2008-09 NC State Basketball Preview: #103
North Carolina State Wolfpack
Overall Rank: #103
Conference Rank: #10 ACC
2007-08: 15-16, 4-12, 11th
2007-08 postseason: none
North Carolina State might as well just throw away the 2007-2008 season and move on. The Wolfpack lost their last nine games and the momentum is going way down for a team that had such high expectations heading into the campaign. But it is a new year and Coach Sidney Lowe has some talent to work with. Things could be just as bad as they were last season, but this is also a group that could put together a solid season and win 20 games.
The early departure of J.J. Hickson to the NBA does not make matters any better. Hickson led the team with 14.8 points, 8.5 rebounds and 1.5 blocks. Forward Gavin Grant tallied 13.1 points and 4.5 rebounds during his senior campaign. Hickson’s and Grant’s numbers are not really replaceable, but the Wolfpack have a couple of experienced forwards who could have great years if they are mentally ready to become team leaders again.
This is not the greatest group of newcomers ever to head into Raleigh, but they should fill some holes and have the possibility of developing into major contributors in the coming years. Point guard Julius Mays should spend this year on the bench, but if what happened last year happens again this year, he will be needed. Mays is more of a shooting guard than a point guard, but his 6-2 size will likely make his future at the point. C.J. Williams and Johnny Thomas will add depth on the wings. And that is where this team really needs depth, not to mention a starter. Williams played some point guard during his prep career and it is never a bad thing to have another ballhandler on the wing. Williams needs to get stronger and develop more consistency on his jumper, but he has the tools to be successful; as does Thomas…as long as he can stay healthy.
Who to Watch:
Just how much the newcomers need to play will depend a little bit on who starts where. Fernald Degand will almost certainly start at the point guard spot again. The speedster averaged 2.9 assists per game before going out with an injury ten games into the 2007-2008 season. While the Wolfpack season was falling apart without Degand, Javier Gonzalez was earning some valuable experience. He did not look very comfortable bringing the ball up the court at times, but Gonzalez can do more than he did last year since the pressure will be off with Degand on the floor. The question becomes whether those two will play side by side much, or at all. Courtney Fells has the versatility to play at the two and three spot. Fells is a great scorer and the team’s most prolific outside shooter, but he will need to hit the glass more effectively if he is going to be playing the three spot. The other option is sliding Trevor Ferguson into the two spot. Ferguson is a good shooter, but he will have to do more than shoot if he wants to find a starting job.
While there are major questions in the backcourt, the frontcourt is what has everybody talking. Two years ago Ben McCauley and Brandon Costner combined to average 31.2 points and 14.2 rebounds. Last year those numbers were 14.6 and 7.0, respectively. The addition of Hickson certainly had something to do with it, but still that is a huge, huge drop in production. If McCauley and Costner are back to their old forms, especially now that Hickson is gone, the Wolfpack frontcourt will be just as productive as it was last year. If it is more of the same as it was in 2007-2008 for McCauley and Costner, it will be more of the same for the entire team.
Projected Post-season Tournament: none
Projected Starting Five:
Farnold Degand, Junior, Guard, 6.9 points per game
Trevor Ferguson, Junior, Guard, 3.6 points per game
Courtney Fells, Senior, Guard, 10.6 points per game
Brandon Costner, Junior, Forward, 8.5 points per game
Ben McCauley, Senior, Forward, 6.1 points per game