By Kyle Kandetzki – Assistant Sports Editor This is “The Scouting Report”, a new (mostly) online feature from The Hofstra Chronicle where we go in-depth on the Pride’s upcoming opponent. Stats and insight will be provided to help Hofstra fans know what to expect with each coming matchup.
The Hofstra Pride men’s basketball team will have their hands full Monday night when they face quite possibly their hardest opponent, the NC State Wolfpack. The Pride are coming off an opening night destruction of Jacksonville University.
THE BASIC INFORMATION: NC State is located in Raleigh, North Carolina, with a student population of nearly 35,000. The stadium they play in, PNC Arena, is off campus and can house nearly 20,000 people, and is also the home of the Carolina Hurricanes. The Wolfpack play in the ACC along with teams like Duke and Syracuse.
HISTORY: NC State has a storied history in college basketball, which includes two national championships and 25 NCAA Tournament appearances, including each of the last three years. Their first title came in 1974, when the Wolfpack went 30-1 on the season, downed seven-time defending champs UCLA in the Final Four, and defeated Marquette in the title game to win.
Their much more famously known title came in 1983 behind coach Jim Valvano, who is widely known for his ESPYs speech while fighting cancer (watch it now, even if you’ve seen it before, it never gets old). The Wolfpack were a six seed that were almost eliminated in the first round. But they battled to reach the Championship game against a Hakeem Olajuwon-led Houston team and one of the most notable highlights in NCAA history cam at the buzzer:
The dunk, Valvano flailing his arms around the court, it is all synonymous with March Madness. The Wolfpack’s most notable alums include Vinny Del Negro and David Thompson, who is the only player to have his number retired by NC State.
LAST YEAR: The Wolfpack went 22-14 on the season, and 9-9 in the ACC. After sitting on the bubble at the end of the season, a run to the ACC Tournament semifinals was enough to put them as one of the final teams to gain an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. NC State played in the first round of the tournament and defeated Xavier. But the first round was really a play-in game that doesn’t really count as a real tourney game in anyone’s eyes. They’re one of those games that are played on TruTV that no one really watches.
So once they actually entered the tournament, they lost to 5th seeded Saint Louis, to give them their second straight opening round elimination. The Wolfpack defeated one ranked opponent during the season, #11 Syracuse in the ACC Tournament.
THIS YEAR: NC State opened up their season similarly to the Pride: by destroying a lesser team. The Wolfpack defeated eventual Pride opponent Jackson State 93-58. They will have the typically difficult slate of ACC teams to play including Pitt, Virginia, Duke, Syracuse, UNC, and Louisville.
Outside of the conference, NC State will play Purdue in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, West Virginia in the Gotham Classic at Madison Square Garden, and the Tennessee Volunteers.
THE COACH: NC State’s coach is Mark Gottfried, who is in his third year with the team. In his first season, Gottfried led his team to the Sweet Sixteen, but he hasn’t been able to make it close the past two years.
Gottfried most notably coached the Alabama Crimson Tide for eleven years. Though the culture at Alabama is clearly geared towards football, Gottfried experienced success at times. His best performance came in the 2004 NCAA Tournament when his team beat #1 seed Stanford among others to reach the Elite Eight.
LOSSES: The number of losses isn’t extensive for the Wolfpack, but what they did lose was huge. TJ Warren declared for the NBA Draft following his sophomore season, and was one of the most coveted players in the draft at the small forward position. He went 14th overall in the entire draft, a testament to how much they’ll be missing this year.
Warren averaged 25 points in his final season, along with seven boards. Warren is currently playing for the Suns’ D-League affiliate.
RETURNING PLAYERS: If the opening game is to be any indication, guard Anthony Barber is the player to watch Monday night. Barber averaged over 8 points a game in his freshman year, but exploded for 25 on 54% shooting. Barber added six assists, continuing to establish himself as a gifted passer after being one of the best in the ACC in assist-turnover ratio last year.
The NC State lineup went into rotation early this weekend thanks to the blowout win against Jackson State, making it unclear which players might get extended minutes if the game is a close battle. The team’s top returning scorer is redshirt senior Ralston Turner, who put up over 10 points last year, and was their go-to 3 point shooter.
Third on the team in scoring vs. Jackson State was senior Desmond Lee, who scored 9. Though Lee may have also grabbed more minutes than usual, as he is listed as a ‘part-time starter’.
The forwards that returned to the Wolfpack are somewhat of a question mark in terms of offensive performance, but have their positives. Sophomore forward Kyle Washington pulled down 9 rebounds in 18 minutes, along with two blocks. Forward Lennard Freeman may be another player that is trying to fill Warren’s shoes, but it is unclear what his full potential is. Freeman only scored two points in the opening game, playing 14 minutes after most likely being pulled early.
TRANSFER: Whereas the Pride’s win on Friday was a largely combined effort, NC State’s win vs. Jackson State was more of a two man wrecking crew at guard. Alabama transfer and redshirt junior Trevor Lacey played his first game in over a year and a half this weekend and had a ‘Brian Bernardi-esque’ night, shooting 80% from the floor, and scoring 22 points (actually, that was the exact stat line Bernardi had.)
FRESHMEN: The Pride will be seeing double Monday night, as two of the team’s prized signings are twin brothers Caleb and Cody Martin. Both came from the famed Oak Hill Academy (more on that soon), though only played there for one season. Both are forwards, and both were ranked in the top 100 recruits in the nation by ESPN. But if you’re looking for who is better according the Worldwide Leader, Caleb was ranked 62nd, while Cody was 91st.
Though the Martin brothers come from a big name, NC State managed to land a player with even bigger hype, forward Abdul-Malik Abu. Abu has a ridiculous resume coming with him from New Hampshire’s Kimball Union Academy, including the 32nd spot on ESPN’s recruit list. Abu received offers from schools like Florida and national champion UConn, and averaged a double-double in his senior year (24 points, 10 boards). Oh, and he has a pretty ridiculous mixtape online:
Abu clearly makes his game very exciting, with some dance moves to boot. Tough the freshman trio combined to play 47 minutes in their first game; it is unknown how much time they’ll see if Monday’s contest is a close one.
THE MATCHUP: This is a very young team with only three seniors and three juniors, all six of which are guards. This leaves the forward position to be somewhat unpredictable, especially when trying to replace a force like T.J. Warren. Though the Pride have an extremely competitive back court just like NC State, the key to this game might be consistent play at the forward position.
Plenty of players on the Hofstra roster can double as a guard as well as a forward, giving them flexibility to get better matchups. Having Moussa Kone back at center would be a huge benefit to the Pride after he went down early against Jacksonville, but it is unclear if he will play. Though freshman Andre Walker and Rokas Gustys showed promise, I would assume Coach Mihalich wants experience on the floor in such a large, hostile environment.
Juan’ya Green and Malik Nichols had a pretty good turn as the starting guards Friday night, and will need to be on their game on both sides of the court to stop Barber and Lacey and the long list of experienced guards who can score for the Wolfpack.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR: Rokas Gustys said in a pre-season interview that this game was the one he was looking forward to the most. Why? Because he will be playing against three of his former Oak Hill teammates, including the aforementioned Martin brothers. The Martins left Oak Hill at the same time as Gustys, while sophomore Lennard Freeman is also an Oak Hill product. It should be interesting to see how much playing time Gustys gets against his old pals.
Other questions that should be answered include:
Will Kone return/Is the injury more serious than we thought?
Will this team keep jacking up threes and cement them as a deep shooting team?
Will the freshman prove that they are ready to contribute right now?
Can the Pride hang with a middle of the pack ACC team?
If the Pride win, what does that mean for the expectations of this team?
And though no one has to be ‘the guy’ anymore, who will have the top performance tonight?
PLAYER OF THE GAME PROJECTION: Look for Ameen Tanksley to lead the team if they are competitive tonight. Putting him in at forward against a potentially weaker forward rotation from NC State could give him the chance to have the top performance. His impressive 7-11 debut was overshadowed by Bernardi’s night, but I wouldn’t expect that this time around.
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS (w/ opening game stats)
G – Nichols (15 pts, 3 ast.) v. G Barber(25 pts, 6 rebs)
G – Green (14 pts, 9 ast) v. G Lacey (22 pts)
F – Tanksley (16 pts) v. G Turner (7 pts)
F – Bernardi (22 pts, 80% shooting) v. F Freeman (2 pts, 14 mins)
C – Gustys (10 rebounds, 10 mins.) v. F Washington(7 pts, 9 rebs)
NEXT UP: vs. Stony Brook (11/21)