Spread: nc state by 15.
If you asked most people who the biggest disappointment in the ACC is to date, they would tell you nc state. That’s because while Tech was picked to finish in the lower third of the league anyway, nc state was picked to win the ACC, C.J. Leslie was tabbed to be the ACC Player of the Year, and Rodney Purvis was slated to be the Freshman of the Year, a clean sweep in the preseason. They feature three 5-star and three 4-star recruits on their roster, half from the Sidney Lowe days and half under second year coach Mark Gottfried.
Yet, if it wasn’t for a Scott Wood 3-pointer with 1 second left at clemson last Sunday, the wolfpack would have a losing record in the ACC. As it is, they are just 6-5 and 5th place in the league. They got trounced by 20 points by oklahoma state earlier in the year and have lost to maryland, wake, uva, miami, and duke in ACC action.
Despite all this, the wolfpack are poised to go to the NCAA Tournament for the 2nd year in a row after never making it under Lowe. They are ranked 17th in the RPI, thanks in large part to the nation’s 8th toughest schedule. They’ve played 4 top 25 RPI teams (1-3), 3 more 26-50 (2-1), and 5 more in the top 100 (3-2).
At least Tech would have to worry about being outnumbered on Saturday. The wolfpack basically only go two deep on their bench. Vandenberg plays a minute or two here and there, but I’m not counting him. nc state lost three straight while stud point guard Lorenzo Brown was out, but he’s back now (played 32 minutes in the win over clemson) and should start Saturday. He is a devastating slasher.
C.J. Leslie has played well, but he will likely not be the ACC POTY. He’s averaging 15.6 points and 7.5 rebounds per game and gets to the line a ton (6.5 attempts per game), but I wouldn’t even call him their MVP.
Richard Howell has improved night and day, and if you played fantasy sports, he would be a #1 seed in the ACC. Howell is in the top two on his team in points, rebounds, blocks, assists (as a big man), and steals. He leads the ACC in rebounding. Howell’s ppg have improved by about 2.5 ppg each year since his freshman year, and he now looks like a NBA player.
Don’t forget about Scott Wood. The beanpole is still around, and dropping 43% of his 3s (63 makes). And he’s automatic at the line, hitting over 90% but he doesn’t get there much since he’s soft.
Purvis, the preseason pick as FOTY, has been decent, but hasn’t lived up to the 5-star hype. T.J. Warren, another 5-star freshman, has played better (averaging 11.4 ppg to Purvis’s 9.3). Purvis is a better than 40% 3-point shooter, though.
Stat to Watch: nc state is #2 in the ACC hitting 41.2% of their 3s in league action. But they are 11th in the league with 5.1 makes per game (behind VT’s 5.4). Given nc state’s size advantage at almost every position, the Hokies have no prayer of winning if nc state is hot from deep. Given that 10 of VT’s 11 ACC opponents have shot a higher 3-point % than normal and made more than normal, that’s not a good thing. Tech must hope nc state missed from the outside, VT can hit some (like the 2 3-pointers they got from Marshall Wood against uva), and do a good job on the defensive glass (they held uva to just 6 offensive rebounds). Both teams have a similar turnover margin, but if the Hokies can cause misses, get the rebounds, and force turnovers, who knows.
Tech has won two straight at nc state. Since joining the league, this series has been a series of runs. VT won the first meeting, nc state the next 6 (we were the only team Lowe could beat), and then VT 4 in a row until state throttled Tech in the regular season finale last year at the Cassell. In that 70-58 win, Wood had 19, Leslie 18, and Brown 10. Raines had 15 and EG 12 for the Hokies.