They were the last win of the 25 straight the Orange won to start the season, but it was no easy victory. The Wolfpack led for a lot of the game and it took a turnover leading to a C.J. Fair transition layup to propel the Orange to a win from the jaws of defeat. After that game, the Orange lost six of their last nine contests, including one to the said Wolfpack in their lone ACC tournament game.
What I'm getting at here is it is all their fault Syracuse sucked at the end of the year!
That probably isn't the complete truth, but we can imagine it is. But, with last year in the past, it is time to look ahead at the near future of NC State basketball.
2013-14 Record: 22-14 (9-9)
Last Time We Saw Them: That horrible ACC tournament game. The Orange had earned a double bye despite stumbling into the postseason, and their matchup with the Wolfpack was the only one they would have in their inaugural ACC season. The Orange shot a miserable 32 percent from the field and missed six shots on their final possession in attempt to tie the game, falling 66-63.
Season Summary: The Wolfpack started off the season with a 10-3 non-conference record, despite having a relatively weak schedule up to that point. It is safe to say they were inconsistent throughout conference play, going 9-9 and entering the ACC tournament as a true bubble team, but behind the intelligence of head coach Mark Gottfried and the excellent play of ACC Player of the Year T.J. Warren, their season would not be ending at that point.
They won their first game against Miami and then beat Syracuse the next day, only to fall in a hard fought game in the semifinals of the conference tournament to Duke. However, their work was good enough to make them one of the last four at-large teams into the NCAA tourney. After winning their first round game against Xavier for the 12th seed in the East Region, they fell to St. Louis in the second round, ending what was an interesting year.
Ralston Turner (10.5 PPG/2.5 RPG): Turner will be the team's leading scorer from last year still on the roster. He loves to shoot the three ball, attempting almost six per game last season while making a respectable 37 percent of them. If he gets any sort of space from out there, expect him to shoot it. Outside of that, he does not do too much. That was just his first year with the Wolfpack after playing his freshman year at LSU, so maybe another year with the team will help increase his all-around ability,
Anthony Barber (8.5 PPG/2.0 RPG/3.5 APG): I am truly excited to see this guy play this year. He was ranked 26th overall in ESPN's class of 2013 rankings and showed signs of why he was ranked so high in his first year with the program. He is more of a game manager than a shooter, making just 40 percent of his shots from the field and 26 percent of them from three. He had a respectable 2/1 assist-to-turnover ratio in 24 minutes per game while playing in all 36 of the team's game. They will need him to do a little bit of everything this year, and his ability to do so will be key in the team's success.
Desmond Lee (8.4 PPG/2.9 RPG/1.6 APG): The senior leader of this year's squad, Lee will also need to step up his game. He also struggled a lot from the field, shooting just 39 percent overall and 28 percent from three in 36 games. Look for him to be more aggressive on offense and try to fill some of the scoring load they lost from last season.
Personnel Changes: Losing your leading scorer, rebounder and steals guy, which happen to be the same person in reigning conference player of the year T.J. Warren, it is never a good thing. The guy scored 34 percent of their points last season and shot 52.5 percent from the field while doing it. As a team, they shot 46 percent on the season, but everybody outside of Warren shot a combined 41 percent. I could go on and on, this guy was very important and it won't be easy trying to replace that production. They also lost Tyler Lewis (played in every game and transferred to Butler) and big man Jordan Vandenburg, who played well against the Orange.
Despite these losses, the Wolfpack have a lot of talent on their roster. Two other top 100 recruits in the same class as Barber were on last year's team in Beejay Anya and Kyle Washington. The two big men will see increased roles this year and their production will need to increase along with it. Anya, who played in all but three games last year, is a very big guy and displays a ton of potential. The 7'9" wingspan of his is not seen too often, as is the 350 pound stature he showed us in his freshman year, a 75 pound increase from when he signed with the team. Now, apparently 50-60 pounds lighter, his impact on the team should increase mightily.
On top of the talented 2013 class will be another one from the class of 2014. Their incoming class ranks 18th in the country and fourth in the ACC. The group will be lead by Abdul-Malik Abu, a strong power forward who is a gifted rebounder and around-the-rim scorer. Small forwards and twin brothers Cody and Caleb Martin will provide some wing help to the team. They come from an area two hours away from NC State and very athletic and gifted defenders. The last two recruiting classes from this squad will prove to be the core of the Wolfpack for the next couple of years.
2014-15 Potential: Potential is a key word to describe this team. Entering his fourth year with the program, Gottfried has gotten seven straight top 100 commitments. Without Warren things will be difficult, but this team does not lack talent so it will be hard to count them out. They were picked to finish ninth in a deep ACC, so that could very well translate to another NCAA tournament berth. I would not be surprised if they make it, but their offense will need to improve mightily in order to do so.
Orange Matchup: i see these teams matching up fairly well. Both lost key contributors and will need to improve in a lot of ways, but neither squad lacks talent. The Orange will look to out rebound a weaker rebounding opponent, as the Wolfpack were 200th in the country last season in that department. Not including Warren, they struggle shooting from the field and the charity stripe, so there should be a lot of boards waiting to happen.
Turner shot 6-15 against the Orange last season, all of them being attempts from outside the arc. Keeping him in control will be a top priority, especially since the Orange play a defense that promotes shooting. Outside of him, the squad doesn't shoot too well, so keeping an eye on him will prove to make a significant difference in the outcome of the game.
The Orange shot 35 and 32 percent from the field both times that they played these guys last season, so something about them makes the Orange incapable of putting the ball in the hoop. They will need to attack the basket with guys like Rakeem Christmas and Chris McCullough in order to get easy points and hopefully see the ball in the basket at a more efficient rate. This should be a good matchup in Raleigh to end the regular season for both teams.