North Carolina State Wolfpack
2018-19 record: 24-12, 9-9 in the ACC
Head coach: Kevin Keatts
Tenure at N.C. State: 3rd season
Career coaching record: 117-52
Home court: PNC Arena
Starters: G Markell Johnson, G Braxton Beverly, G C.J. Bryce, G Devon Daniels, F D.J. Funderburk
Bench: G Blake Harris, G Jericole Hellems, F Pat Andree, G Dereon Seabron
Overview: Last season left a sour taste with Wolfpack fans after N.C. State missed the NCAA tournament despite an impressive record and a win over an eventual Final Four team in Auburn. In the end, its strength of schedule was too weak, and Kevin Keatts’ squad was unable to pull out a ranked ACC win to overshadow a disturbing 47-24 loss to Virginia Tech in February. In 2019-20, however, the Wolfpack have added some tough challenges in their schedule and seem determined to make it to the big dance in March.
Leading scorer Torin Dorn and big man Wyatt Walker are gone, but Keatts will have arguably the ACC’s deepest backcourt with four capable upperclassmen guards. Without a doubt, N.C. State will be led by Markell Johnson, who was recognized on the preseason All-ACC second team and was the team’s most consistent scorer in the postseason last year.
Although the Wolfpack look prime for a return to major postseason play, Keatts will need to solve a big problem with his front court. Redshirt junior D.J. Funderburk received most of the minutes at center last season and is a reliable post presence, but the 6-foot-10 forward was suspended indefinitely by the team in September and N.C. State can now only hope that sharpshooting Lehigh grad-transfer Pat Andree can fill his shoes.
One thing that needs to go right: Johnson needs to play at an All-ACC level all season and take over games that N.C. State could drop to subpar opponents. In addition to their usual quality conference wins, the Wolfpack need to avoid a repeat of last year and grab a quality nonconference win that the selection committee can’t overlook.
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One thing that could go wrong: With so few big men at their disposal, a member of their frontcourt underperforms or gets injured, and the ACC takes advantage of the Wolfpack in the paint.