N. C. State's 2015-16 Basketball Team! Photograph from GoPack.com.
State finished the 2015-16 season with a 20-11 overall record, a 10-6 conference record, and a tie for fifth place in the conference. Despite this record, State with a NCAA RPI of 49, did not make the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament because of the lack of a "significant win"- a win over a team whose NCAA RPI was 25 or lower (it should be noted that when State beat Duke at Duke on January 14th, Duke's RPI was in the lower twenties). Life is not always fair, and to State fans it was not here.
State has returning for the 2016-17 season three players who started all 31 games in 2015-16, one player who started 29 games in 2015-16 and one player who played in 28 games of the 2015-16 season and started four. State also has a 2016 recruiting class ranked 19 by Prospectsnation.com. In view of the above, State will be a better team; however, State will be hard pressed to improve on their 10-6 conference record. More on that later.
State has starters Miah Spencer, Dominique Wilson, Jennifer Mathurin and Ashley Williams, all to be seniors, returning. State also has sometimes starter rising junior Chelsea Nelson returning.
Absent some unforeseen phenomena, the following is going to be true. Guard Miah Spencer is a coach on the floor and is the heart and soul of the team. She is going to continue to be a starter in 2016-17. Guard Dominique Wilson, who scored 141 points in six games this past season, is also going to be a starter in 2016-17. The same is true for starting forward Jennifer Mathurin who improved her game and became a three level scorer, that is from the arc, from mid-range, and from under the basket. Chelsea Nelson, who played center for State along with senior Carlee Schuhmacher in 2015-16, should start at center.
We love Ashley Williams, a former walk-on player, and as much as it pains me to write this, if 2016 freshwoman Aislinn Konig is as good as recruiting specialist state, she could become the third starting guard in State's offense moving Ashley to coming off the bench. Five-ten Aislinn, the top 2016 recruit, is given five stars by Prospectsnation.com and is also their top international recruit. (State's two other 2016 recruits are six-one four star Erika Cassell and five-ten four star Kiana Rudd).
While State's six-one DD Rogers, State's top 2015 recruit, should back-up Jennifer at the four position, who will back-up Chelsea at center? State at this time has three other centers on the roster: to be junior six-five Akela Maize, to be redshirt sophomore six-five Sara Boric and to be sophomore six-three NaNa Cole. NaNa early last season got more playing time than either of Boric or Maize, so she might be the number two center. After State's game against Davidson, Coach Moore stated during an interview that Boric was offensively gifted, but, but, but.... Let me finish the "but". She is offensively gifted; however, she lacked strength and tended to bring the ball down before shooting allowing shorter defenders to tie her up. One can add that she needed a better understanding of State's defense. If Sara improves in these categories, maybe she becomes the number two center. While Akela works hard in practice and excels in some practice procedures, her offense needs improvement. If she improves her offense, maybe she becomes the number two center.
Last season, once freshwoman guard Kaila Ealey tore her ACL, State was short at the guard position meaning that Miah Spencer, Ashley Williams and Dominique Wilson played too many minutes. After Dominique scored 141 points in six games which included the 92-90 heart breaking loss to Louisville, she tired. Her scoring and shooting percentage suffered. While freshwoman guard Camille Anderson improved toward the end of the year, her play was still not solid enough to play the number of minutes needed to help the starting guards. The same was true of Amber Richardson, who unlike Camille, played less minutes as the season progressed.
With the return of Kaila in 2016-17, the first guard off the bench in 2015-16 and the fastest guard on the team, State with the following additional players at the guard position, should have enough guards to allow Miah, Dominique and Ashley to play less minutes: besides Kaila, State will have at the guard and wing star recruit Aislinn Konig, Lucky Kiana Rudd, Camille Anderson and Amber Richardson.
Why will it be difficult for State to improve on their 2015-16 conference record? For one, State has to travel to Syracuse, Louisville, and Florida State, three teams highly ranked in 2015- 16, two of which (Louisville, FSU) had outstanding 2016 recruiting classes, and none of which State could not beat at home this year. Additionally State has to play Notre Dame, a team which has lost only one conference game in the three years they have been in the ACC.
Can State sweep UNC again? Assuming UNC survives the fake class scandal so as to not be totally destroyed, UNC will not be as shorthanded in 2016-17 as this past season. While UNC did have the 29th Prospectsnation.com 2016 class, none of the recruits are five star top 50 players. State can sweep UNC again especially if Aislinn is the real deal.
State beat Duke at Duke for the first time in about 20 years this past season. Can State beat Duke at Raleigh in 2016-17? Despite the fact that Lexie Brown, Maryland's best 2014-15 player (Maryland was in the final four in 2014-15), becomes eligible in 2016-17, State can also win this game.
In order to improve upon their 2015-16 conference record of 10-6, State of course has to beat all the teams they beat this past season and break through against one of Miami, FSU, Syracuse, Louisville and Notre Dame. A sweep of Wake Forest would also make this possible.
With five players who started last season returning, with a renovated Reynolds Coliseum, and with a great 2016 recruiting class, here is looking at a great season in 2016-17!