N.C. State freshman ‘Cat’ Barber an important newcomer for Mark Gottfried

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With five players with starting experience gone from last season’s NCAA tournament team, the recruiting class brought in by N.C. State head coach Mark Gottfried will need to be ready to contribute if the Wolfpack are to reach the Big Dance for the third consecutive season.

One of those newcomers is 6-2 guard Anthony “Cat” Barber, and with the departures of guards Lorenzo Brown (entered the NBA Draft after his junior season), Rodney Purvis (transferred to UConn) and Scott Wood (graduated) the Hampton, Va. native will need to hit the ground running.

Thus far the reviews have been positive, especially when it comes to the way in which Barber and sophomore point guard Tyler Lewis (3.5 ppg, 1.4 apg as a freshman) have worked together in offseason pickup games.

”I think he’s going to be an awfully good player over time,” Gottfried said according to the Associated Press. ”Even in the pickup games our guys have played, the word is he and Tyler feed off each other and like playing together. We’ll see how all that works out. We’re excited about both of them, both of those two guys.”

Also factoring into the perimeter rotation are LSU transfer Ralston Turner and New Mexico JC product Desmond Lee, who like Barber hails from the Old Dominion state (Lee’s from Norfolk). Of the quartet Turner is the most experienced (at the Division I level), as he averaged 10.6 points and 2.8 rebounds per game (29.4 mpg) in two seasons at LSU.

And with that lack of experience comes the question of how this group will be able to account for the production lost with the departures of Brown, Purvis and Wood on the perimeter. And we can’t forget the departures of forwards Richard Howell (graduated) and C.J. Leslie (entered the 2013 NBA Draft) either.

N.C. State’s most experienced returnee: sophomore forward T.J. Warren, who averaged 12.1 points and 4.2 rebounds per contest in 2012-13, earning ACC All-Freshman Team honors.

For all the criticism the Wolfpack took in 2012-13, that was still a group that ranked in the Top 15 nationally in both offensive adjusted efficiency (115.7; 10th) and effective field goal percentage (54.2%; 15th).

With those numbers in mind, not to mention the ACC’s addition of three perennial NCAA tournament teams (Notre Dame, Pittsburgh and Syracuse) and the improvement of some of the conference’s recent bottom feeders (Boston College and Georgia Tech immediately come to mind), Gottfried’s young Wolfpack will have their work cut out for them in 2013-14.

But with the addition of Barber, Turner and freshman big men BeeJay Anya and Kyle Washington, N.C. State’s cupboard won’t be barren when it comes to talent. The question: whether or not the youngsters can limit the struggles that tend to come as a byproduct of inexperience.

VIDEO: Kris Dunn wills Providence to win over No. 11 Arizona

Kris Dunn, Elliott Pitts
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
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Kris Dunn spent the first 35 minutes of Friday night’s game against No. 11 Arizona in foul trouble, splitting his time between sitting on the bench and trying to avoid finding himself, again, on the wrong side the whistle.

With 11 minutes left in the game, and with Dunn yet to find a rhythm, the all-american point guard was whistled for his fourth foul as he battled for a rebound with Arizona’s Mark Tollefsen. Head coach Ed Cooley say his superstar beside his for six game minutes, time enough for Arizona to turn a 49-47 deficit into a 58-54 lead.

There were just over five minutes left when Dunn reentered the second semifinal of the Wooden Legacy, and he proceeded to show everyone in the country why he was named the Preseason Player of the Year. Providence had nine possessions after he reentered the game. Dunn scored 11 points and had a pair of assists on those eight possessions, and if Ben Bentil had stuck a wide-open three — that was setup by Dunn — the Friars would have scored on all nine.

In total, Dunn was responsible for all 15 Friar points in a game-changing, 15-7 run in the final 4:30. It was capped off by this Kobe-in-his-prime-esque game-winner:

The win for Providence is huge for a couple of reasons:

  • Dunn showed a killer instinct against a marquee opponent, something that we didn’t necessarily see out of him a season ago. He wasn’t going to let his team lose, and given that Providence doesn’t have anyone else that can consistently create good shots, they are going to need that from him a lot this year.
  • It makes a statement for the Friars. Arizona is overrated at No. 11 in the country, yes, but going out on national television against an elite program and getting this kind of performance from Dunn is a confidence-booster and a tone-setter. Providence hasn’t been accustomed to winning in recent years. This is a way to set a trend.
  • Ben Bentil continues to play like a star. Dunn had 19 points and eight assists on Friday, but Bentil followed up a 24-point performance in the win over Evansville with 21 critical points on Friday.

This win sets up a matchup between No. 3 Michigan State and Providence on Sunday night, which means that Denzel Valentine and Kris Dunn — the two best players in the country, sorry Ben Simmons — will be going head-to-head.

Oh. Hell. Yes.

No. 14 Cal goes 0-2 in Las Vegas Invitational

Jaylen Brown
AP Photo/Ben Margot
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After midnight on the east coast on Thanksgiving, No. 14 Cal blew a 15 point second half lead against San Diego State, allowing the Aztecs to use a 30-6 run to put away the game and advance to the final of the Las Vegas Invitational. That’s the same San Diego State team had scored 43 points in a loss to Arkansas-Little Rock last week.

Not 24 hours later, the Golden Bears were shredded defensively by the Richmond Spiders, losing 94-90 in the consolation game of a four-team tournament they were considered to be the heavy favorite in.

It’s a disappointing two-game stretch for Cal, who entered the season as a Pac-12 favorite and had looked the part for the first four games of the season.

And the issue appears to be on the defensive end of the floor.

Richmond is a good Atlantic 10 team. Terry Allen and Marshall Wood are high-major big men, Shawn’Dre Jones is a jitterbug at the point and Chris Mooney runs a Princeton-esque system that is very difficult to prepare for without a day in-between games. So it’s not really surprising that the Spiders gave Cal a fight.

But 94 points?

On the heels of giving up 44 points in the second half against the offensively-challenged Aztecs?

That’s a problem, one that I’m sure that Cuonzo Martin is going to address this week in practice. Martin has managed to put together a roster that is build for small-ball, with four talented perimeter players surrounding a first round pick in the post. But that’s not the style that he’s known for. Martin played his college ball at Purdue in the Gene Keady days. He cut his teeth as a head coach at Missouri State in the Missouri Valley. His team’s at Tennessee were known for being tough and physical defensively.

That’s how Martin coaches, which is part of the reason Cal had such hype entering the year.

The talents of Tyrone Wallace, Jaylen Brown, Ivan Rabb, Jabari Bird and Jordan Mathews on a team with a coach that gets teams to defend the way Martin does? It’s no surprise that pundits would be optimistic.

But as of now, they have some work to do defensively if they want to live up to that hype.