Immediately following FSU’s (12-5, 2-1) huge win over #1 Duke on Wednesday, Leonard Hamilton told his players that "in order for this to be meaningful we have to take care of business on Saturday. I told the kids in the locker room we have to come back and play and turn it up another notch and do it again the next week." Now NC State (11-5, 1-1) is rolling into town and we’ll see how serious they took his words.
Five years ago NCST made the somewhat surprising move of firing Herb Sendek who had been their coach for 10 seasons, the final five of which ended in the NCAA Tournament, though he was never able to advance beyond the Sweet 16. The natives were restless and had grandiose plans. Unfortunately Steve Lavin, John Calipari and Rick Barnes failed to share those plans, and after several high profile coaches passed on the job the Wolfpack settled with Sidney Lowe. Now they appear headed for their 5th consecutive season missing the tourney, and Lowe is on the hot seat. In his four full seasons NCST has won 20 ACC regular season games (average record of 5-11 per year). Lowe’s traditionally passive defense is currently ranked 8th in the ACC.
Recruiting has gone well for the Wolfpack, as they finished 14th, 11th, and 5th in class rankings over the past four seasons. Their most recent class is the best, with two players ranking among the top-25 in the country, and their roster holds 6 consensus top-100 players. Senior C Tracy Smith is their best player (2nd team all conference last season), but he injured his knee is the 2nd game of the season and missed 10 games, including all of their big non-conference opponents, before returning at the new year. They’re 5-1 in the games he’s played, and 6-4 without him. He’s averaging 14.3 points per game, and 5.3 rebounds. He does all his work on the interior and is effective at getting to the line. The other players to watch are sophomore Scott Wood and the two talented freshman C.J. Leslie (5th highest rated recruit in the conference) and Ryan Harrow. As you remember Wood torched FSU in both NCST victories last season, going for 31 in game 1 and 18 in game 2 while hitting 13 of 21 three pointers. Those two scores match his career high and his career 2nd high for points (he’s scored 18 two more times this season). He shoots and makes more three-pointers than anyone else in the conference, connecting on 43-100 so far this year. PF C.J. Leslie is the 2nd leading scorer for the Wolfpack, though he’s fairly inefficient so far. He does lead the team in rebounds (7.9) and is equally effective on both ends. Diminutive but electric PG Ryan Harrow has been a pleasant surprise as he’s supplanted senior Javier Gonzalez as the top point guard (though Gonzalez will likely be the official starter). He isn’t going to hurt you from the 3, but he takes more shots than anyone else when he’s on the court and manages 92% from the line. He also has a very good 2.4:1 assist to turnover ratio.
Pomeroy has FSU -9, and Vegas has FSU -8. This is the type of game in which we need to take care of business if we want to play in our third consecutive tourney. A win here isn’t a bonus, it simply keeps us on pace. Game time is 4 p.m. on Raycom and ESPN3 (subject to blackout).