Well, it was certainly a wild week for the Deacs and I am very glad to be back at the Joel for this one. The North Carolina State Wolfpack make the trip west to Winston-Salem after an embarrassing 76-45 home loss to Virginia on Saturday afternoon. State has had their ups and downs, but coach Mark Gottfried has done an excellent job despite losing the majority of his contributors from last season.
Effective Field Goal %
The Wolfpack's eFG% of 50.1% is attributed in large part to the production of T.J. Warren. Warren carries the Pack in nearly every aspect; as he is making 57.5% of this shots from inside the arc and 75.6% of his free throws, amounting to a true shooting percentage of 55.8% and an eFG% of 52.7%. NC State also relies on the outside shooting of Ralston Turner, who is shooting 43.5%.
Gottfried's squad is among the best in the country at eFG% defense, as they limit opponents to just 45.3%, which is 44th nationally. This number is so low is because the Wolfpack do an excellent job of protecting the perimeter and limit damage from deep, as opponents are shooting just 28.7% from behind the arc. The Deacs are no scrubs at limiting efficient scoring either, as they are just ahead of the pack (pun intended) at 44.8% (36th).
Unless you've been sleeping under a rock for the past few months you know that State's success depends on the play of T.J. Warren. Warren is a do-it-all forward who possesses the ball 31.2% of the time (34th) and turns the ball over on just 12.6% of those possessions. Warren's play, combined with the emergence of freshman point guard Cat Barber, have the Wolfpack turning the ball over on just 16.2% of possessions (53rd), despite playing at the 5th highest tempo in the ACC.
On the defensive end of the court neither team has had much success in forcing turnovers, but North Carolina State has a slight advantage in this aspect. The Wolfpack are one of the worst teams in the country at stealing the ball (7%) but they do block shots on 13.1% of possessions (55th). Despite losing their last two games by huge margins, Wake Forest is just -2 in turnover margin in their past 2 games.
This figures to be an integral battle, and an area of the game where Wake Forest will have an advantage. Outside of Warren, NC State isn't a great rebounding team, in fact their second "best" rebounder is 6'4 guard Desmond Lee, who has a defensive rebound rate of 12.5. Wake Forest, on the other hand, is a fairly strong rebounding team. Devin Thomas has been an absolute beast on the glass, by collecting offensive rebounds on over 10% of opportunities and nearly 1/4th of opportunities on the defensive end. Despite being blown out on the road against Pittsburgh, Thomas and the Deacs collected offensive rebounds on 35.3% of opportunities, 5 of the 12 coming from Thomas.
Free Throw Rate
Getting to the foul line is an aspect of the Deacs' game that has been pivotal to their success and will continue to be. Looking at the numbers from 2012-13 one thing that stands out to me is the difference in free throw rate for Codi Miller-McIntyre. As a freshman, CMM got to the line on just 19.2% of his field goal attempts. This season Codi has been dominant at getting to the rim and drawing fouls, as he is now getting to the charity stripe on 49.7% of his field goal attempts. That is a dramatic difference, and an aspect of Codi's game I expect to continue. Tyler Cavanaugh has also been impressive at getting to the foul line as he draws 5.5 fouls per 40 minutes and boasts an free throw rate of 72.2.
This is an intriguing and defining match up, and a win for either team would go a long way in hopes of a post-season berth. I think this will be a fast paced game that will be played in the paint and won on rebounding and free throw shooting. The inconsistency of these two teams has been baffling so I give the edge to the home team. The Deacs would be wise to target and attack T.J. Warren, hoping to get him in early foul trouble, as they went at James Michael McAdoo and J.P. Tokoto for North Carolina.
North Carolina State: 71
Wake Forest: 73
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Meet us at the Joel or tune into Fox Sports Carolinas (Channels 508/1508 on Time Warner Cable) at 9pm to support the team and as always, go Deacs!