NC Central Vs. NC State Preview: Is There A Forward In The House?

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

NCCU @ StatSheet
2013 Stats
2014 Roster
2014 Schedule

NCCU Offense 12-13
Four Factors Percent Nat'l Rank
eFG% 49.3 126
Turnover Rate 23.0 317
Off Reb Rate 30.6 210
FTA/FGA 45.5 11

Say this for LeVelle Moton: the guy has quietly done a hell of a job building a program that was so bad it may as well have been starting from scratch. When NC State played the Eagles back in 2008, which was their first year at the I-A level, they managed 29 points in the entire game. For several years, NCCU was lucky just to win a few ballgames, and they were near the bottom of the Pomeroy Ratings.

In the years since Moton came on board, he's steadily made the team into something approaching respectable--at least by mid-major standards, and certainly by MEAC standards. When they saw us a few years after the '08 meeting, they managed to lose by just five. Central won 22 games last year and finished 15-1 in league play, which is something that would have seemed unimaginable five years prior.

I should be clear here: this is still not a good team. Being king of your conference doesn't mean a hell of a lot when said conference is among the worst in the nation. NC Central has two of its top three scorers to replace from a year ago. The team is desperately wanting for size--the Eagles rank 349th in Ken Pomeroy's effective height metric, and they don't have a lot of depth. Those limitations probably will prove too much to overcome.

Starters

Emanuel Chapman (6-1, 160) -- Chapman does a couple of things well--his assist rates have been strong throughout his career, and he's pretty good at stealing the basketball. He won't shoot much, which is good considering he's never been very adept at the scoring thing. He also turns the ball over a ton.

Jeremy Ingram (6-3, 175) -- Ingram's workload has increased every year to the point now where he's taking almost a third of Central's shots while he is on the floor. Considering the uncertain situation behind him, that's not overly surprising. He is off to a torrid start to his senior year, averaging nearly 27 points per game while shooting well inside and out and getting to the line a ton. His track record suggested that he could handle a workload this big and remain efficient, and while it's a fair bet he won't maintain an offensive rating north of 130 all year, he's a legitimate threat.

Alfonzo Houston (6-3, 190) -- Houston also is shooting the ball quite a bit more often and it is ... not going quite as well. With an eFG% south of 40, he'd probably be better served cutting back a smidge, but the truth is that his track record is so limited it's difficult to gauge where the hell his true talent level as a shooter lies.

Ebuka Anyaorah (6-4, 194) -- The increased workloads elsewhere appear to be coming partially at Anyaorah's expense, which is not necessarily in Central's best interests. He knocked down half his twos and 34.2% of his threes while taking about 24% of the shots in 2013, making him an incredibly valuable scorer by NCCU standards. This year his shot percentage is at the level of a role player, not a primary contributor. His shooting percentage is up as a result, though. (Pssst, Alfonzo! Hey! Alfonzo! *points in Anyaorah's direction*)

Jay Copeland (6-7, 255) -- Well hot damn, it's an actual forward-type person. Copeland has a turnover problem, but he proved last season that he can be an effective interior scorer. He also posted excellent block and free throw rates and grabbed a lot of offensive boards.

Bench

Reggie Groves (6-2, 190), Jordan Parks (6-7, 200). Groves transferred in because he was wasting away on the bench at Canisius, and it's not hard to see why he was never able to become a major contributor. He was a passable three-point shooter for a couple of seasons. His steal and assist rates were solid. The rest of the picture is rather ugly.

Parks, another transfer, is heading into just his fourth game at the I-A level, but things are going swimmingly so far. Like, incredibly well. I have no idea what to make of it.

NCCU Defense 12-13
Four Factors Percent Nat'l Rank
eFG% 45.6 57
Turnover Rate 22.9 33
Off Reb Rate 31.1 135
FTA/FGA 38.8 247

Probably the biggest reason for Central's improvement under Moton is right here. When he first took the job, the Eagles were coming off a season in which they ranked 332nd in adjusted defensive efficiency. Last year they ranked 79th, placing it about 35 spots higher in the rankings than NC State's defense. Not too shabby.

The team's small stature this year required some adjustments on Central's part, and you know what that means, kids! More zone defense. Opponents are taking a ton of threes early on; Central is essentially turning everybody into Sendek-era NC State.

NC State would prefer not to heave up a bunch of threes--it's been that way for a while now. We might be better suited to adjust to taking more of them with this roster than we were over the last couple of years, though. Let's just hope our zone offense is prepared, because I don't want to see us dribbling around the perimeter for 25 seconds every time down.

Moton's defenses have forced a significant number of turnovers consistently through the years and so far this season they're thriving on steals. State will have to be extra careful about that, and if the Wolfpack does take care of the ball, the cracks in the defense will begin to show. This Eagles group ain't gonna be cleaning up the boards at the defensive end.

The Pomeroy Predictor likes NC State by nine.

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