ON THE BEAT: Billiken Talk

Billiken Report beat writer Ben Weixlmann spoke with Pack Pride about the Wolfpack's next opponent, No. 5 seed Saint Louis. Weixlmann talked about the team's strengths, weaknesses, and much more in this exclusive interview.

Billiken Report beat writer Ben Weixlmann spoke with Pack Pride about the Wolfpack's next opponent, No. 5 seed Saint Louis. Weixlmann talked about the team's strengths, weaknesses, and much more in this exclusive interview.

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They had a 19-game winning streak which is certainly impressive. What was working during that stretch?
They were playing as a cohesive unit on offense. Some of the wins weren't pretty, but the down moments they had during the game were masked by them winning.

It wasn't always pretty basketball. George Mason twice... Duquesne was up with two minutes to play in that game. There were definitely some close calls so I think a lot of folks around the program and who cover the team thought the slide that has happened would happen. However, I don't know that we thought it would be this severe, having lost four out of five.

The streak was impressive and speaks to the talent and experience of the team. There is a lot of leadership that willed them to victories during that stretch.

What has caused the recent skid?
Definitely turnovers. They are a team that is not a tremendous offensive team that's going to put 80 on you. They don't have a ton of weapons so they must maximize each opportunity and during that stretch when they were struggling, they got away from making crisp passes... there were just some boneheaded plays.

A lot of the stuff is things that can be fixed. Boxing out better, not turning the ball over... it's not complex. They just need to get back to the basics.

Describe their offensive philosophy. What do they try to do offensively?
They want to get Dwayne Evans, an all-conference player, involved in the paint... getting him going because they have some capable outside shooters. Mike McCall and Rob Loe can stretch the floor and shoot the three-pointer... Loe can do so at 6'11.

Jordair Jett

You'll see them try to work inside-out because that's something they try to do early on.

Jordair Jett stands out physically. You don't see many point guards built like that. Is it accurate to say he's going to try to get in the lane and get to the free throw line, but not beat you from the perimeter?
That's 100% accurate. That's his game and why he's the A-10 Player of the Year.

He looks like a linebacker. He's about 5'10, 205 pounds, and he has tremendous explosion. At one point you think you have him bottled up, but his first step is lethal. He'll blow by you.

That's a matchup I'm interested to watch. How will NC State try to defend Jett? I can't see them putting Tyler Lewis on him because Jordair is, in my opinion, too strong for him.

Jordair will shoot one or two three's a game, and they are flat-footed and look ill-advised... it's not his game. He's at his best getting into the lane and trying to create for himself and others.

Have opponents used a lot of zone against Saint Louis because of his ability to get in the lane and work off ball screens?
They struggle with zone and that's why I want to see what NC State is going to do.

Bonaventure was down by ten at halftime and went to a 1-3-1 zone and it stumped Saint Louis... they couldn't figure out how to deal with it. Other teams have zoned as well because the three-point shooting hasn't been consistent, but they have some capable shooters.

If I was Gottfried I'd probably mix in some zone, but I don't know if I would do it for an entire game because they do have some shooters. I imagine Saint Louis has worked on it in preparation for this game.

Would you describe Saint Louis as an overly athletic team?
I wouldn't say overly athletic. Jordair is very explosive and very athletic, but otherwise there isn't a lot of above-average athleticism on the team.

Rob Loe is not athletic whatsoever and neither is Jake Barnett or Jon Manning, a big man off the bench.

They aren't overly athletic as a team. I'd say methodical would be the best way to describe them. They really value the basketball, and I think that's what has angered them the most. They are mad at themselves for the recent turnover issues.

You've mentioned Loe is an outside shooter. Do they have post players that can score on the block or do they generate paint points off penetration and rebounding?
Dwayne Evans is definitely a guy who works well on the block. He's listed generously at 6'6, but he knows how to use his body and get around defenders. He's not overly athletic but can get great position in the post.

Rob Loe's strength is perimeter shooting, but he's improved his paint game in recent years. He has a baby hook that he can use so he'll get some post-up opportunities as well.

Evans is definitely the guy they will look to the most inside the paint.

I know they start five seniors. Do they have great depth or do they tend to rely almost exclusively on their starting five?
This is a starter-heavy group.

Jake Barnett starts, but he sees suspect minutes at times. Your first bench guy is Grandy Glaze. I'd label him an energy guy. He works hard in the paint and can generate some points off offensive putbacks. He's a strong defender too.

The other to keep an eye on is Austin McBroom. He's the third guard and a solid three-point shooter. He was giving about 12-13 points a game for an extended stretch but has recently struggled. He's a very good shooter. You can't really leave him open.

Defensively they stand out statistically. Why are they so strong on that end of the floor?
You'll see a ton of man.

Rob Loe

A lot of people talk about the deliberate pace, but their possessions have increased the last couple of years.

Most of it is the principles they have. They preach defense and these guys have been in the system for so long... they just work well together on that end of the floor. They say that their defense keys the offense and that's been instilled in them.

They just get up in you. I would not enjoy being defended by Jordair Jett or Mike McCall. I wouldn't call that fun. They really get under your skin, get in your jersey, and try to take the ball away, force tough shots, shotclock violations.

How you expect them to defend T.J. Warren?
They will start with Jake Barnett. I think that move is more of a preventative measure to keep Dwayne Evans out of foul trouble.

I think they will throw a lot of different looks at him, but they realize T.J. is going to get his. You have to limit that second guy. You can't let Ralston Turner get 20 or Desmond Lee or Tyler Lewis get 15.

If you tell the staff they are going to give up 25 to T.J. they would probably expect that because he's doing that or more against everybody. But if they see Ralston Turner got six points, then they'd feel like they did a good job.

When it comes down to defending Warren it's going to be hard for anyone, so you'll see Barnett get the start and it will be interesting to see how they shake it up throughout the game.

It seems like a lot of the national media believes NC State has a very good shot to win this game, and they like to point to SLU's recent slide. Where is the confidence of the team right now?
I was very surprised. They lost four of five, but when we met with them on Sunday they were very confident.

It's a team that doesn't lack confidence. They understand what national folks are saying, they see the news, and they expect to go out and win and prove some people wrong.

I don't think their confidence, or lack thereof, will be an issue.


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