The Wolfpacker

November 2015 Issue

The Wolfpacker: An Independent Magazine Covering NC State Sports

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62 ■ THE WOLFPACKER 2015-16 WOLFPACK BASKETBALL PREVIEW Three Best Opponents 1. North Carolina: UNC enters the sea- son as the favorite to win the NCAA title after last year's Sweet 16 run. The Tar Heels return four starters that averaged more than 10.5 points per game last season, led by senior point guard Marcus Paige. In addition to a team-high 14.1 points per game, he posted a clip of 4.5 assists per contest and will have plenty of options to dish the ball to. Twin towers Brice Johnson, a senior, and Ken - nedy Meeks, a junior, are back in the post after combining to average 24.3 points, 15.1 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.2 blocks a game last season. Sophomore wing Justin Jackson rounds out the returning starters, and five others who logged significant action will vie for meaningful minutes: junior forward Isaiah Hicks, junior guard Nate Britt, sophomore guard Joel Berry, sophomore wing Theo Pinson and senior forward Joel James. 2. Duke: Once again, the defending national champions are bring - ing in one the coun- try's top recruiting classes. l i s t e d t h e g ro u p, which included four five-star prospects, No. 2 in the land although other outlets deemed it the best. Wing Brandon Ingram, a target NCSU fought for until the very end, was ranked highest, check - ing at No. 4 in the class. He was joined by point guard Derryck Thornton (No. 14), center Chase Jeter (No. 16) and guard Luke Kennard (No. 25), and the Blue Devils will also add the services of Rice transfer Sean Obi, who sat out last year after leading Conference USA in rebounding (9.3 per game) and averaging 11.4 points in 2013-14. Of course, that is all in addition to returning starter Amile Jefferson, a senior forward, and three other key returnees, led by NCAA title game breakout star Grayson Allen. 3. Virginia: Since going 5-11 and 7-9 against AC C c o m p e t i t i o n in head coach Tony Bennett's first two years at the helm, the Cavaliers have finished no lower than fourth in the league over the past four years with a league mark of 52-18 (.743). Virginia has been even more dominant the last two years, winning both regular-season crowns with 16-2 ACC marks. Overall, the Cavaliers are 60-11 (.845) and have reached at least the third round of the NCAA Tournament. Fifth-year seniors Malcolm Brogdon and An - thony Gill are both back after averaging more than 11.5 points per game last season, and so is junior point guard London Perrantes, who posted 6.4 points, 4.4 assists and 2.6 rebounds per con- test. Fellow senior Mike Tobey, the coaches' selec- tion for ACC Sixth Man of the Year, should step into a bigger role after logging clips of 6.9 points and 5.1 boards per contest. Three Stats To Watch 1. Anthony Barber's stat line: Over the last 14 games of the 2014-15 season, Barber averaged 15.3 points and 4.0 assists per game, which helped propel the Wolfpack down the stretch. Much like T.J. Warren two years ago and Trevor Lacey last season, he should be the focal point of the offensive attack this year. He's come a long way from his rookie campaign, when he split time with Tyler Lewis. As a freshman, Barber averaged 8.5 points, 3.5 assists, 2.0 rebounds and 1.7 turnovers per contest, while shooting 40.1 percent from the floor and 26.1 percent from behind the three-point line. With Lewis off to Butler, Barber stepped into the lead point guard role and ran with it last year. He missed just one game — following the death of a close friend — and started 33 times while raising his numbers across the board. Although he deferred to Lacey as the top scorer, he upped his production to 12.1 points, 3.7 assists and 3.3 rebounds, while his minutes went from 24.2 to 31.7 per game. Although his turnovers raised slightly to 2.1 per tilt, Barber improved his shooting percentages to 43.9 percent from the floor and 38.0 percent behind the arc. NCSU went 9-3 last year when Barber tallied at least 15 points, and his scoring will be even important this year after Lacey left. 2. Post production: Perimeter play powered NC State to the NCAA Tournament last year, but post production was what got them deep in March. In the upset of No. 1 seed Villanova, forwards Abdul-Malik Abu and Lennard Freeman each recorded double-doubles and combined for 24 points and 24 rebounds. With the bulk of NC State's point production moving on — three of the top four scorers must be replaced, two of which were guards — it's time for the frontcourt to come to the forefront. Abu will build off of an encouraging debut campaign, Freeman can continue to take care of the dirty work after leading the team in rebounding and defensive specialist BeeJay Anya will need to expand his game while proving he can keep the weight off once the season begins. The trio must improve on last year's combined average production of 14.5 points, 14.7 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game. 3. Rebounding: NC State might look a little different than the previous editions under Mark Gottfried and rely on their inside play more this season. Nobody on the squad posted a clip of more than 5.6 rebounds per game (Lennard Freeman's team-leading total), but the Pack was still able to outrebound foes by an average of 3.4 boards per contest. With the post players taking on a bigger role, the importance of dominating the boards will probably increase as well. NCSU must replace its third-, fifth- and sixth-leading rebounders, and a guy like Anya — who ranked fourth on the squad with a clip of 4.3 boards a game — must be more productive on the glass. Lacey and Turner were good rebounders for perimeter players, combining for 7.9 per game, and others will have to follow that lead. The Pack ranked third in the ACC last season with an average of 38 rebounds per game, but it needs to focus on keeping opponents off the glass. NCSU's 34.6 rebounds-allowed average ranked 12th in the league. Junior forward Lennard Freeman led the team with 5.6 rebounds per game last year, but all three post players must increase their overall production for the Pack to have success. PHOTO BY KEN MARTIN

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