The first round draw will be a tough one, the Spartans of Michigan State University. They have reeled off four final four appearances in a row while NC State has a hard time just being invited to four NIT's in the last eleven years. Once again as in the past, NC State finds itself being the underdog if not in favorites at least in reputation.
The task ahead will be tough. MSU has plenty of 250 pound post players that will be looking forward to playing the Pack's big men. You can bet Spartan Coach Tom Izzo has seen the tapes of Darius Songalia, Lonnie Baxter, and Carlos Boozer having career days against NC State's interior defense. MSU will go into the MCI looking for a low post game to play. Pound, rebound and put backs will be their plan of the day.
If they stay in the blocks, mark it down. NC State will beat Michigan State.
The very design of NC State's "arc and go" offense was created to compete and defeat traditional college defenses such as Michigan State's "Junkyard Dog Defense". While conventional thought is to recruit big and strong post dwellers, Coach Herb Sendek has been signing athletic and versatile players to adapt to a changing college game. Guys who can step out beyond the arc to drain a three. Big men that can actually bring the ball up court against full press attacks. It has the potential to create real havoc in the college game as it exist today. It will create disaster for the defense of MSU.
The college game has changed over the last five years. It changed when Kevin Garnett (1995) and Kobe Bryant (1996) declared for the NBA draft. They opened the gates to the NBA and the best high school big men have flooded the pro rosters accordingly. Even the great college post players that still exist are weighing their options for early draft consideration (ie Chris Wilcox). In general (Boozer types being the exception), college centers are blue collar big men that play in the paint and seem out of place moving beyond ten feet from the rim.
Case in point. MSU's F Aloysius Anagonye (6-8, 255, Jr.). He's a great inside player, but come 12:30 in the MCI, he will be forced to take his game outside. He will be asked to chase Evtimov or Melvin around the arc to defend the three. His rebounding attempts will now start ten-fifteen feet from the basket. In the Big Ten annual toughman contest, he thrives. Against NC State, he will either be replaced (MSU bench is severely lacking) by Izzo in search of better match-ups or he will quickly find himself in foul trouble. Either way, MSU's strength has become their weakness. Anagonye will be the key to beating the Spartans, similar to the Wolfpack taking Lonnie Baxter out of his game during the ACC tournament.
One other player that could have a big day for the Spartans is their own version of versatility, F Adam Ballinger (6-9, 250, Jr.). He has game and could create problems with his three point shot (19-50 .380). If the Wolfpack offense is successful in taking Anagonye out of his game, then this could be a problem for Ballinger. As fans from NC State have watched all year, versatile big men play much better when they have their full supporting cast in tact.
NC State will need to shoot ball well for them to be successful on Friday. If the plan is to beat a good defense with a good offense, it just goes to say, you need to make your shots. Marcus Melvin has been on a roll over the last 8 games averaging 12.8 points (102) while shooting 32-61 from the field (.524). He needs to continue the shooting streak for the Pack to be successful.
One side note to why NC State will send Michigan State home early this year. The NCAAs are about experience in the backcourt. NC State has two seasoned seniors in Grundy and Miller. MSU's Marcus Taylor (So) is the team's starting PG. He is a good one, but so is Anthony Grundy. The Spartans also play two Freshmen on the wings. Kelvin Torbert and Chris Hill. It is hard to see these two meeting the standard that NC State has faced in ACC play this year. It is not so much a knock on them as players as it is taking note of their youth versus NC State's experience.
NC State will win the first round game in Washington DC. Forget E-Bay for tickets to the second round. Wolfpack fans may want to line-up outside the MCI and take advantage of disappointed Michigan State fans! NC State 82, Michigan State 67