NC State Basketball Preview: #119
Overall Rank: #119
Conference Rank: #12 Atlantic Coast Conference
2008-09: 16-14, 6-10
2008-09 postseason: none
Coach: Sidney Lowe (51-46 at North Carolina State, 51-46 overall)
North Carolina State never got consistent play from their backcourt last year to compliment their talented frontcourt. Now Brandon Costner and Ben McCauley, who were the top two scorers and rebounders last season, are gone and the focus suddenly shifts to the still inconsistent group on the perimeter.
Key Losses: F Brandon Costner, G Courtney Fells, G Trevor Ferguson, C Ben McCauley
To address the needs up front, Coach Sidney Lowe picked up some solid recruits, most notably Richard Howell and Deshawn Painter. Those two will at least have to play some minutes off the bench right away, but in the long run it could be seven-footer Jordan Vandenberg who makes the biggest impact. The solid recruiting class continues on the perimeter where point guard Lorenzo Brown will throw himself into the mix among a group of inconsistent point guards. Shooting guard Scott Wood could provide an offensive spark off the bench as soon as this year.
Farnold Degand and Javier Gonzalez both were relatively unsuccessful point guards last season. Gonzalez is at least a good shooter and connected on nearly 43 percent of his attempts from long range but, like Degand, he committed too many turnovers and never had the opportunity to turn into a team leader. One of those twp better step up this year, especially now that they are both upperclassmen. The graduation of Courtney Fells leaves a gapping hole at the two guard spot. Ideally, Degand would run the point and Gonzalez could play the two, but that rarely worked last year and probably will not this time around either.
Tracy Smith is a very talented player who was just stuck behind two more talented players during his first two years with the Wolfpack. The 6-8 forward managed to average 10.0 points and 4.5 rebounds last season despite being limited by Costner and McCauley. Smith did start some games at the three spot, but he has the size and strength to be a four and will most likely spend most of his time there in 2008-2009. Dennis Horner is the likely candidate to replace McCauley under the basket if he can hold off the newcomers. The 6-9 senior is a decent scorer who can step out and hit the outside shot, but the Wolfpack will certainly miss having a true back to the basket scorer in the paint.
Who to Watch:
Without Fells, Coach Lowe needs to find a shooter or two on the wings. Julius Mays only averaged 15.1 minutes per game during his freshman campaign, but he was playing his best basketball at the end of the season and could turn into a dynamic scorer if he can keep shooting as efficiently as he did last year. C.J. Williams is another potential shooter on the wing. Like Mays, Williams averaged about 15 minutes per contest as a freshman and did quite well at times.
The Atlantic Coast Conference is very tough as always and the Wolfpack will have trouble stopping anybody under the basket if one of the newcomers cannot step in and at least play defense right away. If Smith and Horner are the starting frontcourt, NC State will be a team that lacks toughness in the paint and that is never a good thing in the ACC.
Projected Post-season Tournament: CBI/CIT
Projected Starting Five:
Javier Gonzalez, Junior, Guard, 6.6 points per game
Julius Mays, Sophomore, Guard, 4.7 points per game
C.J. Williams, Sophomore, Forward, 3.7 points per game
Tracy Smith, Junior, Forward, 10.0 points per game
Dennis Horner, Senior, Forward, 6.4 points per game