The 6-0 NC State men’s basketball team will have its first road test when it plays at Purdue Tuesday night in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. The Wolfpack, currently 22nd in the ESPN.com RPI, is off to its best start since the 2004-05 season.
1. Going For 7-0
A win at Purdue would lift the Wolfpack to a 7-0 start, the first such start for NCSU under Mark Gottfried. NC State is currently 6-0 to start a season for the first time since 2004-05, when the Wolfpack won its first eight games.
If this edition of the Wolfpack beats Purdue and gets to 7-0, it would be the 10th time since the start of the ACC (1953-54) that NC State has started a season with a 7-0 mark.
2.Early Look At NC State's Resume
Although its early, NC State is starting to build itself quite the tournament resume.
CBS Sports ranks the Wolfpack 19th in its RPI rating, ESPN.com charts the Pack 22nd.
The Wolfpack has three wins over teams in the top 100, and a fourth over Hofstra (RPI 101). NC State and Miami are the only ACC teams with two victories over current top-30 RPI teams.
3. Opponents Feeling Rejected
NC State is among the national leaders in blocked shots. The Wolfpack is currently first in the ACC and tied for seventh in the nation (with Purdue) with 6.83 blocked shots per game.
Led by BeeJay Anya’s school-record 10 rejections, NC State recorded 14 blocked shots in a 79-43 win over Jacksonville. The Pack also owns two games with seven blocks and a game with six swats. Anya leads the conference with 23 swats, which is also good for eighth in the nation. Only two teams (Kentucky and Texas) in Power 5 conferences have more blocked shots than NC State.
4. Pack In The ACC-Big Ten Challenge
NC State and Purdue will be reuniting in this the 16th edition of the ACC-Big Ten Challenge. The two teams met in the very first challenge in 1999, with NC State winning 61-59 at Mackey Arena.
The Wolfpack also defeated Purdue in 2004. NC State is 6-8 all-time in the event, including a 69-48 rout over Northwestern last season. (NC State didn’t play in it in 2008).
Historically, the Pack is 113-99 vs. the current membership of the Big Ten.
5. 3 Seasons, 3 NCAAs
Mark Gottfried, in his fourth season at NC State, will be working toward mentoring his team into the NCAA Tournament for the fourth straight season. The Wolfpack has made the Big Dance in each of his first three seasons, making Gottfried the first Pack coach and just the fourth in ACC history to achieve that feat.
It marks the first time NC State had made three straight tournaments since 2004-06.
A 7-0 ‘MARK’
Prior to this season, Mark Gottfried had begun a season 7-0 or better four times in his coaching career.
At Alabama, he started the 2006-07 season 7-0. He coach Alabama to 9-0 starts in 2002-03 and 2000-01. His last Murray State team (1997-98) also started that season 9-0.
NC STATE ON THE ROAD
The Pack is no stranger to winning on the road. Last year’s road wins were a key ingredient to getting NC State into the 2014 NCAA Tournament. Last season, NC State won at Tennessee, Notre Dame, Miami and Pittsburgh to highlight an impressive resume away from home.
PACK VS. PURDUE
NC State is 4-0 all-time vs. Purdue with a 2-0 record in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.
The Wolfpack won at Purdue in 1999 and the 1974 national title team got 26 points from David Thompson in an 86-81 at Purdue in January 1974.
Mark Gottfried is quite familiar with Purdue’s Mackey Arena.
He took his 2001 Alabama team to Purdue for the NIT and won 85-77. That Bama team ended up in Madison Square Garden in the NIT semifinal. In Gottfried’s first season as a head coach, he took Murray State to Purdue in 1995. In his third game as a head coach, he beat Drexel at Mackey before losing the next night to a Purdue team that would eventually be a Number 1 seed in the 1996 NCAA tourney.
...MORE ABOUT 1996
Not only did Mark Gottfried’s Murray State team play at Purdue, but assistants Bobby Lutz and Orlando Early each faced that ‘96 Purdue team that same year.
Lutz, then an assistant at Charlotte, played Purdue in the Bahamas and was edged 73-67. Early, then an assistant at Western Carolina, was a 16-seed in the 1996 NCAA taking on top seed Purdue. Early’s 16-seed squad was edged 73-71.
WOLFPACK GUARD PLAY
One strength for NC State is the team’s backcourt. Cat Barber, Trevor Lacey and Ralston Turner are the team’s leading scorers, with the trio combining to score 43.6 points per game. Each player has at least one game with 23 points or more.
Barber poured in a career-high 25 points with six rebounds and six assists against Jackson State and Turner went for a career-high 24 vs. Hofstra. Lacey scored 22 points (20 in the first half) against Jackson State and led NCSU with 21 points vs. South Florida.
Barber and Lacey are also the team’s primary ballhandlers.
MORE ON TREVOR
Trevor Lacey, who Mark Gottfried calls “a coach on the floor”, provides leadership on and off the court for NC State.
Lacey is averaging 17.3 points and 6.5 rebounds per game while leading State in minutes played (33.5).
Lacey opened the season with 22 points vs. Jackson State and then added a double-double (16 pts, 10 rebs) vs. Hofstra. He has led NC State in scoring with 21 points vs. USF and 26 vs. Richmond.
Trevor Lacey made the three biggest plays of the game at the end of NC State’s win over Boise State.
Leading 55-54, NC State went to Lacey, who drove to the basket for a lay-up at the 1:05 mark. After a stop, Lacey buried a step-back jumper to put NC State up 59-54 with 29 seconds left. He then grabbed the game-icing defensive rebound on the next possession.
The Wolfpack is currently 24 in the nation in effective FG defense (.405) and seventh in the country in blocked shots (6.83).
The Pack held its first three opponents to worse than 31 percent shooting. Jacksonville shot just .232 against the Pack, the lowest field goal percentage for an opponent since Jan. 9, 2008 vs. NC Central (.203).
NC State blocked 14 Jacksonville shots while allowing just 13 made baskets.
LENNARD DOING HIS THING
Lennard Freeman has quietly been one of NC State’s most productive players. Freeman, now sixth in the ACC with 8.8 rebounds per game, has grabbed 50 rebounds over the past five contests.
He pulled in 13 rebounds vs. Hofstra, had a double-double vs. Jacksonville (10 pts, 12 rebs) and then grabbed 10 boards against USF. Freeman is ninth in the ACC in offensive rebounds and seventh in defensive rebounds.
TREVOR MOVING HIS FEET
Trevor Lacey is almost always on the court for NC State, averaging 33.5 minutes per game. He ranks third in the ACC in minutes played. Despite playing all those minutes, Lacey has been whistled for just eight personal fouls.
Anthony ‘Cat’ Barber is becoming a force for NC State as the team’s starting point guard. Barber, who averaged 8.5 points per game and started 18 times last season, is scoring 12.5 points per game this season.
Mark Gottfried has also called Barber “one of the best on-the-ball defenders I’ve coached.” Barber drew a team-best 16 charges last season.
NC State is much improved on the glass. NC State ranked 326th in the nation in defensive rebounding percentage (64.3%) last season. After six games, that number has improved to 75.9%, which ranks fourth in the ACC.
NC State currently leads the ACC in defensive rebounds per game with 33.0. Individually, NC State is led on the boards by Lennard Freeman. The 6-8 sophomore is pulling in 8.8 rebounds per game.
NO LOSS NOVEMBER
The Wolfpack finished 6-0 in November, raising its mark to 19-6 in the month under Mark Gottfried.
The Pack, now 6-0 this season, went 4-2 in November 2013 and 2012 and 5-2 in November 2011. NC State owns a 36-9 record in November games dating back to 2007.
PACK 7-0 STARTS
Since the beginning of the ACC, NC State has recorded 9 seasons with a 7-0 start or better:
2004-05: Started 8-0... Ended 21-14
1999-00: Started 7-0... Ended 20-14
1981-82: Started 9-0... Ended 22-10
1975-76: Started 8-0... Ended 21-9
1974-75: Started 8-0... Ended 22-6
1972-73: Undefeated Season... 27-0
1969-70: Started 10-0... Ended 23-7
1955-56: Started 10-0... Ended 24-4
1954-55: Started 12-0... Ended 28-4