What UVA Basketball fans need to know about N.C. State

NC StateN.C. State gutted out a 60-54 win over Clemson on Saturday, in a game that got tight late after the Wolfpack had built up a double-digit second-half lead.

Feels familiar for Virginia fans, whose team had a similar experience in their team’s win at Georgia Tech Saturday night.

What will also feel familiar is this N.C. State team when it comes out for pre-game warmups Monday night in JPJ.

Lots of familiar names and faces on this year’s Pack (13-5, 4-3 ACC).

We’ll start with Markell Johnson, the 6’1” senior point guard (13.1 ppg, 6.7 assists/g, 40.0% FG, 27.1% 3FG).

Johnson is adept at getting into the lane – 36.9 percent of his shots are at the rim, according to Hoop-Math.com, and he converts an impressive 58.9 percent.

Couple of issues: the 3.3 turnovers per game number feels a bit high, and he’s hitting just 55.8 percent from the line, which can be a big problem for a guy who gets into the paint as much as he does.

State’s leading scorer is C.J. Bryce, the stout 6’5”, 210-pound senior (15.0 ppg, 6.6 rebs/g, 52.9% FG, 41.4% 3FG).

Bryce is a rarity in today’s game: a classic mid-range guy. Diving into his shot selection, 49.7 percent of his shots are two-point jumpers, per Hoop-Math.com, and he shoots an impressive 54.2 percent on those shots.

Also impressive: he gets those shots on his own. Only 17.2 percent of his two-point jumper makes are assisted.

Devon Daniels, a 6’5” junior, is a nice complement in the backcourt (11.2 ppg, 48.2% FG, 31.8% 3FG).

Braxton Beverly is another name and face you’ll remember. The 6’0” junior is struggling a bit (7.6 ppg, 36.6% FG, 36.1% 3FG), but he’s the Pack’s best option from three, and he’s bound to get back on track at some point, and you just hope it’s not against you.

The load in the post for N.C. State is 6’10” junior D.J. Funderburk (13.1 ppg, 6.0 rebs/g, 63.3% FG).

Funderburk knows his role: 69.3 percent of his shot attempts come at the rim, and he converts 74.3 percent of those shots.

Depth in the post comes from 6’7” sophomore Jericole Hellems (9.9 ppg, 3.7 rebs/g, 39.9% FG, 35.5% 3FG), 6’8” senior Pat Andree (6.5 ppg, 3.2 rebs/g, 32.4% FG, 35.4% 3FG) and 6’11” freshman Manny Bates (5.7 ppg, 4.0 rebs/g, 61.6% FG).

Matchups: Defense

You can see the problem here matchup-wise.

You’ve got a quick guard who can get to the rim, a thick guard who can kill you from mid-range, and a 6’10” post guy who plays like a 6’10” post guy.

This is a pretty good team in terms of offensive efficiency: scoring 1.122 points per possession, per KenPom.com, 15th nationally.

The key will be what Kihei Clark can do on Johnson. Clark, reputationally, is one of the better on-ball defenders in college basketball, but he wasn’t at his best in the Georgia Tech game, where his opposite number, Jose Alvarado, went off for 20 points on 8-of-14 shooting, including 3-of-4 on shots at the rim.

Bryce, meanwhile, will be a challenge for Braxton Key, who did a nice job on Georgia Tech’s version of Bryce, Michael Devoe, holding the Yellow Jackets’ leading scorer to six points and just three shot attempts in the 63-58 win in Atlanta.

Expect to see Mamadi Diakite draw the Funderburk assignment, with Jay Huff providing help in post-to-post doubles sliding over from Bates, Hellems or Andree, depending on the situation.

Matchups: Offense

N.C. State is middle-of-the-pack defensively: allowing 0.978 points per possession, per KenPom, 112th nationally.

Key for Virginia will be getting more in terms of positive contributions from 6’5” junior Tomas Woldetensae, who is shooting 42.5 percent from three over his past nine games, on a team that is shooting a woeful 26.7 percent from three, 345th nationally.

He’s just one guy, but even his modest contributions from the perimeter can help open things up for Clark to get into the paint, and for Huff and Diakite to get space in the post.

Another key: getting Funderburk, who averages 4.6 fouls per 40 minutes of floor time, into early foul trouble. Funderburk has only fouled out once in 2019-2020, but he’s committed four fouls in three of his last five games.

Assume that he gets Diakite as his defensive matchup. Diakite will need to cut down on his tendency to float on the perimeter and attack Funderburk in the post as much as possible.

Story by Chris Graham

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