In case you missed it, here’s our recap of the Hoyas’ triumphant return to postseason success against Belmont yesterday. But as Jason Clark put it after the game, we’ve got a lot more games to play, starting with the North Carolina State Wolfpack.
Scouting the Wolfpack
Shortly before Georgetown began its work against Belmont, North Carolina State finished up a blowout of its own against San Diego State, breaking open a close game in the second half to win 79-65. The No. 11 seed Wolfpack weren’t even a lock to make the NCAAs heading into the ACC Tournament, but they’ve overcome a four game February losing streak and are playing some of their best basketball of the season. Their 23-12 record doesn’t mean anything now–Georgetown just has to focus on the team dominated San Diego State and nearly knocked off UNC a week ago.
Unlike three-obsessed Belmont, NC State is just as comfortable inside the paint as out. They’re a very good rebounding team, and on offense they’re well balanced–against San Diego State, four players scored in double digits.
“It’s a difficult matchup,” head coach John Thompson III said. “They have a very distinct, very tough interior presence, but at the same time, they have very good perimeter play. So from our defensive perspective, whether we’re talking man, zone, or whatever the heck we’re going to do, we’re going to have to be very good at all parts.”
Of course, like any team, the Wolfpack have their weaknesses. Their defense isn’t particularly airtight, allowing a middling 67.9 points per game, and they don’t go very deep. Just eight players average more than 10 minutes a game, and only seven of them saw the court on Friday. If Georgetown can draw some fouls early, they could force some favorable matchups.
Georgetown and NC State have met six times before, most famously in the 1989 Sweet Sixteen, when John Thompson Jr.’s Hoyas prevailed over Jim Valvano’s Wolfpack thanks in part to a traveling violation by NC State’s Chris Corchiani, a call curmudgeonly announcer Billy Packer called the “worst call in NCAA Tournament history.” (NC State fans are still sore about it. It even came up today at Thompson’s press conference. After JTIII responded, a particularly sonorous voice emanated from behind a curtain defending the call.)
The two teams didn’t meet again until last season, when Georgetown triumphed over NC State to win the Charleston Classic. A number of players return from that team, but that’s about where the similarities end. The Wolfpack fired head coach Sidney Lowe after last season and brought in Mark Gottfried, who developed the team’s young talent and turned it into tournament team.
“He did a great job getting to know everybody’s personnel,” NC State forward C.J. Leslie said. “That’s the start of it, just getting to know everybody and what they can do best.”
Player to watch
C.J. Leslie. The sophomore has taken a big leap forward from last season, and he might be playing the best basketball of his career right now. His 15 points and five rebounds against San Diego State was probably his weakest performance in his last six games–he had double-doubles in four of them. Last season Leslie had only eight points and four boards against Georgetown, but he’s become a much more complete player this season. The Hoyas’ know not to expect the same player from Charleston.
“He can play both inside and out. He has a really good handle for a big, and he can shoot,” Henry Sims said. “Last year he did a lot of things, but this year he sharpened them up.”