One of the most influential moments of Kevin Keatts’ first season as the head coach of North Carolina State occurred a year prior to him accepting the job. With U.S. travel advisories popping up all over Europe, the Wolfpack decided to forgo their once-every-four-year foreign summer trip. Instead, it was put off until this year. Then Keatts took over. He filled out a roster than only had six players when he was hired. And they all went to Italy to learn how to play together.
Now, in February, that bonding and extra practice time is paying off.
NCSU (19-9, 9-6) is one of the hottest teams in the ACC. After starting 0-2 in conference, they’ve since gone 9-4, beating Duke, Clemson, and North Carolina along the way.
Stylistically, they’re a lot like Florida State (19-8, 8-7). They’re better on offense than defense. The push tempo. And they thrive on the offensive glass.
Baylor transfer Al Freeman has been their catalyst. The 6-3 senior is scoring 14.8 per game. In their past four games, he’s only spent a combined eight minutes on the bench. He’s also gone to the line at least 10 times in three games this year.
Sophomore big man Omer Yurtseven has thrived in Keatts’ uptempo approach. He’s made over 60% of his 2s, and 49% of his 3s, and scores 13.6 per game. His inside-out ability at 7-0 makes him a very tough matchup.
Torin Dorn, a 6-6 junior, does most of his work on the interior, and is tied for the team lead with 34 putbacks. He scores 13.4 to go along with 6.3 boards.
Freshman Braxton Beverly scores 10.0 per game. He’s made 40% of his 3s this year.
Like FSU, NC State struggles on the defensive end. So this could be a shootout.
While they do force a lot of turnovers, they’re 302nd nationally in defensive rebounding, and they have the worst defensive 2-pt% in the ACC.
Florida State has done a solid job of attacking downhill lately, and will need to keep that up this evening.
The game tips at 6 PM and will be broadcast on ESPNU. North Carolina State is a 2-point favorite.