2017-18 record: 21-12, 11-7 in the ACC
Head coach: Kevin Keatts
Tenure at N.C. State: 2nd season
Career coaching record: 93-40
Home court: PNC Arena
Starters: G Markell Johnson, G C.J. Bryce, G Devon Daniels, G Torin Dorn, F Wyatt Walker
Bench: F DJ Funderburk, G Braxton Beverly, G Eric Lockett, G Blake Harris
Overview: Year one of the Kevin Keatts era could not have started better in Raleigh, as the former UNC Wilmington coach led the Wolfpack to wins against rivals Duke and North Carolina en route to a ninth seed in the NCAA Tournament. Keatts is still in the process of rebranding the program, but faces a literal big challenge this year after losing three forwards and centers who were key pieces last year.
N.C. State figures to be a guard-run team led by Torin Dorn, the second-leading scorer for the Wolfpack last season. He’ll be joined in the backcourt by transfer C.J. Bryce, who followed Keatts from Wilmington after averaging 17.4 points per game and making first team all-conference. N.C. State could possibly even start four guards, something that could help in Keatts’ up tempo press defense.
The real issue in Raleigh is the lack of a solid post presence. Abdul-Malik Abu and Lennard Freeman were hard-nosed forwards and were not afraid to get a scrappy rebound. Omer Yurtseven broke out in his sophomore year, but after testing the NBA Draft waters, opted to transfer to Georgetown and learn from an all-time great in Patrick Ewing. N.C. State will have to turn to a former top-100 recruit in DJ Funderburk, who was dismissed from Ohio State in 2017, and Samford transfer Wyatt Walker to provide an interior game.
One thing that needs to go right: Bryce hits a new level with added talent around him, and he and Dorn shoulder the majority of the scoring load. The dynamic duo will have to be proficient in creating shots without an inside-out post game.
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One thing that could go wrong: Without enough size inside, the Wolfpack get smothered in the rebounding game during conference play and fail to win an NCAA tournament game for the fourth year in a row.