NC State's strengths, weaknesses and players to watch
All statistics courtesy of KenPom.com and are current as of March 22.
Team: NC State
KenPom (Ken Pomeroy) Ranking: 35
NC State is best on the offensive end, where it ranks 30th in adjusted offensive efficiency.
The Wolfpack's greatest strength is offensive rebounding, as it pulls down 36 percent of the available caroms (51st nationally). Not only are NCSU's players athletic, they're also tall: Six of the players in the Wolfpack's seven-man rotation are 6 foot 5 or taller.
NC State limits turnovers — giving it away on just 19 percent of its possessions (79th nationally) — and also is a balanced shooting team. The Wolfpack makes 50 percent of its twos (93rd nationally) and 36 percent of its threes (99th nationally).
Having said that, NCSU gets almost all its points inside. Fifty-eight percent of the Wolfpack's scoring comes from two-pointers, which is the 33rd-highest split nationally.
Defensively, NC State is strongest in the paint as well. The Wolfpack allows opponents to shoot just 46 percent from two-point range (81st nationally) while blocking 10 percent of the opposition's two-point shots (93rd nationally).
NCSU also is a strong defensive rebounding team, grabbing 70 percent of the available defensive boards (99th nationally).
NC State does not force teams into many mistakes, creating turnovers on just 19 percent of its defensive possessions (259th nationally) while playing mostly man and 2-3 zone.
The Wolfpack also allows an above-average number of three-pointers, with opponents shooting 34 percent from three against them (141st nationally).
Though NCSU gets most of its shots inside and plays at a fast tempo, it doesn't get to the line much, averaging just 21 free-throw attempts per game.
The Wolfpack also has one of the thinnest benches in the country. NCSU's reserves play just 20.9 percent of the team's minutes, ranking 332nd nationally. That's an even lower percentage than KU (23.5 percent, 309th nationally).
Players to Watch
Statistically, two of NC State's best players are sophomore point guard Lorenzo Brown and junior forward Richard Howell.
Though he will turn it over, Brown is great at penetrating and also is one of the nation's best passers, contributing assists on 35 percent of his team's field goals while he's in (29th nationally).
The 6-5 Brown has made 49 percent of his twos (137 of 282) but isn't much of a three-point shooter, making just just 25 of 73 tries from deep (34 percent). Brown is a strong defender, creating steals on 3.1 percent of his defensive possessions (213th nationally) while averaging just 1.8 fouls per 40 minutes (86th nationally).
The 6-8 Howell is an outstanding rebounder on both ends of the floor. He's best on the offensive glass, where he grabs 16 percent of the Wolfpack's misses (17th nationally), but he also leads the team by pulling down 23 percent of the available defensive rebounds (73rd nationally).
Howell is efficient from two-point range, making 50 percent of his shots there (156 of 310). He also draws 4.4 fouls per 40 minutes but isn't a great free throw shooter, knocking down just 64 percent of his shots at the line.
Six-foot-8 forward C.J. Leslie was selected as a second-team All-ACC pick this year but appears to be overrated a bit simply because of a high scoring average (14.6 points per game).
The sophomore, who was Rivals.com's 14th-best player in the class of 2010, takes a team-high 26 percent of his team's shots when he's in the game. He's a good shooter inside, making 54 percent of his twos (181 of 337), and he also provides a presence defensively, pulling down 20 percent of the available defensive rebounds (179th nationally) and blocking 6 percent of opponents' two-point tries (137th nationally).
Some of his other numbers, though, have hurt his overall production. Leslie turns it over at a high clip for a big man, as he's had six games where he's turned it over five times or more. He's also averaged 3.3 turnovers over his last six games and doesn't balance that out with many assists (36 assists in his 33 games this year).
Leslie also draws 5.6 fouls per 40 minutes but has struggled at the line, where he's made just 59 percent (108 of 182).
Junior forward Scott Wood is NCSU's only true three-point threat. The 6-foot-6 Wood is a high-volume, high-accuracy three-point shooter (think in the mold of Baylor's Brady Heslip or Purdue's Ryne Smith), making 42 percent of his treys this year (93 of 223) while keeping his turnovers low.
NCSU's final starter C.J. Williams is someone who probably isn't as assertive as he should be. He's made a team-high 57 percent of his twos this year (122 of 213) but only shoots 19 percent of his team's shots when he's in.
Remember all those characteristics that Purdue had that teams should want to have as an underdog (slow tempo, high risk-high reward offense)?
NC State does not match that profile at all.
The Wolfpack likes to get out in transition and plays at a fast pace, ranking 84th nationally in tempo. If that holds up Friday, KU will have plenty of possessions to prove it's the better team, which is an advantage for the Jayhawks.
As mentioned above, NCSU also rarely shoots threes. Because three-point shooting is highly variable, it's much more unpredictable than two-point shooting. Defenses also can have more of an effect on two-pointers than three-pointers.
In short, a lucky stretch of three-pointers shouldn't sink KU in this game, which is another positive for the Jayhawks.
KU also shouldn't have a problem playing its best lineup. NCSU will play a more traditional starting five with two big men, meaning Jeff Withey should receive huge minutes if he's able to stay out of foul trouble.
The comfort of this game for KU should be that, if NCSU wins, it will have won beating KU at its own game.
The Wolfpack, which scores almost all its points inside, will have to score those points against the second-best two-point defense in the nation (40 percent). It'll also have to try to snatch offensive rebounds away from the nation's top defensive rebounder, Thomas Robinson.
Meanwhile, NCSU's stingy interior defense will have to limit KU's strong front line, which has led the Jayhawks to a 54-percent two-point percentage this year (12th nationally).
KenPom predicts a nine-point victory, giving the Jayhawks a 79-percent chance of winning.
The difference between this game and the Purdue game is that it will be much tougher for NC State to make up those nine points because it doesn't play a risky style.
That isn't to say NC State can't win. But the odds are definitely stacked against the Wolfpack to beat a more talented team in a style, pace and fashion that the Jayhawks are most comfortable playing.