North Carolina State Basketball capped off a statement win in their last non-conference game before Christmas break with a score of 116-64 over Jacksonville. Wolfpack fans and alumni should feel pleased as to where their team stands heading into conference play. Holding an overall record of 10-3 and a resume building win over a top two opponent in Arizona, fans should be optimistic and excited to see what is to come for this Wolfpack team.
North Caroline State will begin ACC play against Clemson this upcoming Saturday. Playing on the road in a hostile Littlejohn Coliseum will be an early, but also a rewarding test for the Wolfpack. Clemson is currently riding a seven-game win streak, and have looked locked in throughout the season thus far. It is essential for the Wolfpack to begin conference play strong and efficient. They have shown signs of potential and promise so far this season, but have also showed their struggle with consistency. As important as a game this is, the major factor will be watching to see if they have fixed issues previously seen in non-conference play.
I believe an achievable goal for the Wolfpack this season would be finishing in the top eight of the conference. When you start to compare teams, rosters, and prior games played of the fifteen ACC teams, it is safe to say they match-up quite well with the majority of them. The biggest factor in achieving this goal will be not dropping games against lesser of opponents. Yes, it will also be just as important to get an upset or two, but if the Wolfpack defend home-court and win the 50/50 games, this goal is vastly obtainable.
Another key factor in this process will be the consistency of Allerik Freeman, Torin Dorn, and Omer Yurtseven. With major depth at the guard position, North Carolina State has a backcourt that can contend and compete with the best teams in the ACC. With the lack of depth at center, and forward, it will be essential for players such as Lennard Freeman, Abdul-Malik Abu, and Omer Yurtseven to play without getting in foul trouble. With any of the players previously stated not on the court due to foul trouble, the Wolfpack take a drastic drop-off in production.
With many cogs in the wheel, the final piece of the puzzle for North Carolina State will be staying true to their identity. They have shown their grit and focus on the defensive end thus far, which has led to easy offense and the growth of momentum in their previous games. Even with the suspension of Markell Johnson, the Wolfpack can certainly obtain these goals. In case of a return of Markell Johnson into the lineup, the odds of finishing in the top eight of the ACC become even higher. Look for North Carolina State to rely on upperclassmen leadership, and the coaching philosophy of Kevin Keatts. If they stay true to their identity and stay focused on the task at hand, I thoroughly believe the Wolfpack can make noise in the ACC this season.