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Breaking down Virginia, NC State ahead of Saturday matchup in Raleigh

dereon sebron nc state uva
Dereon Seabron throws down two for N.C. State. Photo courtesy Atlantic Coast Conference.

NC State has three sensational basketball talents, and nothing in terms of cohesion, identifiable style, approach, anything resembling structure.

Which is to say, State can be dangerous, but as much to itself as to opponents.

The Wolfpack (9-10, 2-6 ACC) has lost eight of its last 10 after a 7-2 start, the most recent L hung by Virginia Tech, 62-59, on Wednesday.

The Hokies exposed State’s weaknesses on the defensive end – the Pack ranks 204th nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency, allowing opponents 1.045 points per possession – allowing the Hokies to dominate the paint.

Virginia Tech had a 34-22 advantage in points in the paint, and 30 of those were shots at the rim – Tech was 15-of-20 at the rim, with Justyn Mutts (13 points, 6-of-8 FG) and Keve Aluma (10 points, 5-of-7 FG) repeatedly beating the back end of the Pack’s D on lane cuts.

Synergy Sports data rates NC State as “poor” defending lane cuts. The Wolfpack allows opponents to shoot 73.6 percent and score 1.324 points per possession on lane cuts, which almost always lead to layups or dunks.

Rotation guys

Dereon Seabron, a 6’7” sophomore, is a tough guard as a stretch four (19.3 ppg, 9.4 rebounds/g, 3.4 assists/g, 53.1% FG, 22.6% 3FG).

Need to watch him in transition (70.7% FG, 1.282 PPP), on offensive stickbacks (68.4% FG, 1.356 PPP) and lane cuts (66.7% FG, 1.429 PPP).

Pack coach Kevin Keatts uses him on a lot in pick-and-roll ball-handler – 130 possessions, roughly seven a game – and you can live with that on D – he shoots 40.7 percent and turns the ball over on 21.5 percent of those possessions.

Freshman Terquavion Smith, a 6’4” point guard, can put the ball in the hole (14.6 ppg, 40.3% FG, 35.2% 3FG), more as a spot-up guy (37.8% FG, 1.091 PPP), some in transition (51.9% FG, 1.143 PPP).

You need to keep an eye on 6’7” senior Jericole Hellems (14.2 ppg, 41.7 % FG, 40.2% 3FG) on spot-ups (38% FG, 1.054 PPP) and on the secondary break (65.4% FG, 1.351 PPP in transition).

The size and versatility offensively of the big three create problems on that end for most teams.

At two guard, Keatts splits 6’1” senior Thomas Allen (4.0 ppg, 37.5% FG, 29.7% 3FG) and 6’4” Virginia transfer Casey Morsell (7.3 ppg, 34.9% FG, 38.0% 3FG).

Morsell had 11 points on 4-of-7 shooting in the loss to Virginia Tech this week. Going into that one, he’d averaged 3.0 points per game over his previous nine games, shooting 7-of-37 (18.9%) from the floor.

At five is 6’11” sophomore Ebenezer Dowuona (4.0 ppg, 4.7 rebounds/g, 53.6% FG), who is a sieve on defense – opponents shoot 52.6 percent from the floor and score 1.35 points per possession.

The other rotation guy is former point guard starter Cam Hayes (8.3 ppg, 32.5% FG, 22.2% 3FG), who’s averaging just 3.2 points per game over the Pack’s last eight, on 9-of-50 shooting (18%).


6’7” power forward Jayden Gardner (14.0 ppg, 7.0 rebounds/g, 52.7% FG) gets the assignment on the 6’7” Seabron. Good luck there. Gardner rates as a “good” defender per Synergy Sports, but Seabron is not your usual four, doing most of his work off the dribble.

I’m thinking Tony Bennett goes with 6’4” guard Armaan Franklin (12.2 ppg, 42.6% FG, 23.9% 3FG) on the 6’7” Hellems.

Franklin had an off-night in the win at Pitt – a quiet six points on 3-of-9 shooting. Going to need more from him on the offensive end.

Hellems can have issues with foul trouble – he averages 4.0 fouls per 40 minutes.

Attack him off the dribble.

Bennett almost certainly goes with 6’3” guard Reece Beekman (8.1 ppg, 4.8 assists/g, 43.6% FG, 30.6% FG) on the 6’5” Smith on defense.

Beekman leads the ACC in steals, rates as an “excellent” defender, per Synergy Sports, allowing 30.4 percent shooting, forcing opponents into turnovers on 24 percent of their usages, and allowing .633 points per possession.

On the offensive end, Beekman is averaging 13.2 points on 55.7 percent shooting (44.4 percent from three) in his last seven games.

This could be the key matchup of the game from Virginia’s perspective.

Virginia’s bigs, 6’11” sophomore Kadin Shedrick (6.2 ppg, 5.1 rebounds/g, 59.7% FG) and 7’1” junior Francisco Caffaro (4.1 ppg, 3.6 rebounds/g, 50.0% FG) will need to help Gardner with Seabron, and can also play a role on the offensive end exploiting the porous back end of the Pack defense.

The duo combined for 16 points on 8-of-9 shooting and eight rebounds in the win at Pitt. Both also fouled out. That can’t happen again on Saturday.

Not sure what’s up with 5’9” ‘Hoos PG Kihei Clark (8.1 ppg, 4.0 assists/g, 39.1% FG, 37.3% 3FG), who has been averaging 6.4 points and 3.0 assists per game over his last five, shooting just 11-of-41 (26.8%) from the field.

Story by Chris Graham

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