Orange Travel To Raleigh To Face Future Conference Opponent
After a bit of a respite, I’m back with a special Saturday post. Just when you thought you had your weekends free…
I said before that I won’t make this a regular home for previews, but I’m making an exception today. NC State hardly seems imposing on the surface. They Wolfpack have been largely irrelevant historically, failing to post a winning conference record in 14 of the last 18 seasons, and haven’t made the NCAA Tournament since 2006. This year seems a little different, though. NC State isn’t a program that’s risen from the ashes like an Indiana, but they may be on their way. By the time Syracuse joins the ACC, I think NC State will be a top-half team, but I’m less certain about their chances in the short term.
That doesn’t mean NC State hasn’t been competitive this season. Mark Gottfried’s team has no bad losses. They may be 6-3, but their worst defeat to date can be debated between a neutral court road loss to Vanderbilt in New Jersey and a home loss to the surging Hoosiers. The Wolfpack have been competitive in all three defeats, losing by 7, 11 and 4. What they’re hungry for is a quality win. Of their six vanquished opponents, only one ranks in Ken Pomeroy’s top 100, as the Wolfpack rallied from a huge deficit to top Texas last month at the Izod center. Syracuse, with its #1 ranking, presents that opportunity, and with a home environment (though I await in advance the national writers qualifying an SU win in Raleigh by stating that the students were on break and thus the game wasn’t really a true road game), they’ll be amped up a little more than usual.
C.J. Leslie, who missed last season’s game against Syracuse in The Dome with an injury, leads the Woflpack in scoring with an efficient 12.8 points per game in 26 minutes, and has played well in NC State’s bigger games, so using the Orange’s win last season to speculate about how tonight’s game will go isn’t entirely accurate.
Right behind Leslie in scoring is forward Richard Howell, who is having a breakout season with 11.9 points and 8.3 boards per game, but it’s also worth noting that he’s dipped to 8.4 points per game in his last five. Rather, the focus beyond Leslie shifts to sharpshooting Scott Wood. Wood comes into tonight’s game with a scorching 56.8% clip from beyond the arc, and threes have accounted for nearly 80% of his total shot attempts, so if you’re searching for the token player who can slay an opponent despite a skill set that is far from versatile, look no further. Outside of Wood, who can shoot over SU’s guards with his 6’6″ height, the team is shooting just 22%, so as long as the Orange check him, they should be fine.
The Wolfpack as a team don’t present many threats. They do a decent-enough job of holding onto the ball and rebound well on the offensive glass, and SU has struggled somewhat with teams that clean up their misses, but they’re a mediocre shooting team and have been woeful defensively. Thus far, they’ve allowed opponents to shoot 39.8% from beyond the arc, which almost negates Wood’s expertise, and they’re bad at forcing steals. NC State may hang around, but the wheels could come off quickly for them if they don’t focus on stopping SU’s transition attack.