2007-08 NC State Basketball Preview
North Carolina State Wolfpack
Overall Rank: #27
Conference Rank: #4 ACC
2006-07: 20-16, 5-11, 10th (t)
2006-07 postseason: NIT
North Carolina State came on strong at the end of the year nearly winning the ACC Tournament and making a nice little run in the NIT. Coach Sidney Lowe hopes his team can keep that momentum going for an entire season. The Wolfpack have plenty of talent, but it is consistency that this group needs to find.
And it will not be easy to find consistency without point guard Engin Atsur. Atsur missed 12 games last season and the team lost half of those games, including some lackluster performances against teams NC State should have beaten like Cincinnati and Clemson. The team will have more time to adjust to life without Atsur this year, but they still need to find somebody to replace him. Wing Bryan Nieman earned a handful of starts his last season in Raleigh and Bartosz Lewandowski played in one game for one minute before leaving the program.
A trio of newcomers will help solidify the point guard position. Incoming freshman Javier Gonzalez is the only true point guard and he is a tough, smart player. But he is just a freshman. That will pave the way for Farnold Degand. Degand redshirted at Iowa State in 2005-2006 and redshirted as a transfer at NC State last year. That gives him the same amount of game experience as Gonzalez, but Degand at least has a year in the program. At 6-4, Degand is a big point guard and he is a decent scorer, which fits a little better in the Wolfpack system. At mid-season, Marques Johnson will be eligible after transferring in from Tennessee. Johnson only played in four games with the Volunteers as a freshman and has the best combination of scoring and point guard skills. Johnson is expected to start unless Gonzalez or Degand can prove they deserve it more while Johnson is on the bench. Clayton Beard and Simon Harris, a transfer from Elon, will add depth on the wings. Up front is where the Wolfpack bring in the most talent. J.J. Hickson is a great athlete with plenty of size at 6-9 and 242 pounds. He will not score with his back to the basket too often, but he is a fine finisher and a monster on the glass. Hickson may be too talented to leave on the bench and could be stealing a starting position away from day one. Tracy Smith may not be as highly regarded as Hickson, but the 6-7 power forward should make an impact off the bench as a freshman.
Who to Watch:
There is already a ton of frontcourt talent and Hickson may not be able to earn a starting job at the expense of Ben McCauley, Brandon Costner or Gavin Grant, the team’s top three scorers last year. McCauley averaged 14.4 points, 6.9 rebounds and 3.2 assists last year. The 6-9 West Newton, Pennsylvania product spends most of his time in the paint unlike Costner and Grant. Costner, a former McDonald’s All-American, had a great first full year with the Wolfpack averaging a team high 16.8 points and 7.3 rebounds. The 6-9 sophomore also proved to be a solid shooter and hit 37.9 percent of his shots from long range. He probably took a few too many shots from beyond the arc, but as long as he keeps close to 20 and 10 numbers, he can do whatever he wants. Grant, a 6-8 small forward, is a superb athlete, but is still waiting for his jump shot to come around. He will still get to the basket and do plenty of scoring, like his 14.7 points per game last year, and he can find his open teammates and help out on the glass. Small forward Dennis Horner had a decent freshman campaign and was the first guy off the bench when he was not starting. He proved to be a decent shooter when he took the shots, but he will find it difficult to get too many shots again this year.
If Hickson fights his way into the starting lineup, it is Courtney Fells who may lose his starting spot and that would knock McCauley to the four, Costner to the three and Grant to the two. That puts a strain on the outside shooting, but that would be a large, athletic lineup and leave a talented Fells to be a sharpshooter off the bench. Fells started 35 games last year and averaged 10.9 points per game. Trevor Ferguson has yet to make a big impact after transferring in from Pittsburgh, but the 6-5 sophomore will be a contributor before his collegiate career is over. No matter who starts, Coach Lowe will have plenty of options to fit the situation and that is never a bad thing. Anything less than an NCAA Tournament for this team will be a disappointment, but the Wolfpack should not be disappointed again this year.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Farnold Degand, Sophomore, Guard, DNP last season
Courtney Fells, Junior, Guard, 10.9 points per game
Gavin Grant, Senior, Forward, 14.7 points per game
Brandon Costner, Sophomore, Forward, 16.8 points per game
Ben McCauley, Junior, Center, 14.4 points per game