Another day, another game without Cincinnati Bearcats head coach, Mick Cronin. And while everyone in Bearcat Nation wishes nothing but the best for their coach, we do have a game to get ready for - the last for both teams before starting conference play.
The NC State Wolfpack welcome the Bearcats to Raleigh, North Carolina looking to avenge last year's 11-point loss in Cincinnati.
- Game: Tuesday, December 30 @ 4:00pm ET
- Location: PNC Arena; Raleigh, NC
- TV/Radio: ESPNU; 700 WLW
NC State boasts a 10-3 record - including a head-scratching loss to Wofford. They weren't extremely competitive against West Virginia earlier this year, although the Mountaineers shot better than 50% from beyond the arc in that game. The Wolfpack's other loss came earlier this month against Purdue.
TJ Warren, last year's ACC leading scorer, is long gone, but head coach Mark Gottfried has a talented team again this year. He's been turning in top-25 recruiting classes year-after-year in North Carolina, and this year he has a trio of guards that each average double-digit points a game (Trevor Lacey, Ralston Turner, and Cat Barber).
The Wolfpack will push the pace a bit - they average 5 more possessions a game than Cincinnati - and I'm guessing NC State's plan will be to get out and run, throw down some dunks, and get the home crowd fired up.
My personal favorite of the Wolfpack guards is Anthony 'Cat' Barber (#12). The high school All-American is a good one; I liked the potential he showed last year before hitting a bit of a wall towards the latter part of the season. Barber's currently averaging over 12 points a game with almost 4 assists each contest.
What the 'Cats have to do to win:
- Hit the open jumpers. The Wolfpack are currently 10th in the country in blocked shots at 6.5 a game. The Bearcats big men seem to get a case of the slippery hands whenever they're down low, so hitting a few outside shots will help space things out.
- Hold NC State to less than 60. They average 74.2 a game, so this won't be easy - but the Bearcats do have a pretty good defense (thanks in part to their slow pace of play). UC can't match NC State bucket-for-bucket if this turns into a track meet.
- Rebound 30+% of their misses. Again, this won't be easy. The Wolfpack post a better rebounding margin than Cincinnati (+8.3 to +6.7). I'm guessing the away rims won't be kind to the Bearcats, so they'll need to grab quite a few offensive rebounds.