The new editor over at StateFansNation, D_Medlin, contacted me about doing a Q&A in advance of the UNC-NCSU game on Tuesday. I thought it would provide some nice insight into the matchup and the current state of the Wolfpack program from an NCSU fan perspective. My answers to his questions can be found here.
1. Much has been made over the past two season about chemistry issues. How big a difference has it made that Sidney Lowe mainly has "his guys" now?
Chemistry issues, whether anyone will admit it or not, have been a problem since Sidney Lowe arrived in Raleigh four years ago. Whatever off the court issues certain players had with one another made it onto the court and routinely impacted the cohesiveness of the team. I think it got to the point where guys, at times, literally disliked each other. It's tough to have any sort of success in a team sport when you dislike the guys you rely on for just that. To finally see a team that has no chemistry issues whatsoever has been refreshing and is probably a big reason why there have been "flashes" of improvement. Also, I think it's important that Sidney does have "his guys." Not only is this year's team almost solely Sid's guys (save Dennis Horner, who never actually played for but was recruited by Herb Sendek), but this year's team has bought in to what Lowe is trying to get done. The most noticeable example is on the defensive side of the ball. Regardless of which lineup is out there it's obvious that "team defense" is something important.
2. Tracy Smith was huge versus Duke. Has his play been a surprise?
Not a bit. I think NC State fans expected this type of output from Tracy from the start of the year. You could see his development last year as a post player with a variety of moves and he's expanded on that this year and become a pretty complete low post threat. He still needs work on a mid-range jumper, but aside from that he's solid.Another thing, which I guess could be looked at as a surprise, is Smith's ability on the defensive end. He's played perhaps better than expected.
3. How would you rate the play the Wolfpack point guards and where would you rank them among the PGs in the ACC?
Overall, I'd have to say mediocre. In the last few games it's been above average, but there have been plenty of times this year that watching NC State point guards has induced screaming at the TV. Recently, however, NC State point guards have really improved as a whole. Farnold Degand has finally starting contributing when he's on the court, despite seeing most of his minutes at the two guard. Julius Mays has taken care of the basketball and been able to score points coming off the bench and Javi Gonzalez, when he's on, is the best playmaker the Wolfpack has. Against Duke last week he made several eye popping plays distributing the ball in the lane (not to mention the 30-foot fade away to push an eight-point lead to 11 with four minutes to play). It's tough to compare NC State's guards to others in the ACC because no other team really has a three-headed monster where all three players bring such a different component to the table. But since you did ask, I'll say above average compared with the rest of the ACC.
4. NC State has recently gotten some outstanding games from their freshmen Scott Wood and Richard Howell. Talk about what they have brought to the table this season?
Scott Wood has been a player since he stepped foot on campus. It took a while for his shot to come around, but he's brought great energy on the defensive end all season and he understands the game better than any freshman I've seen in a while. Once his shot started falling recently, especially in the FSU game, his confidence has gone through the roof. The sky is the limit for him right now Richard Howell has also picked up his play in the last few weeks, getting more and more minutes and pushing starter Dennis Horner for playing time. If Horner keeps playing well Howell won't start any, but he's become a reliable guy off the bench.
5. So far NCSU has a win over Duke, FSU and Marquette but no losses that would be considered "bad." Can this team make a serious run for the NCAA Tournament?
I don't think it's impossible, but at this point I'll say it's unlikely. For NC State to realistically have a chance to get in the
NCAAT, IMO, it will have to finish 8-8 in conference play and win at least one game in the ACC Tournament. That being said, I don't think it will happen. The ACC is the definition of a crap shoot at this point and the Wolfpack will likely lose some games it shouldn't. I'm actually going to stop talking about this now because the more I think about the more pessimistic I get. Damn you NC State.
6.(Just for fun) Is there any truth to the rumor that Sidney Lowe has offered Tracy Smith's Beard a scholarship?
I haven't heard anything solid on this yet, but I'm all for it. Anything to make the program better.