The Layup Line: North Carolina State

Rob Leifheit-USA TODAY Sports

The Bearcats got past NCCU by 13 points in the season opener. Next up: an early season test against an ACC opponent.

Round two of the 2013 Global Sports Classic pits the Cincinnati Bearcats against the Wolfpack of North Carolina State - easily the marquee game of this early season tournament. Yeah, it doesn't have the mystique of the other early season tournaments, but, for the Bearcats, it brings to town an out of conference home game against the ACC - something, I'd like to think, UC fans would accept most years.

NC State comes to Cincinnati fresh off a 21 point victory against Appalachian State where the Wolfpack took control of that contest during a 29-6 run in the second half. The 'Pack put up 98 points total - something that makes me a wee bit nervous prior to Tuesday's game.

  • Game: Tuesday, November 12 @ 5:00pm ET
  • Location: Fifth Third Arena/Shoemaker Center; Cincinnati, OH
  • TV/Radio: ESPN (John Saunders - yeah!); 700 WLW

What we know about NC State: We shouldn't jump to conclusions based on one game (mat sold separately). And because it's so early in the regular season, let's take a look at what NC State returns from last year's 24 win team: Not much. And that's putting it mildly. The Wolfpack bring just 3 lettermen back and add a few freshman, a JUCO transfer, and a former LSU guard who sat out last year due to transfer rules. For the ordinary observer, all of this uncertainty would make it difficult to predict the outcome of tomorrow evening's game. But be glad you're tuning in here, because I'm anything but ordinary...

There's one staple from last year's Wolfpack squad: 6-8 sophomore forward T.J. Warren (#24). Starting only 14 games last year, Warren still managed to average double digit points throughout the entire year (12.1). Better yet, he led the Wolfpack with 27 points against Appalachian State last Friday on 65% shooting. So, he's probably an important piece to the Wolfpack securing victory at the Shoe.

Who really surprised me on Friday for NC State was Desmond Lee (#05), the 6-4 JUCO transfer. Lee looks like a tough one - consistently fighting through screens on defense and initiating contact on the offensive end. And at the end of the game, you look at the score sheet, and he put up 24 points on 83% shooting. Yikes.

Besides Lee, I'm curious to see what 2 other State back-courters can do: Ralston Turner (#22), and Anthony "Cat" Barber (#02). Turner's the 6-5 guard who transferred from LSU. He spent most of their game against Appalachian State in foul trouble, but his size on the perimeter can make a difference. Barber, on the other hand, is only a 6'2" freshman point guard with an unfortunate nickname. He's a Burger Boy, though, and showed plenty of promise logging 29 minutes. But his nickname's still "Cat", so advantage UC.

Look, NC State was picked to finish 10th in the ACC. We all know the ACC is stacked, but 10th in any conference is just that - 10th. My gut says they're a little better than that, and I wouldn't be shocked if they're dancing in March. This team has question marks that I think will gel as the season progresses, and, in my opinion, this is the perfect time to play them.

What the 'Cats have to do to win:

  • Limit T.J. Warren: You may recall last week that limiting NCCU's Ingram was not filed under "What the 'Cats have to do to win," and that's because they didn't have to limit him. He went off for 27 and the Bearcats still won by double digits. If Warren goes off for 27 on Tuesday, I don't think this ends well for the 'Cats.
  • Have at least a +5 turnover margin: The Wolfpack turned it over 11 times in their last game, the 'Cats 12. NC State will get out and run, so as long as Guyn, Caupain, and the other guards take care of the ball, the 'Pack won't look nearly as formidable on offense. And if the Bearcats defense can force a few turnovers with their press, the offensive droughts can be hidden.
  • Control the glass: I promise I'll try not to make this a key in every game, but I think it's true for Tuesday's matchup. NC State only outrebounded Appy St by 3, and the 'Pack won by 21. If the Bearcats can outrebound NC State by say 6 or so, they can control the game. For reference, the 'Cats averaged a +6 rebounding margin all of last year.

My prediction: I know, I know, my prognosticating prowess drilled NCCU's score exactly and was only off by 2 for the Bearcats this past Friday. But I realize you people demand perfection. NC State won't go on a 20-something point run, and the Bearcats play much better defense than Appy St. My gut says Justin Jackson stays out of foul trouble and SK/Titus will them to victory: 78-74.

Oh - and I went this whole preview without making a Wolfpack/Hangover reference. We all win.

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