Steven from the NC State blog Backing the Pack was nice enough to participate in a special NIT edition of Bulls Recon. Both Voodoo 5 and I sent over some questions, and the answers are below. Check it out after the jump.
1. One of the fun things about postseason games is that you sometimes play teams you would never see otherwise. The Bulls and Wolfpack have only met in basketball once - you beat us 125-88 way back in 1972. It's the most points anyone has ever scored against USF, although we did hold David Thompson to 30 that night, so… yeah! Take that!
I'm guessing there aren't many lessons to be learned from that game, so what style of play can we expect to see out of N.C. State this time around? Who should we keep our eyes on individually?
His offense is of the standard flex/motion variety. He likes to talk during the preseason about pushing tempo, but that style has yet to materialize. We're a slow, purely halfcourt team, and we prefer to work the ball inside-out and give Tracy Smith touches as often as possible.
Smith, an undersized but effective low-post scorer, is by far our best player. We'll run the offense through him.
Defensively, Lowe prefers man-to-man, but he'll throw some wrinkles in there from time to time. You might even see some full-court press.
On a sixth-seeded NIT team? Heavens no.
Actually, we've got some issues similar to South Florida's. We don't force many turnovers, while our interior defense and defensive rebounding are mediocre at best.
Offensively, the main problem has been finding consistent production outside of Tracy Smith. We know what we're going to get from him every night; the supporting cast, however, is a crap shoot. PG Javier Gonzalez is a good outside shooter and can have a huge positive impact on games, but he is wildly inconsistent. Dennis Horner and Scott Wood are fine players, they just can't create their own shots and as a result tend to disappear from the score sheet for long periods.
The immediate future looks pretty bright. We're bringing in a couple of highly-touted guards, the sorts of players who should contribute right off the bat. Guard play has been the program's biggest problem since Lowe got here. If the freshman are the real deal, we should at least be in the NCAA tournament discussion come late February, and that would be refreshing to say the least.
That class basically guaranteed that Lowe will return next season, though he's certainly feeling some heat. I think a lot of people doubt his chances at sustained success here, and I'm definitely among them. I'd be all for parting ways after the season were it not for that recruiting class.
6. Looking through your season, I see five losses by three points or less, four against NCAA tournament teams. Were those just bad luck (like against Florida, which was flat-out cruel), or was there a pattern of some sort? Is there a "what might have been" feeling about this season for N.C. State fans?
There have been cruelties; Arizona beat us with a last-second shot as well, and we had to play that game without Tracy Smith. But for the most part, the results are indicative of a team that rarely put 40 good minutes together, that couldn't take full advantage of opponents' mistakes. We had significant second-half leads on several teams and could not close them out (see: UVA, Maryland). Or we'd play awful in the first half, get way behind, and rally furiously in the second half only to fall short (see: Clemson, Georgia Tech).
This is not a good outside shooting team. When they forget about Tracy inside, struggle to move the ball, and start hoisting bad jumpers, droughts happen. Extended droughts. There was a point in February where I assumed there'd be one eight-minute drought every night.
7. Lately it seems like the light bulb might have come on - the Wolfpack won three out of their last four in the ACC, including a pretty convincing win over Wake Forest, and you were a tough out in Greensboro. What has changed since your losing streak in early February?
For one thing, we've been shooting the ball better. During our five-game losing streak in February, we could not buy a basket. We've gotten better defensive efforts as well. We scored less than a point per possession in all three ACC tournament games, so it certainly wasn't the offense carrying the day.
8. What do you think happens Tuesday night? Will you ruin our first basketball postseason in awhile the same way you ruined our first bowl game?
I'm not optimistic, though I do expect a close game. We last played on Saturday, while you guys have been off since last Wednesday. I worry that fatigue will be an issue. Gonzalez sprained his ankle on Thursday and isn't 100%, which doesn't help either. I'll take USF by six
BONUS QUESTION: Any chance Sidney wears the red blazer tomorrow?
I don't expect to see the red blazer, but Sid may want to keep the ACC tournament mojo going.
Thanks again to Steven for getting together so quickly after the brackets were released. Check him out if you haven't already.