Setting: It’s ACC openers for a pair of unranked squads as Sidney Lowe’s North Carolina State Wolfpack travels to the Joel Coliseum in Winston-Salem for a showdown with Gino Gaudio’s Wake Forest Demon Deacons.
Plot: Coaches Lowe and Gaudio are looking for consistency from their teams. NC State went to Marquette and won. The Pack also dropped Auburn. At the same time Lowe’s club fell to Northwestern. Wake won at Gonzaga, but lost to William and Mary.
Sub-plot: One or both of these teams could be on the outside looking in when Selection Sunday comes around. A strong showing in the ACC could go a long way toward earning a spot in the NCAA Tournament.
After this game, Wake has an eight-day layoff. Will the Deacs get caught looking ahead to a vacation? NC State plays Arizona three days later. Will the Wolfpack be able to focus on the task at hand?
Flashback: The two teams have played at least twice a season since 1915-1916. NC State leads the all-time series, 131-98. Wake is 16-4 at Joel against the Wolfpack including four of the last five.
Wake won last year, 85-78. The Wolfpack won at Raleigh, 82-76. Gaudio is 2-2 versus NC State. Lowe is 4-2 against the Demon Deacons.
Tone: Both teams seek identity. NC State’s 2008-09 post-season consisted of a first-round loss in the ACC Tournament. Wake Forest is looking for leaders since Jeff Teague and James Johnson left for the NBA.
Conflict: Wake Forest appears to be at their best when limiting opponents on the perimeter. The Deacs held Purdue to just 1-15 from long range. NC State, though, does not rely on threes to be successful.
The Wolfpack is only scoring at a rate of 32% behind the arc. As a team, the Pack has only taken 138 trifectas. Can the Demon Deacons defend the lane?
Al-Fraouq Aminu leads Wake Forest with 15.9 points and 10.4 rebounds. Tracy Smith leads the Wolfpack with 18.3 points and 9.4 rebounds. But this battle could be decided by the point guards.
Ishmeal Smith leads the way for Wake with an assist to turnover ratio of 2.09. Against Purdue, Smith struggled in the second half.
Wake lost a two-point halftime lead and Smith committed six turnovers, many in the second half. Beyond that, Aminu turned over the ball six times. Many of those miscues the result of Smith having to give up the ball too soon.
Gonzalez has an assist to turnover ratio of 1.8. The junior averages more than a steal per game. Can the Wolfpack bring enough pressure to disrupt Wake Forest? Can C.J. Harris and L.D. Williams come to the Ishmael Smith’s rescue if needed?
Chas McFarland gets seven boards per game. At 7′0″, the only thing holding him back, is himself. McFarland will need to stay out of foul trouble.
Dennis Horner averages 15 points and 5 rebounds. State will not all of that and more tomorrow if they are to win their conference opener.
Resolution: Aminu is ready to push himself into the elite category, and he has more support than Tracy Smith has. Wake Forest will outlast North Carolina State.
1st Team All Casey
PG Sherron Collins – Kansas
SG Elliot Williams – Memphis
SF Wes Johnson – Syracuse
PF Da’Sean Butler – West Virginia
C Greg Monroe – Georgetown
2nd Team All Casey
PG Jon Scheyer – Duke
SG Andy Rautins – Syracuse
SF Gordon Hayward – Butler
PF Patrick Patterson – Kentucky
C Jason Love – Xavier