NC State will play another critical ACC game against a winnable opponent as it hosts Notre Dame at home on Wednesday. While it's hard to say a January game is "must win" the Pack cannot afford to slip to 1-3 in conference, particularly when it's played Clemson, GT, Wake and ND (all of whom likely will not make the NCAA tournament). The schedule's back loaded, so we need to be racking up wins now.
NC State is loaded with questions entering this game:
- Will Bryce be healthy enough to play?
- If so will Bryce be the same player he was prior to injury (as Hellems has not been)?
- Will Hellems finally return to his pre-injury form?
- Will Markell play smarter ball, more within the flow of the offensive design?
- Can Markell fix his jumper by the end of the year?
- Can NC State collectively guard a postage stamp in the half court?
- Can NC State learn to play defense without fouling?
- Can the zone we saw in some possessions in recent games be more effectively utilized to help both our defensive and fouling problems?
So while we can often say "we know what we have" about our own team, I feel like this team has more questions marks than any team we've had in a long time at this point in the season. The potential is there to still make some noise, but the Pack needs to find some answers quickly.
As for ND, are they good, or are they bad? They've beaten UCLA and Syracuse, but lost to UNC, Maryland (by 21), BC and Indiana (at home).
ND is led by 6 ft 9 senior John Mooney, who is averaging 15.9 points and 13.5 rebounds per game. He's only had one game all year where he didn't score at least 10. He's coming off of a 28 point, 14 rebound game at Syracuse where the Irish came out with a 1 point win.
ND under Mike Brey has been quite efficient on offense. While the Irish don't shot as well as they normally do this year, they don't turn the ball over. The lead the NCAA in fewest turnovers given away, are 3rd in assists, and lead the NCAA in assist to turnover ratio. They also shoot primarily from the perimeter, with a very high percentage of their offensive production coming from the 3 point line.
On defense, ND does not foul. They lead the NCAA in fewest FTs given up per game. While they don't generate many turnovers, they keep the other team in front of them and keep the 2 point FG % down (42.7%).
Kenpom likes the Pack at home by 6, but I'm not so sure. This is the type of game NC State has struggled with this season -- a well coached team that values the ball, doesn't foul and grinds out wins. If NC State finds answers to some of those many questions, the Pack should win. If they do not, or if new questions pop up, this season could quickly spiral out of control.
- Who wins?12 votes
NC State Wolfpack50.00%
ND Fighting Irish50.00%