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ACC Basketball Introductions: How Syracuse Matches Up With NC State

Our ACC basketball previews continue with NC State.

Grant Halverson

Normally, I like to start these things off with a little basketball-related tid bit about whatever fine academic institution we're previewing. So far, we've done Boston College, Clemson, Duke, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Maryland, Miami, and UNC.

Well, I'm not doing that this time. I found out something else that I need to share.

NC State brews its own beer. They've managed to make it educational and everything. That's cool and all, but here's the kicker: people at NC State are doing this on their way to a graduate degree. No joke.

I'm sure it's not the only thing they're doing, but still. A few years in grad school, and they walk out saying they can make an IPA. I spent three years in grad school, and the only thing I walked out saying was, "that was nothing like Legally Blonde at all!"

2012-2013 Record: 24-11 (11-7)

Conference Ranking: T-4th

Historical Notes: Syracuse holds the advantage in the all-time series 4-1, which includes a 2-0 record when playing in Raleigh. #Annexed. Last time the Orange traveled, the Wolfpack was subjected to a 23-0 run and a rather loud contingent of ‘Cuse fans. Sorry, I'm not sorry.

What They're Known For: Playing up-tempo. At least, that's what happened two years ago when Mark Gottfried became the head coach and introduced State to the UCLA high-post offense that he's so loyal to.

Season Summary: The Wolfpack began as the AP's sixth-ranked team, but never really lived up to expectations. Case in point: they split their regular season series games with Florida State and Wake Forest. A third-round loss to Miami in the ACC tourney was nothing to sneeze at, but once State was pit against Temple in the NCAA Tournament's dreaded 8-9 match up, that was that.

Key Players:

T.J. Warren (12.1 PPG/4.2 RPG/1.2 SPG). I know someone who goes to NC State. When I mentioned this year's team, the response was almost whiny: "everyone left except T.J. Warren." Yep. Just about. The 6-8 forward will be the go-to guy on offense, but needs to improve on defense. Most importantly, he's got to become the leader. Can he handle all that? Landing on the All-ACC Freshman Team and games like this says he can.

Tyler Lewis (3.5 PPG/1.1 RPG/1.4 APG). The back-up PG averaged 3 minutes in conference games until a Lorenzo Brown injury forced him off the bench. He showed confidence, great vision, and quickness, but he's largely untested. Now a sophomore, and the most experienced point guard on the team, State really needs him to keep this up.

Ralston Turner (9.1 PPG/3.0 RPG/1.6 APG). The stats are from the 2011-12 season, which is the last time the 6-5 guard played. At LSU. He sat out last year per transfer rules, and joins the Wolfpack as the only guy with the potential to come close to making up for Scott Wood's production from the 3-point line.

Personnel Changes: Lots of movement going on here. NC State lost forwards Richard Howell (12.7 PPG/10.9 RPG/1.7 APG) and Scott Wood (12.6 PPG/2.9 RPG/1.1 APG) to graduation, forward C.J. Leslie (15.1 PPG/7.4 RPG/1.5 APG/1.2 BPG) and guard Lorenzo Brown (12.4 PPG/4.3 RPG/ 7.2 APG/2.0 SPG) to the draft, and guard Rodney Purvis (8.3 PPG/2.4 RPG/1.3 APG) transferred to UConn.

The Wolfpack adds JUCO product Desmond Lee (6-2, guard) and the abovementioned Ralston Turner. The rest of the additions are the freshmen: Lennard Freeman (6-8, forward), Chris Brickhouse (6-5, forward), Patrick Wallace (6-1, guard), BeeJay Anya (6-9, forward), Kyle Washington (6-9, forward), and a 6-2 guard named Anthony "Cat" Barber.

2013-2014 Potential: In case you only skimmed the "Personnel Changes" section and didn't notice how young the Wolfpack is this year, I'm just going to refer you to this little nugget from coach Gottfried:

"I'm realistic to know that our expectations are not very high right now," Gottfried said. "I go to the grocery store and get the guy in the grocery store saying, 'Hang in there, coach. It's going to be a long year for you.'"

That about covers it.

Orange Match-up: Mark Gottfried uses the UCLA offense as faithfully as Jim Boeheim uses the zone defense. But how will he use it against the Orange? Generally, the cuts and continuous off-ball movement runs defenders all over the place, but it won't work like that against a zone. Shifting post players to the elbows is another thing you might see. It opens up all sorts of lanes for more cutting and screening, but again, only against a man-to-man defense.

The Wolfpack likes starting in a 2-3 offensive set, so the high post is at the center of the free throw line. We all know there's a gap in the zone at that spot, but the typical cutting/screening paths won't fly. At its core, this style of offense is all about reading the defense and reacting. The zone is pretty easy to read once you get used to it, so Gottfried just needs to teach the Wolfpack a few new ways to react. The question is, even if State "gets used to" the zone, can they react well enough to beat it? With a roster full of newbies and youngins, I wouldn't hold your breath.