Scouting N.C. State
However you felt about North Carolina State's prospects at the beginning of the week, those thoughts likely were altered by the Wolfpack's performance Wednesday night in a 14-point win over No. 7 Duke. The victory stands as the seminal moment of fourth-year Coach Sidney Lowe's tenure at his alma mater, and more problematically, it leaves an unclear picture as to what to expect from N.C. State heading forward.
On Saturday, the Wolfpack (13-6, 2-3) will head to Comcast Center to take on Maryland. In the past three seasons, N.C. State has won three regular season ACC road games. The challenge for Lowe & Co. will be finding a way to emulate their Wednesday showing, which came at home.
Led by junior forward Tracy Smith (6 feet 8, 247 pounds), a trio of capable -- if inconsistent -- ballhandlers and several talented freshmen, the Wolfpack has some pretty decent parts. Whether or not those parts can continue to operate as a cohesive unit likely will decide if N.C. State is in store for more nights like Wednesday, or if it will proceed to underacheive as it has done often in recent seasons.
Smith came on strong near the end of last season and has developed into a force for the Wolfpack this season. He is averaging 17.2 points and 8.6 rebounds per game, while shooting 55.3 percent. He also has tallied 21 blocks.
On Wednesday, Duke refused to provide help defense to whoever was covering Smith at any given time, and Smith responded by shooting 10 for 12 from the field and totaling 23 points. A more traditional back-to-the-basket post player, Smith has become N.C. State's primary offensive option.
Joining Smith in the post is senior forward Dennis Horner (6-foot-9, 226 lbs.). Horner is averaging 12.9 points and 4.2 rebounds per game. He owns a team-high 22 blocks and is shooting 51.4 percent from the field.
N.C. State has several players responsible for feeding the ball into Smith and Horner. Junior guard Javier Gonzalez (6-foot-0, 175 lbs.) and redshirt senior guard Farnold Degand (6-foot-4, 170 lbs.) start in the backcourt for the Wolfpack, while sophomore guard Julius Mays (6-foot-3, 187 lbs.) provides relief off the bench.
Gonzalez is the primary ball-handler. He owns a 1.3 assist-to-turnover ratio and is averaging 10.2 points and 4.1 rebounds per game. Gonzalez is shooting 43.1 percent from the field and 38.2 percent from three-point range.
Degand is averaging 6.5 points and 2.4 rebounds per game, while shooting 45.8 percent from the field. Mays is shooting 36.5 percent from the field and averaging 6.7 points per game.
Freshman swingman Scott Wood (6-foot-7, 170 lbs.) has etched a spot in the starting lineup. He is averaging 9.1 points and 3.3 rebounds per game, while shooting 43.5 percent from the field and 38.4 percent from three-point range. Wood might already be N.C. State's purest shooter.
Against Duke, N.C. State relied heavily on its starting five (four played at least 31 minutes), but it's unlikely the Wolfpack would be able to make a habit out of such a practice. Lowe's sixth man of late has been freshman forward Richard Howell (6-foot-8, 266 lbs.). Howell is averaging 4.6 points and 4.4 rebounds per game, while shooting 44.4 percent from the field.
In fact, N.C. State offers mostly frontcourt support off its bench. Also likely to see time Saturday are sophomore forward C.J. Williams (6-foot-6, 218 lbs.), freshman forward Josh Davis (6-foot-7, 205 lbs.) and freshman center Jordan Vandenberg (7-foot-1, 238 lbs.). Of that trio, Williams has had the most impact, averaging 4.4 points and 2.5 rebounds per game. Davis is averaging 2.5 points and 1.9 rebounds per game, while Vandenberg chips in 1.1 points and 2.3 rebounds per game.
As a team, N.C. State is shooting 46.3 percent from the field, 35.8 percent from three-point range and 68.1 percent from the free throw line. Among ACC teams, N.C. State is the only team with a worse rebounding margin (+0.3) than Maryland (+1.8).
The Wolfpack does not turn the ball over too profusely, but they don't force a horde of turnovers (-0.1 turnover margin), either.
January 22, 2010; 9:47 AM ET
Categories: Men's basketball
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