GAMEDAY HEADLINES: Wolfpack vs Jayhawks (NCAA Tournament Edition) 

March 23, 2012

Game Day Wolfpackers!!! Enjoy some “light” reading before the game tonight. go Wolfpack!!!

NC STATE BASKETBALL

SCOTT FOWLER (N&O)Here we go! N.C. State, North Carolina a win away from showdown for Final Four

JP GIGLIO (N&O)For N.C. State’s Leslie, embracing a bigger role has led to breakout performances

LUKE DECOCK (N&O)Pack makes it look easy

BLAIR KERKHOFF – KANSAS CITY STARN.C. State-N. Carolina regional final possibility rekindles fire of old

TOM SORENSEN (N&O)N.C. State’s Bobby Lutz enjoying NCAA tournament ride

JAY PRICE (N&O)NCSU WOLFPACK FANS REVELING IN a FRESH ADDITION TO THEIR BASKETBALL TRADITION

LUKE DECOCK (N&O)Mutual admiration between Leslie, Robinson

JP GIGLIO (N&O)Groce thankful for his N.C. State roots

LUKE DECOCK (N&O)Who has the edge, N.C. State or Kansas?

Brett Friedlander (starnewsonline.com)Same site, same goal, different expectations for State, UNC

but even though this is the round double-digit seeds traditionally get knocked back to reality by deeper, more experienced teams that are more than just “happy to be here,” Gottfried isn’t ready to accept the notion that State is playing with house money from here on out.

“I don’t see it that way at all, because if you put your mindset in that frame of mind, we’re not really supposed to be here,” he said. “I just don’t know that you value it as much. I think our team feels like we’ve earned the right to be here just like anybody else.”

There’s no question that’s the case. As Gottfried pointed out Thursday, his Wolfpack is every bit as hungry to advance as is the favored Tar Heels and Jayhawks.

at the same time, though, State has the peace of mind in knowing that even if things don’t turn out as well as it would like, it can return home with the knowledge that its season has been a success.

Brett Friedlander (starnewsonline.com)Midwest region foes familiar with one another

Then there’s the lesser-known bond between Ohio University coach John Groce and N.C. State, where he served as an assistant during the first four seasons of Herb Sendek’s tenure with the Wolfpack.

It’s a time Groce remembers with fondness.

“There’s where my wife and I met, so I feel very blessed to have been there for that,” said Groce, whose 13th-seeded Bobcats take on the top-seeded Tar Heels in Friday’s first semifinal. “I really enjoyed my time there. I learned a lot there at a very young age.

“Herb’s one of the brightest coaches I’ve ever been around. I wouldn’t be sitting here without Herb, as well as a host of other coaches. those four years of battling and battling and coaching in the ACC, and having a chance to learn under him has been invaluable to my career.”

Andrew Skwara (accsports.com)ACC Sweet 16 Preview, March 23

No. 11 N.C. State (24-12, 9-7 ACC) at no. 2 Kansas (29-6, 16-2 big 12)

Time: 10:17 ET (Approximate) TV: ESPN Play by Play/Color: Marv Albert/Steve Kerr Location: St. Louis, Mo. (Edward Jones Dome)

Key Players: N.C. StateF C.J. Leslie (14.6 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 1.6 bpg), G Lorenzo Brown (12.8 ppg, 6.4 apg, 1.8 spg), G Scott Wood (12.4 ppg, 41.7% 3-pt, 90.9% FT), F Richard Howell (11.0 ppg, 9.1 rpg).

Key Players: KansasF Thomas Robinson (17.7 ppg, 11.8 rpg), G Tyshawn Taylor (16.9 ppg, 4.7 apg, 41.6% 3-pt), G Elijah Johnson (10.0 ppg, 3.7 apg), C Jeff Withey (9.1 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 3.3 bpg)

What’s at Stake? N.C. State has a chance to make a long-awaited return to its glory days. the Wolfpack hasn’t been to the Elite Eight since the Jim Valvano days in 1986. Upsetting Kansas would bring even more praise (and contract perks) to first-year coach Mark Gottfried along with plenty of benefits on the recruiting trail. of course, the Wolfpack would also love to get a fourth chance to beat UNC, should the Tar Heels advance in the earlier game. a loss would do nothing to alter what has been a breakthrough season for a Wolfpack team that has far exceeded expectations.

Tradition-rich Kansas, which is looking for its second straight Elite Eight appearance, enters with nearly all the pressure. the Jayhawks spent nearly the entire season ranked in the top 10 and are a big favorite in this matchup. Moreover, this will likely be their last season with star junior Thomas Robinson, who is considered a first-round lock in the upcoming NBA draft.

Key for the WolfpackGuard play. Unlike previous games, the Wolfpack can’t pound the ball to C.J. Leslie in the post. Kansas boasts an elite shot blocker in Jeff Withey, making it especially tough on its opponents to score on the inside. Point guard Lorenzo Brown and 3-point specialist Scott Wood must have big games for the Wolfpack to advance.

Key for the JayhawksTightening up the defense. the Jayhawks are the better defensive team and capable of dominating on that end of the floor. if bill Self’s club can slow down Lorenzo Brown and limit the Wolfpack’s touches it will be moving on.

Numbers GameKansas leads the series 10-1 with N.C. State’s last win coming in the first meeting in 1958 … Kansas (74.3) averages just one point more a game than N.C. State (73.3) … Kansas ranks sixth in the nation in field goal percentage defense (38.1 percent) … N.C. State grabbed 17 offensive rebounds in its round of 32 upset over Georgetown … N.C. State is 1-8 against teams in the top 50 of the RPI. Kansas is 11-5 … N.C. State has five players that average double figures in scoring … Robinson has 25 double-doubles this season, the most of any player in the nation.

PredictionKansas 67, N.C. State 64 – the Jayhwaks were fortunate to get past Purdue in the last round, which may make the big 12 power seem ripe for an upset. but this is a bad matchup for the Wolfpack. the Jayhawks have the size and power inside to create problems for Leslie and have the best player on the court in Robinson.

GoPack.comPainter Has Moves to Make

Q: what is your role on your team?a: I started off starting, it was good and I played really well. but for the better of this team, I coach (Mark Gottfried) made a decision that it was better for me to come off the bench and give some energy. I just embraced that role and it’s all about sacrificing with this game and that’s what I do for the better of this team. That’s what I did. my role is to get in there and knock down open shots, rebound, play hard, be a great defender and just help my team to win a ball game.

Q: Talk about the season?a: at first it was looking all grateful because we were winning a lot of games, but then we had a tough stretch. Then we kind of bonded and got ourselves together and we said, ‘look this is not how we want to end our season.’ We got it together and we got on a role and we started winning and as you can see this is a stretch that we turned into a totally different team because we all played our role and embraced our role. That’s what helped us so much. We had to sacrifice for the better of this team, and this is what happens. a Sweet 16 is pretty sweet. We just want to keep going forward. We want to get to the Final four, and hopefully win a national championship. That’s what it’s all about.

TheWolfpacker.comWolfpack holds pre-Sweet 16 press conference

Q. about how these two teams matchup?

GOTTFRIED: “well, first of all, when you watch Kansas, and you start to study them, every time you watch them you start gaining a little more respect for Robinson, Withey, I think the two guard, Johnson is improving, he’s better now I think than he was early. Releford’s an awfully good player.

“but what I like when I watch their team is they just keep finding ways to win. you watch some games and there’s that eight minute mark in the second half and it starts to look like it’s teetering one way or another and here they come, bang, bang, bang. all of a sudden they made some plays. I think that’s a trademark of Bill’s teams. They have always done that. They find ways to win.

“so a lot of good players on both sides in this game. We feel like we have got some guys that can step up and make some plays. I’m sure they feel the same way.”

Q. What’s the single biggest challenge of coming in to a program as a first year coach with established players? is it psychological, can you talk about the process that you went through.

GOTTFRIED: “I think any time you take a job. It’s always different. It’s never the same. sometimes you inherit a job and maybe the talent level’s really low or really high or maybe the team has been winning. That’s difficult to walk in there and take over a team that was winning.

“ours was unique in that the previous staff did a nice job. They recruited some nice players, good players, but we were just seemed to be very disorganized and we just didn’t have great direction. our accountability was down. We just needed to tighten everything up. And I think our staff, when I look back from April throughout this year, I think that our guys, our staff has done a great job with these guys, building good relationships, building trust, giving them a system that they can believe in, which I believe in our system.

“And it’s won for me and for those I’ve worked for, so they seem to buy into that. but I think a lot of the credit goes to our staff. They have done a good job with our players I think all year long.”

Q. you did a pretty good job of limiting Nate Lubick and Henry Sims last week. now you got Thomas Robinson, Jeff Withey. Can you talk about how good they are down low and what C.J. Lesley and Richard Howell are going to have to do to limit them?

GOTTFRIED: “When you look at Withey and you look at our league and take a guy like John Henson at North Carolina, and Withey has more blocked shots than Henson. that jumps out at our guys real quick because they have great respect for North Carolina’s front line.

“And when you watch Thomas Robinson, he’s just a grown man. I mean he’s a physical guy that can manhandle you for position. It’s hard to get him off of where he wants to go on the floor, where he wants to be.

“Watching tape, I think everybody in the big 12, they have tried everything. Whether it’s doubling, post to post, whether it’s sending a guard down to double him, front the post, I mean you’ve seen it all and he just finds a way throughout the game to figure it out and still be very effective.

“so those two guys, I think inside, obviously they’re very good. And Withey has gotten a lot better. you look in the last maybe a year ago right now and look at him now, and he’s had great improvement. It’s a big front line there and it’s going to be a great challenge for our interior guys.”

Bret Strelow (FayObserver.com)Coach Mark Gottfried behind Wolfpack’s turnaround

When N.C. State dropped to 18-11 overall and 7-7 in the ACC with a heartbreaking overtime loss at Clemson on Feb. 25, Gottfried was able to remain even-keeled because he’s been through more difficult situations.

“He’s a survivor,” Yow said. “He balances that voice of experience with this youthful energy and enthusiasm that nothing is impossible. He puts those two traits together, you get a pretty special person and a very special coach. He’s a leader; you can see that the players follow him. They trust him.”

Earning that trust was a gradual process.

A senior like C.J. Williams needed to know that Gottfried intended to win immediately. if not, Williams would be wasting precious time being part of a rebuilding effort. Gottfried quickly assuaged Williams’ concerns.

Junior forward Richard Howell was a tougher sell, and Gottfried managed to break down barriers over time. He discovered a better way to draw the talent out of enigmatic sophomore C.J. Leslie, realizing it was more effective to publicly support him than drive home points in a manner that would embarrass him.

It’s rare for a coach to take over a losing program with so many skilled assets already in place. Gottfried and his assistants just needed to push more of the right buttons than the previous staff.

“They recruited some nice players, good players, but we just seemed to be very disorganized and we just didn’t have great direction,” Gottfried said. “our accountability was down. We just needed to tighten everything up. And I think our staff, when I look back from April throughout this year, I think that our guys, our staff has done a great job with these guys, building good relationships, building trust, giving them a system that they can believe in.”

Bret Strelow (FayObserver.com)NCAA tournament: N.C. State Game Day

Feeling the pressureN.C. State is trying to reach the Elite Eight for the first time since 1986, when it lost to Kansas in a regional final, and all of the pressure is on the Jayhawks in St. Louis. They haven’t been involved in many tight finishes, going 3-1 in games decided by five points or less, mostly against high-level competition. the Wolfpack has played 15 such games and won 10 of them. Kansas coach bill Self built up plenty of good will with a run to the 2008 national championship, but the Jayhawks have lost to a no. 9 seed (Northern Iowa) and no. 11 seed (VCU) in their last two NCAA appearances. They lost to 14th-seeded Bucknell in 2005 and 13th-seeded Bradley in 2006.

ON THE SCENEThe excitement didn’t begin until 17 minutes remained in N.C. State’s open practice Thursday at the Edward Jones Dome.

Running fastbreak drills against no defense, Scott Wood dunked and hung from the rim. Moments later, 6-foot-4 freshman Jaqawn Raymond upstaged him by winding up with his right arm and throwing down a vicious, one-handed slam that drew “oohs” from the sparse crowd.

“It’s just a fun time to give to the fans,” Raymond said.

His next dunk was a windmill effort that caused Alex Johnson to yell, “He’s putting on a show!” Johnson, who is 5-10, got into the act with a jam of his own, but Raymond again stole some thunder from a teammate, going through his legs while in mid-flight and dunking with one hand.

After Raymond chest-bumped Johnson, N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried cracked a smile and flashed the, “It’s over” sign to his team.

“That’s the best one – so far,” Raymond said.

N.C. State exited the court with 5 minutes still showing on the clock, but one player stuck around to put up some extra jumpers. it was C.J. Leslie, who took shot after shot from the top of the key.

Bret Strelow (FayObserver.com)N.C. State senior C.J. Williams savors chance to prolong his career with tourney wins

Williams followed a similar path in high school. As a freshman, sophomore and junior at Jack Britt High School in Fayetteville, the Buccaneers were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs. As a senior, playing for coach Ike Walker Jr., Williams led the Bucs to four playoff wins and a berth in the 4-A East Regional final, where they lost to Apex.

“I talked to Coach Walker the other day, and he said, ‘You’re in the Sweet 16, so you’re back at it again for your senior year,’ ” Williams said. “I was like, ‘Yeah, I’m trying to make another run.’ ”

Williams did his part Sunday, breaking out of a shooting slump to score 14 points against Georgetown. He attempted a team-high 12 shots and made five of them, igniting a critical run late in the first half.

“I was starting to be a little more aggressive, which is what everyone wanted me to do,” Williams said. “It helps me going into this game to have a level of confidence with how I’ve been playing lately.”

The Sports Xchange (PackPride.com)Pack a Sweet 16 Surprise

QUOTE TO NOTE: “I think we know who we are. We know who we are. We just got to keep playing. We know we’re on the stage. We’re growing.” — F C.J. Leslie on the lack of attention the Wolfpack generally receives, though that might change with a Sweet 16 appearance.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNELSCOUTING REPORT: The Wolfpack has a good blend of interior and perimeter scoring options and that balance has been reflected with five players averaging in double figures for most of the season. F C.J. Leslie has raised his performance for the past month as he’s the team’s leading scorer for the second year in a row. F Scott Wood is one of the ACC’s active leaders in 3-point shooting as a junior and he’s had an ACC record of consecutive made free throws earlier in the season. G Lorenzo Brown has made a relatively smooth transition to point guard as a sophomore and his athleticism adds another element at that position. F Richard Howell is the second-best rebounder in the ACC, though he’s prone to foul trouble.

FUTURES WATCH: The Wolfpack made it to the postseason with a limited amount of depth, but it hasn’t stopped it in the NCAA Tournament. N.C. State goes with a seven-player rotation for the most part. even with senior G C.J. Williams’ impending departure and the uncertain status of forward C.J. Leslie, who could be tempted to jump to the professional level, there should be a replenished roster as coach Mark Gottfried’s first full recruiting class will arrive highly rated. Gottfried adapted well to the limited number of players in his rotation, though foul troubles, especially for junior F Richard Howell, tended to complicate matters at times. the influx of new players, though, should fill in the gaps.

REGULAR SEASON REVIEW: The Wolfpack took care of business in most games that it should have won and that tended to be an upgrade from some past teams. Playing at times a rigorous schedule, the rap on the Wolfpack is that it didn’t win enough of the big-time games, but at least it was competitive in those and performances such as those might have created a good foundation. it was a breakthrough season for senior G C.J. Williams and it eventually became a season during which sophomore C.J. Leslie lived up to his reputation.

SI.comMargins + Momentum in the Sweet 16

The kenpom crowd, by now, is well-versed in matters of teams’ full-season efficiency ratings. Ohio State is the nation’s no. 1 team in efficiency, due in large to its dominant defense, and Kentucky is no. 2 because of its dominant offense. if the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight were to play out according to big-picture efficiency projections, the Buckeyes and Wildcats would be in the Final four along with Michigan State and Kansas.

But in forecasting the next rounds of the NCAA tournament, we should also be taking into account how well teams are playing over the past few weeks. Who’s surging, who’s stagnating, and who may have peaked too soon? over at Crashing the Dance in 2009, Andy Cox devised a way to gauge teams’ quality of play over the course of the season, using a stat he called Net Efficiency Margin, or NEM.

NEM is the difference between a team’s efficiency margin in a game and the efficiency margin an “average” Division I team would be expected to have in that same setting. it allows us to track teams’ quality of play against a baseline average, and when we map out running, five-game averages of their NEM over the course of a season, it gives us a real, visual sense of their efficiency-based momentum. the following graphs look at each region through the lens of NEM:

Midwest: Beware of NC State! Near the end of February, NC State was a middling team that had no business being mentioned as a Sweet 16, much less Final four, contender. but that streaking red line indicates that the Wolfpack are the sleeper team of the whole tournament. Their most recent NEM numbers are better than Kansas’ and as good as North Carolina’s.

The Tar Heels’ NEM were on the decline before they lost Kendall Marshall, which makes me worry about them even more. is it possible that the NC State-Kansas game will decide who goes to the Final four?

Jason King (ESPN)A year early? NC State is here now

Mark Gottfried’s first few months as North Carolina State’s basketball coach were spent hobnobbing with boosters and speaking to alumni groups across the country. This past fall, despite his fear of heights, Gottfried even offered to jump out of a plane before a football game to bring attention to his program.

Nothing like skydiving to generate a little publicity.

“it was raining that day,” Gottfried said, “so they pulled the plug on me.”

Still, for all the things he was willing to do to make the 2011-12 season a successful one, there was a certain task Gottfried completely ignored.

Every minute of the previous season was available to dissect on screen, but Gottfried and his staff refused to watch any of it.

“it took a while,” forward Richard Howell said. “It’s difficult for a new coach to come in and work with players who were recruited by another coach. but he’s a cool person, a people-type of person.

“His confidence in us is unbelievable, and that’s one of the major things we need in a game like this. When you have confidence you can do something, if you set your mind to it, you can definitely achieve it.”

Speaking of confidence, Gottfried needed plenty of it to take over a North Carolina State program that has long played second fiddle to the Tar Heels and Blue Devils in the ACC. still, while the situation scared off coaches such as VCU’s Shaka Smart and Memphis’ Josh Pastner, Gottfried looked at it and saw an opportunity.

Gottfried, the former Murray State and Alabama coach, knew North Carolina State had a passionate fan base that was itching for a return for greatness. the Wolfpack, who won the NCAA title in 1974 and 1983, averaged 13,779 fans per game in 2010-11 despite having a losing team.

“And that’s not fake attendance,” said Lutz, the assistant coach. “That’s actual butts in seats.”

Former coach Sidney Lowe had recruited a strong team. it was Gottfried’s job to get it to play together.

“We just seemed to be very disorganized,” Gottfried said. “We didn’t have great direction. our accountability was down.

“We just needed to tighten everything up. our staff has done a great job with these guys as far as building good relationships, building trust, giving them a system they can believe in.”

Jason King (ESPN)Midwest preview: Kansas vs. NC State

Their Sweet 16 matchup against NC State was just more than 24 hours away. still, the Kansas Jayhawks spent a large chunk of Thursday afternoon talking about their last game.

The one against Purdue.

“We got away with one,” point guard Tyshawn Taylor said.

“Getting past that first weekend was really tough,” KU center Jeff Withey said. “There are a lot of nerves that go along with those first few games. now we can just relax and have fun.”

The Jayhawks better not get too relaxed.

NC State may be the no. 11 seed in the Midwest Region, but the Wolfpack has been one of the country’s hottest teams over the past two or three weeks. Mark Gottfried’s squad beat two solid opponents in San Diego State and Georgetown to make it this far.

The Wolfpack respects Kansas — but it won’t be intimidated.

“I think we are a Cinderella team,” point guard Lorenzo Brown said. “Nobody expected us to be here. We just have to keep believing in ourselves that we can make it to the Final four.”

NC State assistant Bobby Lutz worked under Fred Hoiberg at Iowa State last season and is used to preparing scouting reports on the Jayhawks.

“I know Kansas’ two-game (high-low) pretty well,” Lutz said. “I don’t think they’re very difficult to scout. but they’re difficult to beat.”

Who to watch

Thomas Robinson, Kansas: The 6-foot-9 forward averages 17.7 points and ranked second in the nation in rebounds with 11.8 per contest. He scored just 11 points on 2-of-12 shooting against Purdue last week.

Elijah Johnson, Kansas: Tyshawn Taylor is KU’s most high-profile guard, but Johnson has been the best member of the Jayhawks’ backcourt as of late. He hit a deep 3-pointer, made a steal and had an assist on an alley-oop dunk to help spark Kansas’ comeback against Purdue.

C.J. Leslie, NC State: The 6-foot-9 Leslie weighs just 209, so he may have trouble banging down low with Robinson. but his quickness and ball-handling ability could create a headache for Kansas. Leslie, a sophomore, chose the Wolfpack over Kentucky.

KANSAS COVERAGE

TheWolfpacker.comQ&a: bill Self at Sweet 16 media day

I’m sorry if you talked about matchups, but my question is, we have talked about how this is a more conventional matchup for Kansas, NC State and yet they have got five double digit scorers. Just talk about that challenge.

“well, if you look at Purdue, hard matchup for us. Hard matchup for them. but hard for us because they played five guards a lot, if you count Hummel as a guard, and here we are trying to play two bigs that haven’t having to guarded out on the perimeter, and they run true motion.

“One thing about their game is that we were able to go triangle and to reduce some things because maybe they didn’t stretch it from certain spots consistently. NC State is, they have balance and balance is the hardest thing to guard. but you got to guard everybody.

“I think that creates the matchup situation is you have to guard everybody. And you don’t. you try take certain things away, but most importantly, everybody’s a threat. Everybody’s scoring double figures, everybody is capable of getting 20 in a game, and they have a couple guys that can really take over a game. so even though it’s more conventional, it’s still creating obviously problems because the hardest teams to guard are teams with balance.”

Everybody’s been discussing the post matchups, but what about the Releford/Wood matchup on the perimeter, do you see that as a huge key in this game?

“Yeah, we could go different, depending upon who we want to matchup or they could do the same thing with us. but he’s got great size and he can shoot over defense and he doesn’t need much space. I saw a stat on NC State, you know better than me, but in games that they won, he is shooting over 50 from two and like 47 from three or 48 from three, if I’m not mistaken. And in games where they haven’t won, the numbers have dipped quite a bit. so that right there tells you how important he is to try to play him before he catches it and not get him good touches.”

Akula Wolf (BackingthePack.com)Chatting With Rock Chalk Talk about Kansas

1.) what are the strengths and weaknesses of this team? I think the strengths rest with the talent of the starters. Thomas Robinson is a POY candidate and the frontrunner until the media jumped over to Anthony Davis. Tyshawn Taylor has flown under the radar for whatever reason but he has to be considered one of the best at his position in the country. at times you could argue that he has been the best. Then you have players like Jeff Withey and Elijah Johnson who have at times really blossomed and looked like high major studs. for as much as this team leaves to be desired in terms of depth, they really do have a good group in the starting five.

Weaknesses would have to be that lack of depth. at times we really get into a slump or a scoring rut and when that happens we don’t seem to have a spark off the bench or anyone to help us get out of that. This is a good team, they can grind and win with defense, but when they start to struggle to score it can be a problem.

4.) what strategy for defending Thomas Robinson has been most effective this year? if he’s doubled, can Kansas’ outside shooting be expected to make opponents pay?

Double and triple teams. Purdue did as well as anyone by just throwing bodies at him and being extremely physical. Kansas does have other areas they can score from without a doubt, but taking Robinson out of the game is a big step in the right direction for anyone. We aren’t a deadly outside shooting team by any means and at times we seem a bit gun shy or nervous when Robinson is limited. where bill Self has managed to get this team to buy in and counter that is on the defensive end. This is a tough team and I think much of that is because they aren’t overly talented as Kansas has been the past 6-8 years.

DAVE SKRETTA, AP Sports WriterKansas wary of no. 11 seed North Carolina State

Tyshawn Taylor and the rest of the Kansas Jayhawks know better than to focus on seeds this time of year. Especially when it comes to those nasty no. 11s.

It was exactly one year ago that their bracket seemed to be opening up nicely for another Final four run. the fourth and fifth seeds in their region went down in the second round, and the second and third quickly followed them out. that left VCU standing in the top-seeded Jayhawks’ way.

The scrappy no. 11 seeds wound up advancing to Houston.

Kansas wound up heading home.

“I’ve been saying all along, seeds don’t matter at this point,” Taylor said Thursday, on the eve of the second-seeded Jayhawks’ Midwest Regional semifinal against no. 11 seed North Carolina State.

“that team is capable of being a three or four seed,” Taylor added. “They didn’t have the best out-of-conference record, or even conference, but they’re a good team and they won some big games. It’s going to be a tough challenge for us. They’re going to come ready to play.”

Just like the Rams last year. And another lower seed, Northern Iowa, the year before that.

Kansas (29-6) hasn’t played a team seeded better than no. 9 since falling to second-seeded Michigan State in the Midwest Regional semifinals three years ago. that includes a blowout victory over no. 15 seed Detroit and a nip-and-tuck tussle with no. 10 seed Purdue last weekend.

“you can’t think of seeds,” said Connor Teahan, the lone remaining player from the 2008 title team. “obviously the last two years the way we’ve been knocked out — what was VCU last year?”

It was a rhetorical question. not a soul in the Kansas locker room at the Edward Jones Dome on Thursday afternoon needed to be reminded what VCU was seeded.

Just like they all know what number is attached to N.C. State.

Fetch9 (Rock Chalk Talk)2012 NCAA Tournament: five Kansas Keys to Beating NC State

Key 1 – RunKansas doesn’t necessarily play fast, playing exactly the big 12 average pace in league play, but they should on Friday. for one, they need transition baskets to score, and we’ve all seen how much KU can struggle in the half court at times. but secondly, NC State plays just seven guys, and two of them have played in under half of the team’s minutes. Fatigue from last week won’t be a big issue, but over the course of the game it could absolutely make the difference if the game is close. the devil’s advocate position here of course is that Kansas wouldn’t want to tire itself out for a big game against North Carolina on Sunday, and that if they’re tired they won’t beat the Heels, so why not just risk a loss on Friday to play slow. while I do semi understand that, I’d rather go get the win and worry about Sunday.

Key 3 – Defensive ReboundingNC State isn’t the most efficient team in terms of shooting, but they pound the glass like crazy, ranking 51st nationally and 2nd in the ACC. Overall Kansas has been a good defensive rebounding team (48th nationally and 2nd in the big 12), but they have struggled lately, allowing rates of 34%, 33%, 38%, and 40% in postseason play. having Withey playing more regular minutes will help, but someone other than Robinson needs to hit the defensive glass. Keeping then under 33% on the offensive glass is probably the key to holding them under a point per possession, and thus winning the game.

Warden11 (Rock Chalk Talk)Kansas Basketball: Team Plus/Minus, the Good and Bad

One of the ways I wanted to look back through the season was using the plus/minus WARDENSCORE for the team and identifying the games that it liked and the games where we struggled. the team number works just like the individual, good gets added together and the bad is subtracted. the arbitrary cutoff used was the start of big 12 play to the present for a few reasons. First, I was hoping to save some time by avoiding the gimmes from the non-con part of the schedule. the second reason is the belief that this team has improved since the beginning of the year, so looking at games from early November could be misleading.(points+rebounds+blocks+steals+assists-shots attempted-missed free throws-turnovers-fouls)

• In the no surprise at all category, the team performs much better when both Thomas Robinson and Jeff Withey show up to play. This is especially true for Robinson, five of his six best scores here come from the good six games as he averaged a +19. the worst six he averaged +7. • On the guard play, I was very surprised to see Taylor’s play appear fairly unrelated to the team total. However, after thinking about it some I’ve rationalized it out pretty well I think. Taylor’s a guy that doesn’t force the game to come to him, he has no problem distributing and letting the other guys get the points if they’re doing it. It’s when that doesn’t happen that Taylor steps up and starts to take over. Other thoughts? • This chart shows the volatile nature of the third option for the team this year. Releford, Johnson, and Withey all show up looking good in the top six but are very hit and miss in the bottom. This somewhat confirms my initial hypothesis about what we’d see here.

Jesse Newell (KUSports.com)NC State’s strengths, weaknesses and players to watch

[I’m taking pieces from this, best to read it all]

Strengths

NC State is best on the offensive end, where it ranks 30th in adjusted offensive efficiency.

The Wolfpack’s greatest strength is offensive rebounding, as it pulls down 36 percent of the available caroms (51st nationally). not only are NCSU’s players athletic, they’re also tall: six of the players in the Wolfpack’s seven-man rotation are 6 foot 5 or taller.

NCSU also is a strong defensive rebounding team, grabbing 70 percent of the available defensive boards (99th nationally).

Weaknesses

NC State does not force teams into many mistakes, creating turnovers on just 19 percent of its defensive possessions (259th nationally) while playing mostly man and 2-3 zone.

Though NCSU gets most of its shots inside and plays at a fast tempo, it doesn’t get to the line much, averaging just 21 free-throw attempts per game.

Players to Watch

Statistically, two of NC State’s best players are sophomore point guard Lorenzo Brown and junior forward Richard Howell.

Six-foot-8 forward C.J. Leslie was selected as a second-team All-ACC pick this year but appears to be overrated a bit simply because of a high scoring average (14.6 points per game).

Junior forward Scott Wood is NCSU’s only true three-point threat. the 6-foot-6 Wood is a high-volume, high-accuracy three-point shooter (think in the mold of Baylor’s Brady Heslip or Purdue’s Ryne Smith), making 42 percent of his treys this year (93 of 223) while keeping his turnovers low.

NCSU’s final starter C.J. Williams is someone who probably isn’t as assertive as he should be. He’s made a team-high 57 percent of his twos this year (122 of 213) but only shoots 19 percent of his team’s shots when he’s in.

Bottom Line

Remember all those characteristics that Purdue had that teams should want to have as an underdog (slow tempo, high risk-high reward offense)?NC State does not match that profile at all.

The Wolfpack likes to get out in transition and plays at a fast pace, ranking 84th nationally in tempo. if that holds up Friday, KU will have plenty of possessions to prove it’s the better team, which is an advantage for the Jayhawks.

KU also shouldn’t have a problem playing its best lineup. NCSU will play a more traditional starting five with two big men, meaning Jeff Withey should receive huge minutes if he’s able to stay out of foul trouble.

The comfort of this game for KU should be that, if NCSU wins, it will have won beating KU at its own game.

KenPom predicts a nine-point victory, giving the Jayhawks a 79-percent chance of winning.

The difference between this game and the Purdue game is that it will be much tougher for NC State to make up those nine points because it doesn’t play a risky style.

That isn’t to say NC State can’t win. but the odds are definitely stacked against the Wolfpack to beat a more talented team in a style, pace and fashion that the Jayhawks are most comfortable playing.

MULTIMEDIA/PODCASTS

GoPack.comMark Gottfried Post Practice Interview

Head basketball coach Mark Gottfried talks about taking the Wolfpack back to the Sweet 16.

GoPack.comCoverage of NC State’s Open Practice Day

NC State took to the court this afternoon in St. Louis, as the Pack had an open practice at the Edward Jones Dome. NC State also held its media session in preparation for tomorrow’s game against Kansas.GoPack.com brings you video and pictures form the Pack’s day.

WRALSportsfan.comGravley: NC State run helping recruiting

NC State’s improbable run deep into the NCAA Tournament has helped the program advertise itself to future recruits.

WRALSportsfan.comYoung State fans feel shades of 1983

N.C. State students are too young to remember the last time the Wolfpack took the NCAA Tournament by storm.

WRALSportsfan.comGottfried: We are a very hungry team

NC State head coach Mark Gottfried said that his Wolfpack team is a hungry one and has every bit a chance against no. 2 Kansas.

WRALSportsfan.comWood: It’s now or never

NC State forward Scott Wood pointed out that in order for NC State’s season to continue, Friday’s game is a must win.

WRALSportsfan.comPainter – We have to match their intensity

NC State center DeShawn Painter said one of the keys against Kansas Friday will be to match their intensity on the court.

WRALSportsfan.comLutz: we couldn’t have scripted a better year

NC State assistant Bobby Lutz said that the coaching staff could not have scripted a better year, now they need to keep winning to make it even more special.

WRALSportsfan.comEarly: Before we got here, we were selling a dream

Orlando Early said that with the success of this year’s NC State team, it helps recruiting because of the national exposure.

WRALSportsfan.comWilliams: This is going to be a fun game

NC State’s C.J. Williams said that State and Kansas are running teams and he feels like it’s going to be a fun game.

WRALSportsfan.comBrown: Playing our hardest will get guys to come here

NC State’s Lorenzo Brown said at practice Thursady that playing their hardest will get guys to come here next year.

WRALSportsfan.comHowell: our supporting cast right now is crazy

NC State’s Richard Howell said he thinks one of the reasons the team is playing so well right now is because of all the support they have back home.

WRALSportsfan.comGottfried: We are a very hungry team

NC State head coach Mark Gottfried said that his Wolfpack team is a hungry one and has every bit a chance against no. 2 Kansas.

GAMEDAY HEADLINES: Wolfpack vs Jayhawks (NCAA Tournament Edition) 


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