The ACC’s Unknown Superstars: TJ Warren & KJ McDaniels

Posted by Chris Kehoe on February 28th, 2014

T.J. Warren and K.J. McDaniels are two of the best wings in college basketball and you’d never know it. Most of their lack of attention has to do with their respective teams’ success — N.C. State (17-11, 7-8 ACC) and Clemson (17-10, 8-7 ACC) — and the fact that the Wolfpack and the Tigers are on the outside of the bubble looking in. Both players have assumed huge responsibilities and increased roles this season, a necessary component for N.C. State after losing a huge contingent of talent and for a Clemson squad lacking star power.

Will he stay or will he go? Warren's season has Wolfpack fans hoping for more T.J.(Photo: Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

Will he stay or will he go? Warren’s season has Wolfpack fans hoping for more T.J. (Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

T.J. Warren has risen to the occasion, solidifying himself as a legitimate all-ACC candidate in leading the league in scoring at 23.8 PPG, five points per game higher than Duke’s Jabari Parker. While it was unreasonable to expect Warren to continue his otherworldly efficiency of last season when he shot 62.2 percent from the field and 51.9 percent from behind the line, he still is shooting very well from the field (52.3 percent from the field, 29.5 percent from three). He clearly is a massive piece to the Wolfpack offense and quite possibly the only thing keeping them afloat. While he is known for his scoring credentials, he is no slouch in the rebounding department either, collecting 7.0 caroms per contest for the Pack. Warren’s superb play has helped the Wolfpack outdo preseason expectations and explains why N.C. State has a great shot at a top-half conference finish.

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Rushed Reactions: North Carolina 85, N.C. State 84 (OT)

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on February 27th, 2014


Three Key Takeaways.

North Carolina's Marcus Paige Outdueled N.C. State's T.J. Warren. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

North Carolina’s Marcus Paige Outdueled N.C. State’s T.J. Warren.
(AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

  1. North Carolina’s Marcus Paige and N.C. State’s T.J. Warren put on a show for the ages. The two stars seemingly traded baskets for the entire second half and overtime of this one. After being held to four points on 2-of-6 shooting in the first half, Paige exploded for 31 more after the break, the last two coming on a game-winning driving layup with less than a second to go. Warren was equally unstoppable, finishing with a game-high 36 points that included two free throws that tied the game and forced the extra session with two seconds left in regulation. To put these performances in perspective, the previous scoring high in an ACC game this year was the 34 put up by Warren in a home game with Wake Forest, so this one game now has the top two individual scoring totals of the season. Paige was red-hot from the perimeter, hitting 7-of-10 from three after halftime. Most of the bombs seemed to come just when North Carolina looked to be in trouble, with perhaps the biggest coming in overtime to cut a six-point Wolfpack lead in half with 2:40 to go. The Tar Heels tried multiple defenders and three different zone defenses to corral Warren down the stretch, but nothing seemed to slow down the ACC’s leading scorer as he scored 19 of N.C. State’s last 27 points in the final nine minutes of action.
  2. N.C. State Looks Headed To The NIT. The Wolfpack lost another chance to get an eye-popping win much like they did at Syracuse 15 days earlier. Not only do they lack a marquee win, but N.C. State is now winless in eight games against the RPI top 50. Even if the Wolfpack wins out to go 10-8 in the ACC regular season, their best win will have been over Pittsburgh, which is currently #45 in the RPI. With that resume it would likely take at least a run to the ACC Tournament finals for N.C. State to get any consideration from the NCAA Selection Committee. But considering the Wolfpack’s modest preseason expectations, even an NIT bid would be a positive thing for such a young team. Read the rest of this entry »
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NC State Surges in ACC Standings, Possible Bubble Talk?

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on February 12th, 2014

After starting conference play with an uninspiring 1-4 record, N.C. State has quietly climbed back up the standings. After dispatching Wake Forest 82-67 on Tuesday night in Raleigh, the Wolfpack have now jumped into a tie for sixth place in the ACC with a 6-5 mark. By winning five of its last six games, Mark Gottfried’s team is again starting to get some attention as a possible NCAA Tournament candidate, and that alone is a nice accomplishment in what was viewed as a major rebuilding year in Raleigh. While the surge is certainly great news for Wolfpack fans, there’s still a lot of work to be done for N.C. State to move itself on to the right side of the bubble.

ACC Leading Scorer T.J. Warren Leads N.C. State. (Photo: Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

ACC Leading Scorer T.J. Warren Leads N.C. State.
(Photo: Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

Back on January 5, Wake Forest edged the Wolfpack on a late driving layup by Codi Miller-McIntyre, but last night N.C. State made sure the latest contest between the old Tobacco Road rivals did not come down to a similar situation. Behind T.J. Warren’s 34 points and 10 rebounds, the Wolfpack broke open the game late in the first half. Warren led the surge with 23 first half points on 10-on-14 shooting, marking the fourth time this year that the sophomore has topped 20 points in a half. When asked about his star player in the postgame press conference, Gottfried noted, “He’s got a knack to score in such a variety of ways. I think it’s unique.” That was certainly true on Tuesday as he scored on mid-range jumpers, offensive putbacks, and even connecting on 3-of-5 threes, matching his best long-range performance of the season.

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North Carolina Trending Upward With Three Wins in a Row

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on February 2nd, 2014

North Carolina continued its home dominance over N.C. State with an 84-70 win Saturday in Chapel Hill. The Tar Heels have now won 11 consecutive meetings with the Wolfpack in the Smith Center, coinciding with Roy Williams’ tenure as UNC’s head coach. The last win for the Wolfpack in Chapel Hill was back in 2003, which was Matt Doherty’s last season at the helm. More importantly, the Tar Heels’ victory was their third straight ACC win, raising them to 4-4 in league play. For N.C. State, this loss ended a three-game winning streak, albeit with all the wins in Raleigh, and drops the Wolfpack to 4-5 in the ACC standings.

Roy Williams' Still Perfect Against N.C. State in Chapel Hill. (Photo: Robert Willett /

Roy Williams’ Still Perfect Against N.C. State in Chapel Hill.
(Photo: Robert Willett /

The story of the first half was the dominant performance of the North Carolina defense versus the N.C. State offense. The Tar Heels held the Wolfpack to 25 percent shooting on its way to a 40-23 halftime lead. N.C. State struggled to get open shots and failed to convert from anywhere on the court. At the rim, North Carolina blocked six first half shots, and the Wolfpack made only 1-of-7 from three. Even the foul line was a source of misery for N.C. State in the opening stanza, shooting a dismal 2-of-7.

In the second half, N.C. State played much better offensively, more than doubling its first half point total by outscoring North Carolina 47-44 after the break. Mark Gottfried switched to a smaller lineup, using point guards Anthony Barber and Tyler Lewis together, and went with a spread offense. The move enabled the Wolfpack to attack the Tar Heels off the dribble and get much easier shots, making an impressive 65.4 percent of their second half field goals. JuCo transfer Desmond Lee was particularly effective, repeatedly beating a bigger Tar Heel defender off the bounce on the way to 18 second half points. But while the small lineup ignited the Wolfpack, the Tar Heels took advantage of their size advantage on the other end. In the second half, North Carolina grabbed 14 offensive rebounds and converted those into 13 points. In a game in which overall shooting and turnovers were virtually even, the difference in the outcome can be traced to the Tar Heels’ 52-36 overall rebounding advantage. Here are some key takeaways for each team after Saturday’s game.

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Pittsburgh’s Toughness Leads To Big Comeback Win Over N.C. State

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on January 4th, 2014

Back in October at ACC Operation Basketball, Pittsburgh Head Coach Jaime Dixon sounded as though he had something of a chip on his shoulder. It was as if he wanted the ACC media to know that moving from the Big East to the ACC was not a move up in competition for Pittsburgh. He had good reason to think that way, with the Big East rated higher than the ACC in nearly ever conference metric over the last several seasons, and with Pitt the winningest team in the Big East over the last dozen years. Plus, all the talk about this year’s ACC being the greatest basketball conference ever was based on the power of the schools it was bringing in from the old Big East.

The Pitt Panthers Surround N.C. State's Anthony Barber During 74-62 Pitt Win. (Photo: Ethan Hyman,

The Pitt Panthers Surround N.C. State’s Anthony Barber During 74-62 Pitt Win.
(Photo: Ethan Hyman,

Dixon must have been wondering if perhaps he had been mistaken when he witnessed his team down 17-2 after the first six minutes against N.C. State in Raleigh Saturday afternoon. But the veteran Panthers came roaring back, cutting the deficit to eight at halftime before dominating the second half on the way to a 74-62 win. Leading the way were seniors Lamar Patterson (22/8) and Talib Zanna (15/9). In particular, Patterson had an outstanding second half, with 17 points, six rebounds, and five assists after the intermission. Here are some takeaways for each team after their first game of ACC play.

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NC State’s T.J. Warren Needs More Help if Wolfpack Are to Dance Again

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on December 30th, 2013

T.J. Warren is having a tremendous sophomore season, leading North Carolina State and the ACC in scoring with an average of 23.9 PPG, while also leading his team in rebounding (7.8 RPG) and minutes played (34.5 MPG). But he is going to need more help from his teammates if NC State wants to be a serious contender in the ACC and return to the NCAA Tournament for the third consecutive season. Saturday’s loss at home to #25 Missouri was a good example of this fact.

T.J. Warren Needs More Support From His Wolfpack Teammates (AP Photo/Karl B DeBlaker)

T.J. Warren Needs More Support From His Wolfpack Teammates.
(AP/Karl B DeBlaker)

With just over 12 minutes to go in the game, Warren drilled a three-pointer from the left corner – his only made three in seven attempts for the game. At that point, the sophomore star had already notched 24 points and 11 rebounds, and the Pack held a five-point lead. From that moment on, Warren went scoreless on three field goal attempts and managed only two more rebounds for a 24/13 night. He wasn’t totally invisible for the remainder, as he did record a block and assisted on two huge three-point baskets by Ralston Turner. But his lack of production down the stretch was a big reason that N.C. State couldn’t hold off the Tigers, who trailed by 10 points with just under nine minutes left. Missouri suddenly got hot from the outside, making five of their last six three point tries after only hitting two of their first 12 from behind the arc. But without their star involved in the offense, the Pack just couldn’t match that burst from Missouri and its star guards, Jordan Clarkson and Jabari Brown, who led the Tigers in scoring with 21 and 17 points, respectively.

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Weekend Storylines: Exams Over, But Tests on the Court Just Beginning

Posted by Bennet Hayes on December 28th, 2013

Here’s to hoping that this week brought you plenty of holiday cheer, because it surely did not supply you (or anyone else!) with much quality college basketball. Entertaining Diamond Head Classic final aside, this week was as slow as the college basketball season gets. Don’t despair, however, because Santa has delivered a Saturday chalk-full of college hoops. Two big-time rivalry games occupy the prime real estate on this weekend’s marquee, but there’s plenty of substance, albeit understated, sprinkled throughout Saturday’s docket of action. Here’s a quick primer on the big games in Syracuse and Lexington, plus a few other worthwhile narratives to monitor on this busy Saturday.

For The First Time In Over Three Decades, Syracuse And Villanova Will Meet As Non-Conference Opponents

For The First Time In Over Three Decades, Syracuse And Villanova Will Meet As Non-Conference Opponents

A Couple Of Old Big East Friends

In the world of college basketball, eleven months is far from an eternity, but my, oh my; how things have changed since the last time Villanova and Syracuse locked horns! What was a Big East conference game last January will be an ACC versus (new) Big East affair today (2PM EST, CBS), and with both teams set to embark on their maiden voyages in the new leagues next week, the Carrier Dome will serve as the clinic for anyone needing one final dose of Big East nostalgia. Subplots abound in this game, but I’ll be especially interested to see how Villanova attacks the Syracuse zone. The Wildcats haven’t been a bad offensive team to this point in the season, but the Cats’ statistical breakdown on the offensive end puzzles. Villanova is 18th best in the country in two-point field goal percentage (55.1%), also shoots the ball pretty well from the stripe (72.2%), but struggles from beyond the arc (204th nationally in 3P% at 32.7%). With those splits, you’d expect Jay Wright’s team to focus their efforts inside the three-point line. So far, however, they’ve done the exact opposite – the Wildcats are 7th in the country when it comes to percentage of field goal attempts from three-point range (45.7%). Will the chucking continue against an Orange zone that begs opponents to settle for deep shots (43.1% of Syracuse opponent’s field goal attempts are threes), or can the Wildcats throw aside this bit of statistical dissonance and find a way to get quality interior looks against the zone? Remains to be seen, but expect 30,000+ to get a first-hand view of the answer.

Battle For The Bluegrass 

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The Emergence of NC State’s T.J. Warren

Posted by Chris Kehoe on December 20th, 2013

N.C. State sophomore forward T.J. Warren had an extremely successful freshman season on a Wolfpack squad that failed to live up to outsized expectations last year. After the departure of stars C.J. Leslie, Richard Howell and Lorenzo Brown, the reins were handed to Mr. Warren. Surrounded by a supporting cast of talented freshmen and an undersized yet feisty former Oak Hill point guard (Tyler Lewis), N.C. State was largely expected to coast to a lower/middle-of-the-pack finish in the ACC. However, behind freshman guard Anthony ‘Cat’ Barber’s unexpected scoring output, the emergences of forward/center Jordan Vandenberg and freshman big man Lennard Freeman, and Warren’s ascendence, the outlook is bright for this Wolfpack team.

T.J. Warren skies for an emphatic two points (photo: Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

T.J. Warren skies for an emphatic two points
(photo: Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

Last season Warren was known for his other-worldly efficiency, pouring in 12.1 PPG on a remarkable 62.2% shooting and cementing his status as a player to keep an eye on. A popular misconception after the departures of the talented triumvirate was that N.C. State and Warren would struggle because of a lack of offensive options and overall experience and cohesion. That has not been the case, as N.C. State has cruised to a 8-2 record, beating Florida Gulf Coast, Northwestern, and most recently, Tennessee in solid wins. While their schedule has not been particularly strong, they look to be a force to be reckoned with in a weaker-than-expected ACC. They are now circled on teams’ calendars as a dangerous foe in ACC play, because when you have an elite scorer such as Warren to defend, there is no telling what kind of damage he can do.

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New Starting Lineup Working for NC State

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on December 9th, 2013

Although it’s still very early, NC State is showing signs that this may not be quite the down year many were predicting. After a lackluster 2-2 start to the season, head coach Mark Gottfried made some major lineup changes that are starting to pay big dividends during a four-game winning streak. The most obvious change is the return of seven-foot center Jordan Vandenberg, who missed the first four games due to an injured ankle, but he’s not the only newcomer to the starting lineup. Although all five opening game starters are now healthy, three of those players are coming off the bench.

T.J. Warren is Averaging 26 ppg in Last Four Games (photo: Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

T.J. Warren is Averaging 26 ppg in Last Four Games
(photo: Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

Without Vandenberg in the lineup, the Wolfpack had to use all three freshmen bigs to man the post. When their highly regarded recruiting class was formed, BeeJay Anya, from famed DeMatha Catholic High School in Maryland, was NC State’s highest rated post recruit. Kyle Washington from Brewster Academy in New Hampshire was the next highest, with the third post player of the class, Lennard Freeman from Virginia’s Oak Hill Academy, less celebrated than the other two. Ironically the three freshman bigs are performing in the exact opposite order when compared to expectations. Anya, who was listed at 275 pounds for his senior year of high school, inexplicably reported to Raleigh over the summer at 337 pounds and is currently listed at a hefty 325. He simply cannot play effectively at that weight. Out of necessity, Anya played about 10 minutes per game in the team’s first five contests, but only a total of three minutes in the last three.

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20 Questions: Which Returning Player Makes The Leap?

Posted by Bennet Hayes on November 8th, 2013


There has never been a more opportune time for the player waiting in the wings. With transfers more prevalent than ever, the one-and-done era in full swing, and each new college basketball season bringing a brand new landscape with it, we have become accustomed to seeing fresh faces starring in old places. Needless to say, that leaves a pretty sizable group of candidates to choose from when answering the question of which returning player will make the leap this year. LaQuinton Ross looks ready to shoulder the scoring load at Ohio State. Talented sophomore T.J. Warren could develop into a leader in the absence of Leslie, Brown and co. at NC State. A star turn seems in order for Sam Dekker at Wisconsin. The list could go on and on. But if we are taking just one crack at this, Kansas’ Perry Ellis very well could be the player who makes the most significant leap.

Perry Ellis' Will Find Himself With A Vastly Expanded Role For The Jayhawks In 2013-14

Perry Ellis Will Find Himself With A Vastly Expanded Role For The Jayhawks In 2013-14

Rumor has it that Kansas has a freshman by the name of Andrew Wiggins who figures to be a pretty integral piece to the Jayhawk puzzle (and a preseason First Team All-American), but don’t be shocked if Ellis winds up being nearly as valuable to the KU cause as the prodigiously gifted freshman. Ellis, a consensus top-40 recruit coming out of high school, averaged just 13.6 minutes per contest as a freshman. He still managed to post averages of 5.8 PPG and 3.9 RPG in limited minutes, and the only Jayhawks with a higher offensive rating (per KenPom) than Ellis’ 114.1 were Ben McLemore and Travis Releford. It’s no secret that the past six months have seen the Kansas roster undergo quite the transformation. Ellis will undoubtedly see a significant increase in minutes as a result. A simple extrapolation of last season’s numbers (to his expected minutes this year) would qualify as a solid leap for the sophomore, but we can expect even more. As Bill Self’s best post scoring option this season, Ellis will see much more of the offense run through him than a year ago, when Jeff Withey dominated those touches. Wiggins will clearly claim the featured role in the Jayhawk offense, but we have already seen an expanded role for Ellis in Kansas’ two preseason games, where he averaged 14.5 points and 7.5 rebounds per game.

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