Why The Wolfpack Can Surprise: North Carolina State wins games with their defense. A couple experienced big men lead the way. Tracy Smith started to take over this team late last season and he has not given up that role. Despite being constantly double or even triple teamed under the basket, Smith is easily the Wolfpack’s most dominating scorer and rebounder. And on the defensive end of the floor he will use his athleticism to block quite a few shots. Dennis Horner is not the athlete that Smith is, but he is a great complimentary forward to Smith who can step outside and stretch the defense with his shooting ability. Horner is also a fine shot blocker and those two are deceptively effective defenders under the basket.
C.J. Williams has earned some starts at the forward position and he is playing his best basketball late in the year. The 6-6 sophomore is not much of a shooter, but he can score ten to 15 points on any given night by using his size and athleticism to attack the basket. Richard Howell and Josh Davis are more traditional big men, but both are inexperienced freshmen. Howell has emerged as a fine rebounder and it is nice for Coach Sidney Lowe to have some options up front.
Why The Wolfpack Can Disappoint: The defense has to win games for NC State because the offense will disappear at times. Smith is the only consistent scorer on the team and it is pretty easy to defend a team who only has one guy that will score. Somebody on the perimeter has to be more consistent or this is a team that will not last very long in March. Javier Gonzalez is the most likely candidate on the perimeter to supplement Smith’s inside game. He is a decent shooter and has the ability to create shots. Wing Scott Wood is pretty much a pure shooter, but the 6-7 freshman is a solid defender and a decent rebounder. The option off the bench is Julius Mays. Yet again, he is not a consistent shooter, but Mays is a superb free-throw shooter and if he gets more aggressive attacking the basket he can help this team much more than he does now.
Who To Watch for NC State: Farnold Degand joins Gonzalez in the backcourt. Both are good passers, but Degand is the better ballhandler…usually. Degand has not been the model of consistency, but when he is running the show it allows Gonzalez to work off the ball and on a team that needs all the offense it can get, it is very important that the best perimeter player can get some open looks. Whether or not Degand can get Gonzalez those looks and whether or not Gonzalez can actually hit the outside shot will be the difference between a tournament run and an early exit.
NC State By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 68.3 (194th in nation, 11th in conference)
Scoring Defense: 65.4 (95, 7)
Field-Goal Percentage: 43.9 (155, 10)
Field-Goal Defense: 42.2 (120, 10)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 5.5 (242, 8)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 33.7 (179, 7)
Free-Throw Percentage: 68.7 (180, 6)
Rebound Margin: -0.4 (205, 12)
Assists Per Game: 14.1 (97, 9)
Turnovers Per Game: 13.0 (112, 6)
Joel’s Bracket Says: Final Four loss to Virginia Tech
By Joel Welser
CollegeSports-fans.com Senior Basketball Writer