#60 North Carolina State Men's Basketball 2017-2018 Preview


North Carolina State Wolfpack


2017-2018 Overall Rank: #60

Conference Rank: #10 ACC

 North Carolina State Logo
An argument can be made that N.C. State had the most disappointing season in college basketball last year. The Wolfpack were loaded with talent, yet failed to finish the season above .500 and only won four conference games. These struggles were addressed this offseason as Mark Gottfried was relieved of his duties as head coach. Kevin Keatts will step in fresh off consecutive trips to the NCAA Tournament at UNC Wilmington. Some of that talent is departed now, most notably NBA lottery pick Dennis Smith. Keatts brought in experienced transfers and will have multiple returning contributors as he attempts to get the Wolfpack back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2015.
2016-17 Record: 15-17, 4-14
2016-17 Postseason: None
Coach: Kevin Keatts
Coach Record: 0-0 at North Carolina State, 72-28 overall
Who’s Out:
Kevin Keatts will have to take over without several key players from last season, highlighted by the early departure of freshman phenom Dennis Smith. Smith was named ACC Freshman of the Year and earned Second Team All-ACC honors. Smith was an all-around force, leading the Wolfpack in points, assists and steals which earned him a top ten selection in the NBA Draft. Smith’s on-court demeanor was an issue though as he never looked interested on defense, but he was still the undisputed leader of the team. Starters Terry Henderson and Maverick Rowan will also be gone this season. Henderson was second on the team in scoring with 13.8 points per game and Rowan was third with 12.0 points per game. Both players’ ability to shoot the ball and provide secondary scoring will be missed. Reserve big men Beejay Anya and Ted Kapita round out the losses for N.C. State. Anya departs after a four-year career at N.C. State and a rough senior season. Anya averaged just 2.8 points and 2.5 rebounds in 12.9 minutes per game as a senior. Kapita left school after just one year to pursue professional basketball. Kapita showed flashes in limited playing time, averaging 4.3 points and 3.4 rebounds in just 12.6 minutes per game.
Who’s In:
The Wolfpack will have two grad transfers join the team along with a couple of true freshmen. Al Freeman and Sam Hunt will both play their final collegiate seasons at N.C. State. Freeman played at Baylor the last three seasons where he was a key player on their NCAA Tournament teams. Freeman started 22 games last season and averaged 9.7 points per game while shooting 38.9% from three. Hunt joins the Wolfpack after spending the last two years at North Carolina A&T. Hunt led his old school in scoring and three-point shooting in each of his two seasons there. Both Freeman and Hunt will provide experience and scoring production immediately. Lavar Batts and Braxton Beverly are true freshmen who will begin their college careers this season at N.C. State. Batts is a four-star guard who was ranked as the top played in North Carolina. Batts is a top-100 recruit and averaged 23.3 points as a high school senior. Beverly is a three-star guard who initially committed to Ohio State, but de-committed and joined N.C. State after Thad Matta resigned. Both incoming freshmen will provide scoring upside from day one.
Who to Watch:
N.C. State will have multiple returning contributors from last year’s squad. Omer Yurtseven had high expectations for his freshman season, but he never looked comfortable on the floor. Yurtseven averaged just 5.9 points and 4.4 rebounds in 18.9 minutes per game. Yurtseven considered entering the NBA Draft, but elected to return for his sophomore season where he will look to improve his game. Abdul Malik-Abu is the top returning scorer, with 11.8 points per game last season. Abu’s numbers took a step back from his sophomore season, but he will look to finish his Wolfpack career on a strong note. Torin Dorn was impressive in his first season at N.C. State and should see more playing time this year. Dorn started 18 games and averaged 9.5 points while shooting 50% from the field. Markell Johnson had a solid freshman campaign, making three starts and averaging 4.0 points and 2.3 assists. Johnson will also see more action this year and should only get better. Senior Lennard Freeman will be able to get back on the court after missing all last season with a leg injury. Freeman’s return will bring more experience to the roster as he started 15 games in 2015-16, averaging 4.7 points and 5.0 rebounds. Seldom-used reserves Darius Hicks and Shaun Kirk are also back this season.
Final Projection:
Kevin Keatts will take over a talented team that failed to do anything with that talent over the last two seasons. The top three scorers from last year’s team have departed, but Keatts will have no shortage of experienced players to work with. Adding grad transfers Al Freeman and Sam Hunt, along with several players returning who are primed for breakouts, will help Keatts get the Wolfpack back to ACC contention. Earning an NCAA Tournament bid will be a tough task in his first season, but Keatts should have this team in a much better spot than they were in last year.
Projected Postseason Tournament: NIT
Projected Starting Five:
Markell Johnson, Sophomore, Guard, 4.0 points per game
Al Freeman, Senior, Guard, 9.7 points per game
Torin Dorn, Junior, Guard, 9.5 points per game
Abdul Malik-Abu, Senior, Forward, 11.8 points per game
Omer Yurtseven, Sophomore, Center, 5.9 points per game
By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 77.6 (73rdin nation, 6th in conference)
Scoring Defense: 79.6 (322, 15)
Field-Goal Percentage: 46.8 (55, 5)
Field-Goal Defense: 45.0 (237, 12)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 7.1 (205, 10)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 35.6 (144, 11)
Free-Throw Percentage: 70.0 (179, 11)
Rebound Margin: 0.2 (191, 9)
Assists Per Game: 14.3 (118, 10)
Turnovers Per Game: 13.4 (216, 14)
Madness 2018 NBA Draft Rankings:
#28 Omer Yurtseven
Madness 2017 Men’s Basketball Recruit Rankings:
#100 Lavar Batts