The Matchup: Northwestern (5-1) @ North Carolina State (5-0)
Location: RBC Center (Raleigh, NC)
TV: ESPNU (6:00 PM CT Tuesday December 1st)
Radio: WIND 560 AM
Fun Fact: This is the second ACC/Big Ten Challenge meeting between N.C. State and Northwestern. N.C. won in Raleigh in 2002-03.
About the Game
This ACC/Big Ten Challenge game features two teams that were crowed tournament champions last week. Northwestern won the 4th Annual Chicago Invitational Challenge and N.C. State won the Glenn Wilkes Classic.
N.C. State used good defense to win that tournament as they held their opponents to 53.8 ppg. The Wolfpack didn’t exactly explode on offensive as they scored 65.2 ppg, but that total puts them and Northwestern very much in the same neighborhood. Basically, both teams want to slow the game enough that the winning margin is somewhere in the 60s or low 70s at the highest.
In terms of generating points, N.C. State looks to a pair of forwards to lead the offense. Senior Dennis Horner stands 6-9 and weighs 226 pounds. He averages 15.5 ppg (stat as of 11/28) and has made 7-of-12 three pointers this season. He is also a 90% free throw shooter so it is clear he is an excellent shooter. N.C. State’s other scoring forward is junior Tracy Smith. Smith is 21-of-47 this year, but has not tried a three pointer. He does, however, lead the team in free throw attempts and both offensive and defensive rebounds. It will be important NU keep him off the glass to prevent easy baskets.
Another interesting matchup for Northwestern will be 6-7 freshman guard Scott Wood. Wood is suppose to be a three point shooter, but so far this year he has struggled. He is shooting only about 30% from three. In the past, many struggling shooters have broken out against Northwestern and the 1-3-1 zone. Coach Carmody did an excellent job against Iowa State of not staying in the 1-3-1 when the Cyclones started to hit easy threes. Although it might be tempting to stick in the 1-3-1 against N.C. State because the Wolfpack have basically a 1-to-1 assist to turnover ratio, if Wood and Horner start hitting threes Carmody needs to be willing to go back to the matchup zone.
The tough part of the matchup will be that other than point guard Javier Gonzalez every Wolfpack starter is 6-6 or taller. Northwestern commonly plays three guys who are 6-4 or shorter. This means that NU will really need to crash the glass and will need to try and force some turnovers to compensate for Wolfpack offensive rebounds.
A lot of pressure will be on NU’s three-headed monster at center. All three NU centers have had strong moments this season, but they need to be more consistent. Though N.C. State is big overall, unless they play 7-1 238-pound freshman Jordan Vandenberg, the tallest player on the court will be the NU center. That means Rowley, Mirkovic, and Curletti should all be aggressively attacking the glass.
These teams seem very even as both have similar records and both play similar styles of basketball. Northwestern has an advantage it seems in that they take care of the ball better, but N.C. State seems statistically better at converting second chance points off of offensive rebounds. N.C. State also has an edge in that they are playing at home, but Northwestern has faced much stronger competition so far this season and although they have to travel, they do get an extra day off. Traditionally, teams struggle when facing the Princeton Offense with only one day of prep. Northwestern, 65 N.C. State, 63