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N&O Summer Hoops Preview: NC State

Today, the N&O's summer hoops preview covered NC State:

Tracy Smith. One of the biggest mistakes media-types make in projections is we forget to factor in improvement. For example (and bear with the UNC reference, State fans), but Ty Lawson and Wayne Ellington were miles better as juniors than they were as sophomores.

Players get older, they get more experience, they learn and they get better. We lose sight of that in college basketball because there are so many prospects that leave after one or two years or we downgrade the ones that stick around because of some bizarro NBA-potential stigma.

The point of that preamble is Tracy Smith is going to be a mile better as a junior. The power forward went from averaging 3.3 points as a freshman to 10.0 last year. In his third season, don't be surprised if Smith's numbers jump another seven points.

He's a no-nonsense player around the basket and he understands how to score points, either by attacking the rim or getting to the foul line (his 123 free-throw attempts were second on the team despite only starting 12 times and playing an average of 18.2 minutes per game.)

It's also important not to mistake an increase in playing time for improvement.  Which is not to say that Tracy didn't improve from his freshman to sophomore year--he did--but rather that the improvement in raw per-game figures (from 3 PPG to 10 PPG) is more an indicator of increased PT.  Smith was effective in the few minutes he got as a freshman, and his per-minute scoring production in conference play was roughly the same that year (18.1) as it was in 2009 (19.6).  The big difference was minutes.  If he gets 30 minutes a night this season, he'll probably end up averaging around 15 PPG, though 17 PPG is every bit as possible as JP suggests.

If he really is a mile better as a junior--if he's added a respectable mid-range game and refined his low-block repertoire--well, look out.

Here's a list of returning ACC players who took 24% or more of their team's shots and played at least 40% of the time in conference play last season (i.e., returning go-to types):

Greivis Vasquez
Malcolm Delaney
Kyle Singler
Rakim Sanders
Joe Trapani
Tracy Smith
Sylven Landesberg
Jeff Jones


Among those, only Delaney and Sanders had higher offensive ratings than Smith, and only Sanders had a better effective field goal percentage.  I doubt the Macrowave will be in the pre-season first team All-ACC discussion.  But he should be.

Sidenote: That both Sanders and Trapani are on the above list is evidence that Boston College will get along okay without Tyrese Rice.  Those two guys proved last season that they could contribute efficiently despite moderate-to-heavy workloads.  They certainly benefitted from having Rice there to draw the defense's attention and create for them, but I expect they'll adjust fine in his absense.

Moving on:

State ranked last in the ACC in steals and blocks. They have to create more turnovers to create more easy points to take the pressure off the point guards and the halfcourt offense.


Yep.  I feel like I've been harping on this forever, so rather than going down that well-worn path again, I'll summarize.  Forcing turnovers is critical for this team because: 1) the defense needs to compensate for a turnover-prone offense and lessen the negative turnover margin that's become an annual tradition, 2) our FG% defense stinks, and 3) our defensive rebounding stinks.

Worse, for the first time in probably 6-7 years, we can no longer reasonably expect the Pack to be among the league's best shooting teams.  It's been an impressive, underappreciated run, one that's spanned two regimes.  From 2005-2009, State finished 3rd, 1st, 1st, 4th, and 1st in eFG% in conference play.  Since 2002, State's lowest full-season eFG% is 51.7.  Not that you'd suspect we've been that good, because why aren't we going faster, and hey what's with all these threes, and WHY AREN'T WE GOING FASTER????

So the offense could be--and probably will be, at least at the beginning of the year--much worse.  If it's business as usual defensively... hello disaster.