#1 Villanova Wildcats (33-2) vs. #8 N.C. State Wolfpack (21-13)
When: Saturday, March 21, 2015, at 7:10 p.m.
Where: CONSOL Energy Center, Pittsburgh, PA
How They Got In: At-Large Bid, Went 10-8 in the ACC
Key Players for N.C. State: #1 Trevor Lacey (6-3, 210) Jr., G; #22 Ralston Turner (6-5, 205) Sr., G; #12 Anthony Barber (6-2, 185) So., G
Record vs. Common Opponents: 1-0, Won 71-57 at home against Syracuse on March 7
Scouting Report: This team reminds me a lot of last year’s UConn team that won it all. NC State has always been known for being that middle-of-the-pack team that can go on a run and get a few wins. While they have some great wins over the likes of Duke, Louisville, and UNC, they also have some pretty bad losses with Clemson, Boston College, and Wake Forest. They also have a number of heartbreaking close losses, but overall they have proven that they can hang with the best of them if they are in the right mindset. Just as the Huskies’ were led by the Napier-Daniels-Boatright trio, NC State has a trifecta of its own. The Wolfpack will look to their alpha males – Trevor Lacey, Ralston Turner, and Anthony Barber. Any one of these three can go off and have a big night. This core athletic trio is the heart and soul of the team. If all three of them are in sync, it will lead to disastrous results for their opponents. Lacey leads the Wolfpack with 15.6 points per game and a second-best 4.5 rebounds per game. He can score from anywhere. Lacey can drive inside and finish in traffic and make the big shots from long range. He has been quiet as of late, only scoring 13 points off of 6-of-23 shooting over the last two games. However, before that he scored in double figures in 16 straight games. Turner is the second-highest scorer on the team with 13.1 points per game. He has shown flashes of inconsistency at times. One night he can score 20+ points and be scoreless in the next game. A majority of his shots come from beyond the arc. Turner shot 36.9% from three-point range over the course the season. As for Anthony Barber, he lives up to his nickname. “Cat” Barber got his nickname for his quick, agile movements as a child. Now, as a D-1 basketball player, he’s using his fast feet to blow by his opponents as he drives to the basket. Barber is a nice third piece to the puzzle, providing an interior presence as he finishes in traffic. He can occasionally drain a three, but he will look to slash his way to the basket first. Lacey, Turner, and Barber are the only players on this Wolfpack squad that average double figures in scoring. As for the rest of the team, there doesn’t seem to be much to worry about. Leonard Freeman is one of their big men in the middle. He’s NC State’s top rebounder and adds much-needed size in the paint. He won’t score much but is a pretty solid defender. Kyle Washington and Abdul-Malik Abu can chip in a few points here and there, they do most of their scoring inside. Freshman Caleb Martin is their main three-point shooter off the bench. He isn’t all that efficient, draining only 29.6% of his attempts from downtown.
Outlook: NC State scares me a little bit. You just don’t know which NC State will show up. The Wolfpack can have a big win, only to follow it up with embarrassing losses. They are certainly capable of keeping up with the best teams in the NCAA. With that said, LSU was able to capitalize on one of NC State’s glaring weaknesses: the paint. NC State doesn’t have a lot of size in the middle. The Wolfpack don’t have anyone taller than 6’9″. Their biggest guy is Beejay Anya, who stands in at 6’9″ and 300 pounds. With the lack of height, Villanova has to come in and control the paint and the boards. JayVaughn Pinkston and Daniel Ochefu need to have another great game inside. They will need to establish their presence in the paint and open it up for the perimeter. Just like in the game against Lafayette, the Leopards were left in the dust. They didn’t know if they should have been more concern for the post or the perimeter. Defensively, Villanova has to work as hard as it can to stop NC State’s trifecta of guards. They are very athletic and talented. Ideally, all three of them would be kept quiet. However, that’s probably not going to happen. If the Wildcats can shut down at least two of the three and force them to try something completely new, they will easily win this game. The Wildcats played a complete game yesterday, they need to channel that again. As for another letdown, Jay Wright isn’t concerned. He actually sees it as an advantage.
“They’ve already failed last year,” said Coach Wright. “We’re not afraid of that, we lived through that. The fact that they lived through all of that together is a great characteristic.”
That’s what it will take, another complete effort. It will be five vs. three. Villanova’s depth and size will lead the way.