“Put your makeup on, fix your hair up pretty
And meet me tonight in Atlantic City”
SCOUTING THE OPPOSITION
The Wolfpack raced out to an 8-1 start, but after a closer look at the schedule, and that record might not be that impressive. NC State’s best win is probably against 6-2 Vanderbilt, but they did play No. 22 Wisconsin tough on the road, so all in all, Penn State should get a good test Saturday.
Perhaps it’s been a product of their competition, but the Wolfpack have shown to be extremely efficient offensively this year. They are average 88.9 points per game while shooting 50.9% from the floor — quite the marks when you consider they take just 22.2 threes per game.
To no surprise, NC State does the fundamentals really well — that is, rebounding and moving the ball. Despite not having elite size, the Wolfpack do a great job of controlling the boards, pulling down 40.9 rebounds per game, with 14 of those coming offensively. Meanwhile, Kevin Keatts’ squad is one of the better passing groups in the country, averaging 17.9 assists per game as a team, which is good for T-21st in the country.
From a player perspective, NC State is relatively deep, running a 10-man rotation with no player averaging more than 26.3 minutes per game. The big three of Torin Dorn (16.1 PPG, 7.2 RPG), CJ Bryce (12.3 PPG, 5.8 RPG), and Markell Johnson (12.2 PPG, 4.2 APG) are their leading scorers, and all three are effective shooters from deep, shooting well over 40% as a group.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Upping Mike Watkins? - In what’s expected to be a close contest, how much run will Penn State’s premier big man get? He saw his most action of the season thus far against Colgate, logging 23 minutes. So now with a few games under his legs, do we see Watkins push closer to 30?
Can Myles Dread break out his semi-slump? - After starting the season shooting 41.38% from three, Dread has come back down to Earth in a big way shooting just 16% from beyond the arc in the last five games. It does without saying, but when Dread is knocking down shots and spacing the floor, it opens up everything else (i.e. Lamar Stevens wing ISOs) for Penn State’s offense.
Chambers bringing pressure defensively? - As we talked about, NC State is extremely efficient offensively. Sure, the Wolfpack have been scoring points in bunches, but more than anything else, they’ve been playing really smart basketball. For Penn State to pull the upset, it will need to be even more aggressive than usual on the defense end — dirty it up, if you will.
It’s crazy to think about, but there’s a world where Penn State is 9-0. Unfortunately, that isn’t the world we live in, and instead, the Nittany Lions are a flawed 5-4 team. I expect them to keep it close with NC State, but at the end of the day, the Wolfpack to pull away in the final 10 minutes of the second half.
NC State 70, Penn State 63