Over the course of the next two weeks, College Basketball Talk will be detailing what some of the country’s best, most intriguing, and thoroughly enigmatic teams need. It’s the spirit of the holidays. We’re in a giving mood.
What do other teams have on their Christmas Wish Lists? Click here to find out.
Gotta have it list-topper: Defensive stops
NC State ranks 226th in the nation, giving up 68.3 points per game. Granted, that is in part due to their up-tempo pace and they put up 78.4 points per game themselves, but they’ll have to lock down defensively before the start of ACC play. With how impressive they have been offensively (Top 30 in scoring, nearly 40 percent from three-point range, best field-goal percentage in the country), working to get defensive stops turns NC State from a Sweet 16 contender to a team that can run deeper into March.
Gottfried doesn’t have a go-to shot blocker or enforcer in the paint, but Richard Howell and C.J. Leslie are both capable of denying or altering shots at the rim. On the perimeter, NC State ranks in the top half of the conference in steals, thanks in large part to guard Lorenzo Brown (2.3 steals per game).
Stocking stuffer: Cutting down on turnovers
It usually happens for everyone after the holiday season, hitting the gym and trimming some pounds off the waistline after they’ve accumulated from all that eggnog and pie. But for Mark Gottfried and his NC State Wolfpack, they’re trying to trim down on turnovers before the start of conference play after the New Year.
NC State turns the ball over 14 times per game, which ranks them in the bottom half of the ACC. Against teams like Duke, which turn the ball over much less, conference play will take a toll on them. The turnover number is in part because of pace, as well, but they don’t force turnovers particularly well, either, which leads to a low turnover margin.
Planning on re-gifting: No. 1 Duke
Few expected Duke to be this dominant in the early part of the season. Mason Plumlee has emerged as a true star and double-double machine for the Blue Devils and it will be an uphill battle for NC State to overtake them and win the ACC. The importance of center Richard Howell (14.1 ppg, 9.6 rpg) is amplified with Plumlee’s emergence and he will be tabbed with slowing down Duke’s inside game when the Blue Devils travel for their first match-up Jan. 12.