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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
Record: 24-12
Seed: 11
KenPom (Ken Pomeroy) Ranking: 35

North Carolina State's C.J. Williams, right, celebrates the team's win over Georgetown in an an NCAA college basketball tournament third-round game Sunday, March 18, 2012, in Columbus, Ohio. N.C. State beat Georgetown, 66-63.

North Carolina State's C.J. Williams, right, celebrates the team's win over Georgetown in an an NCAA college basketball tournament third-round game Sunday, March 18, 2012, in Columbus, Ohio. N.C. State beat Georgetown, 66-63. by Jay LaPrete/Associated Press

Strengths

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).

Weaknesses

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).

Duke's Seth Curry falls as North Carolina State's Lorenzo Brown (2) drives to the basket during the second half of a game in Durham, N.C., on Thursday, Feb. 16, 2012. Duke won, 78-73.

Duke's Seth Curry falls as North Carolina State's Lorenzo Brown (2) drives to the basket during the second half of a game in Durham, N.C., on Thursday, Feb. 16, 2012. Duke won, 78-73.

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).

North Carolina State's C.J. Leslie, right, collides with Georgetown's Henry Sims during the second half of an NCAA college basketball tournament third-round game, Sunday, March 18, 2012, in Columbus, Ohio. NC State defeated Georgetown 66-63.

North Carolina State's C.J. Leslie, right, collides with Georgetown's Henry Sims during the second half of an NCAA college basketball tournament third-round game, Sunday, March 18, 2012, in Columbus, Ohio. NC State defeated Georgetown 66-63.

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.

Bottom Line

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.

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Comments

cajayfan 2 years ago

I saw a breakdown of the coaches salaries in USA Today. Self does not get a bonus until the Final 4 and the championship game. He is the only coach that is not rewarded along the way. Gottfried is set up to get a bonus for every game won. I am sure he is highly motivated by that. He was second only to John Calipari as being able to get the highest dollars through the tournament. Self was third. Old Roy needs to renegotiate.

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JayHawkFanToo 2 years ago

Jesse,

"The shortest player in NCSU's seven-man rotation is 6 foot 5."

According to their season stats: http://espn.go.com/mens-college-basketball/team/stats/_/id/152/north-carolina-state-wolfpack

NC State seventh player is Alex Johnson who is listed at 5'-10"

Am I missing something?

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Tony Bandle 2 years ago

I agree with Jaybate...why win a race going 110 mph when you can win going 90 mph. and save gas and wear and tear on your racer.

I think what JB is discussing is the ideal scenario based on all KU match-up advantages being reasonably fulfilled. However, if the situation deteriorates then, boys, it's balls to the walls and we'll worry about Sunday later.

Another factor may be what happens in the game before us. If Ohio does pull the upset, they will have to have blown out all the gaskets to do it. NC, on the other hand, may still win going away.

The issue is not that all the Kansas starters and sub players don't give 100%, but rather do the starters give max effort for 25 minutes or 35 minutes!!

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pizzashuttle 2 years ago

Jesse - great article! Can you do a follow up article explaining what types of defensive schemes you think Self will used based on the stats? And include which KU players will match up with which NCSt players and how then will do trying to defend them. Basically your take of the type of game plan that would result in a win. Thanks again for this well researched article.

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aaaKU 2 years ago

Thanks Jesse. I really enjoy these matchup previews and the statistical breakdown. Awesome job! RCJH!

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oldalum 2 years ago

I don't quite understand why you think Gottfried will be willing to "leave it all on the floor" instead of having something left for the next game. Surely he, like Self, wants something left for the second game, or else why would be he trying to win the first.

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jaybate 2 years ago

This is a game for Kevin Young and Justin Wesley to step up. NCSU are not bruisers, but they are long and athletic. This is what Young and Wesley should do well against. Look for Self to play a lot of Thomas with one of the subs, and Jeff with one of the subs. If we get a significant lead, then Kevin and Justin will see quite a bit of time together.

But in closing, Lorenzo Brown is very dangerous for KU, because he is an exceptionally long and brawny point guard that can take either of our guards to the rim, because of his weight and strength.

If we can contain him, we can win going away.

But if he gets our starting guards fouled up, this will become a very tough game, where we may have to go with big with Conner at a 2 guard, slow it down, and grind.

In any case, what we will see has to be discounted for KU trying to hold down the starters' minutes, and NCSU likely leaving it all on the floor that day. These are games, when KU either gets upset, or has to burn too much gas to get the win. Last season's team burned too much gas against Richmond to get the win against a hyper conditioned VCU, when KU lost its shooting legs.

This year, Self is sure to be trying every which way he can to chip away at how much his starters are on the floor.

Gottfried faces an interesting strategic choice too. Because NCSU is so thin, and Gottfried plays his guys so many minutes, Gottfried has to choose between the temptation of leaving his starters in the entire first half to try to build a lead against KU's subs, but then risk running out of gas against KU the last ten minutes, or play his subs for a change the first half, coast while KU is coasting, and then gamble on a balls to the walls second half.

I don't know enough about Gottfried to know how he will choose.

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jaybate 2 years ago

We may Kevin Young's minutes spike to 20-30 also in an effort to keep our bigs rested for the following game.

NCSU will run for sure. Gottfried understands that Self will be trying to rest his starters as much as possible for Sunday, so by ratcheting the tempo up as much as possible, he forces Self to play his subs that much more and that much sooner; that means NCSU gets more scoring opportunities against our lesser players the faster the pace of the game it is.

The down side is that our starting five is quite good at playing transition and so NCSU could easily did a hole they can't get out of, especially if our outsider shooters are on today.

Regardless, at some point or other, Self is going to turn this into a game of our bigs versus their bigs, because we hold some advantage there in a non bang ball game.

This is really going to be a game about one team trying to leave it all out on the floor the whole game (NCSU) versus another team trying to conserve as much energy as possible for Sunday (KU), while still playing it any way NCSU wants.

Barring KU injury/sickness, an outbreak of Foul-itis, a 15-20% trey performance, or failing to slow it down occasionally to play through our bigs to stop their runs against our subs, we should win this one by 15.

Our better defense will wear them down over the course of the game.

Our better trey shooting will add intermittently to separations.

Our ability to guard their perimeter players with help defense, and our defensive rebounding carving away one of their strengths, stick backs, should win out in the end.

What would be ideal is for them to have a lousy trey shooting day, for us to shoot well enough to separate, and reduce our starters to 30 mpg.

This will be tough to achieve, however, without Conner going 30 minutes, because Naadir seems a bad match-up for tall guards, if the game is at all close.

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jaybate 2 years ago

NCSU plays it just like KU does no offense.

They like to drive Brown into the paint and create tough choices for big men between sealing their man for a rebound, and letting Brown take the point guard to iron, or having the opposing bigs seal Brown and give up the offensive rebounds, or dishes, to NCSU's big men.

We've not played someone that can do exactly what we do before this season, but we have a great advantage going into the game. BenMac can play Lorenzo Brown (note: BenMac will have to lose his great j for the week) in practice and get both Tyshawn and EJ, outside, and our bigs inside, used to a taller PG taking our fine starting guards to iron.

Hence, this game hinges on how well KU handles Lorenzo Brown. He's tall enough and strong enough to take Tyshawn to the rim regularly, especially without risk of charging fouls; that means Tyshawn may have to do some up and under that he is not used to doing. But since Tyshawn does not have to contain Brown's trey, then his main job is to guard him tight in mid range, where Brown tries to operate most. And since only one of the their wing players is a serious trey threat, there is apt to be some help for Tyshawn on one side of the court. The other side of the court, Tyshawn has to handle.

Or Elijah may get some time on Brown. Elijah's pretty skinny for Brown, but Elijah's height partially will allow Elijah to guard Brown straight up more of the time on penetration, and so enable our bigs to stay sealed on the bigs, which in turn will cut deep into NCSU's offensive rebounding and stick back game.

A significant driver in Self's decision making on defense, is which of EJ, or Tyshawn, appears to be able to shoot the trey, while on offense. KU shooting a good trey percentage is a big step to beating NCSU, since they are not a good trey shooting team. Whomever guards Brown most of the game will soon get leg weary and their trey shooting percentage will decline.

My hunch is Self will start with Tyshawn on Brown, see how he does defensively, encourage EJ to pull the trigger a couple times early to see if he's got it, and if he does, then stand pat defensively, and if not, then switch assignments and see if Tyshawn's got the hot hand.

Conner Teahan is due for a hot hand today, or next game, and is apt to play his average of 21 mpg, maybe even 30mpg, to keep the starters around 30 mpg.

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Mike George 2 years ago

Terrific knowledge and analysis!! HCBS ought to subscribe to your scouting reports!!

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jgkojak 2 years ago

Fantastic article.

This is a great game for Withey and a great game for KU to get back to what it does best.

Hopefully we'll take them out early and rest some of our starters for Sunday.

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Scott Smetana 2 years ago

Great article again Jesse.

I'm having troubles understanding what a 'Risky, High Reward Defense" is. Could someone explain? Thanks.

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stinkybulldog 2 years ago

I think KU will come ready to play. We've had a week to prepare for NCstate and they're going to try to beat us at our own game. Not a good idea...

Play loose, play with high energy, play with passion and we WILL make it to NOLA!

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KGphoto 2 years ago

Jesse, is it possible to show these same stats over just the last 5-10 games for NCSU? They are a hot team and I'm guessing those Ken Pom stats are a bit lower for this team, right now, when they are spread over the whole season.

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Ludwig Supraphonic 2 years ago

Great analysis! I think we are a really hard team to develop a successful 40 minute game plan against. Purdue did an excellent job with our inside game and lost with second half defensive adjustments and spurts of great guard play and 3 point shooting (that also reflected conditioning) in the final 10 minutes. Short of lights out shooting for 40 minutes; NCSU is going to have to change styles to have a good chance. A offensive mirror image of KU with a shorter bench and more porous defensive interior means we wear them down and win in double digits.

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FLJHK 2 years ago

Outstanding analysis, Jesse.

As usual during the tourney, I've started my day with an hour of reading on this site. Through the day I'll check back in and research a few other sites. Whenever KU is alive in the tourney, I'll basically a wasted blob of protoplasm of little value to humanity at large.

Man, I can't wait for tomorrow night.

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Joe Joseph 2 years ago

Not buyin it. I'm scared.

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Bill Walberg 2 years ago

I love Jesse's analysis. He said we'd only beat Purdue by 2...very close. He analyzes the match-ups extremely well.

No front court in the nation, save Kentucky, can keep up with us if Withey and Robinson are underneath.

Also I like this match-up and want to crush the NCST fans dreams...they are so arrogant over on their message boards. Arrogant to the point of saying we don't have a chance in this game...

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Ben Kane 2 years ago

the waiting is killing me. last game of the second day again... jeez.

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swunruhawk 2 years ago

That article was outstanding. Thank you for the great research work.

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KUFool 2 years ago

Agreed. Jesse's analyses always stand out on this site. Well done.

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