The N.C. State Wolfpack are the latest team to be featured in our series of ACC Basketball previews to help get you ready for the 2014-15 season.
We’re going in alphabetical order through every team in the new-look ACC, but we’ll be excluding Duke – seeing as how the Blue Devils already receive a fair amount of coverage on this site.
If you’ve missed any of our previous previews, I encourage you to check them out to get an idea of the landscape around the ACC. We’ve already covered Boston College, Clemson, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Louisville, Miami and North Carolina.
The Wolfpack again finds itself overshadowed by the other two schools in the research triangle, but this year’s N.C. State team is very intriguing.
2013-14 Record: Overall – 22-14 | ACC – 9-9 (7th Place)
Games against Duke this season: Sunday, January 11 at N.C. State
N.C. State won 22 games last season and made the second round of the NCAA Tournament largely because T.J. Warren carried the program to that success.
The sophomore forward had one of the truly special seasons in ACC history, averaging 24.9 points and 7.1 rebounds per game while shooting over 52-percent from the field. This was also while playing over 35 minutes per game and producing despite being singled out by every defense in the league as N.C. State’s primary offensive option.
Warren earned the ACC Player of the Year award and was also a Second Team All-American. Then, he rode that momentum to the NBA Draft, where he was selected in the first round by the Phoenix Suns.
His departure leaves a huge void for the Wolfpack, and role players from last season like Cat Barber, Ralston Turner and Kyle Washington will have to take on much more responsibility this season.
Key Players: Anthony “Cat” Barber, Trevor Lacey, Abdul-Malik Abu
If N.C. State is to make it back to the NCAA Tournament this season, Anthony “Cat” Barber will likely be a big part of leading the Wolfpack back to The Big Dance. He was inconsistent in his freshman year, but showed flashes of his unique quickness and athletic ability. Correcting the mental mistakes will go a long way in establishing him as one of the better guards in the conference.
Trevor Lacey is one of the key pieces in making up for the scoring production lost with the departure of T.J. Warren. The Alabama transfer was a 5-star recruit out of high school who performed well in the SEC and should provide the team with another perimeter scoring threat alongside Ralston Turner.
There’s not a frontcourt player on the roster with more potential than incoming freshman Abdul-Malik Abu, but we’ll see how much time he needs to transition to the college game. The 6’8”, 230-pounder was a 4-star recruit and one of the top forward prospects in the class of 2014, and he possesses impressive athleticism.
X-Factor: Beejay Anya
It’s seems to crazy to say a basketball player has worked hard to get his weight down to 290 pounds, but that’s exactly what Beejay Anya has done this offseason. The 6’9” center played his freshman season at 349 lbs. and you could tell conditioning was a major challenge for him.
He’s worked with a nutritionist and still has a ways to go, but the new body should make Anya more effective when he’s on the court for the Wolfpack – an area where he was already pretty effective during the limited minutes he played.
With a 7’9” wingspan, Beejay has the potential to be one of the premier post defenders in college basketball.
N.C. State head coach Mark Gottfried seems to thrive when expectations are lower in Raleigh. He showed it last season with a team that made the NCAA Tournament despite being almost entirely dependent on one player.
Ironically, when expectations were higher for a more talented team in the 2012-13 season, the Wolfpack underachieved.
This year’s roster features many unknowns, but it feels like that’s the type of situation that suits Gottfried. He’s got a balanced squad with solid depth that should be able to gel together as the season progresses and the young players become more experienced.
On paper, this looks like a group that will struggle to reach the NCAA Tournament. And for that reason, it makes me think Mark Gottfried will get them back to the tourney.