginia Tech. NC State had NCAA Tournament talent, but did not come anywhere close to sniffing the Big Dance; Wake was arguably the worst major conference team in the country; and Virginia Tech once again found itself very highly seeded in the NIT. On the flip side, Clemson and Florida State both exceeded expectations.

Roy Williams and Kendall Marshall led a mid-season resurgence that resulted in a trip the Elite Eight. (News Observer/Robert Willitt)

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