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Observations from the Pack’s out of conference season

Lennard Freeman is good

NCAA Basketball: Penn State at North Carolina State Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

NC State can’t shoot, unless it can

The Wolfpack shot 33.9% from tripleville throughout its out of conference season. That stinks. It stinks to the tune of the 227th best percentage in the country, and that’s not anywhere close to good enough to fully implement a system based heavily around perimeter shooting. Strangely though, the Pack’s two biggest victories of the year, Penn State and Arizona, were fueled by strong three point shooting, and the Pack’s 19 made threes against Jacksonville has been recorded in the all-time record book.

The guards, most notably grad transfer Sam Hunt, who may be the streakiest shooter I’ve ever seen, have shown an ability to completely change a game with stretches of lights out shooting. This level of shooting, or anything close to it, cannot be counted on consistently though, as evidenced by the 8% shooting effort against Bryant and numerous other sub-30% occurrences.

State’s perimeter shooters are so wildly inconsistent from night to night that this team figures to be relatively unpredictable. The Pack is liable to beat some people with shooting nights like it had against Penn State and Jacksonville. It’s also in perpetual danger of suffering tough losses in winnable games with shooting nights like it had against UNI and Tennessee. Unfortunately, to this point, there have been more bad nights than good nights (hence the percentage). State can overcome that against the likes of VMI, but that doesn’t foreshadow a consistent and successful year of conference play.

State’s halfcourt defense is still . . . well . . .

Watching last year’s State team play halfcourt defense was officially classified as cruel and unusual punishment by the Supreme Court. This year’s edition is far better in the sense that the players seem to be alive and aware they are in a basketball game. It still has a long way to go though.

State is still fairly unorganized on that side of the court, with numerous breakdowns per game that leave guys wide open. The team just doesn’t seem to communicate well at times. In addition to that, State is relatively slow on the perimeter. I give Keatts an enormous amount of credit for taking advantage of college basketball’s silly season and getting all of this year’s new faces into the program. Most of them lack the quickness and speed to be good on-ball defenders though, and with Markell Johnson out the defense has been victimized by quicker players on dribble drives recently. The Pack needs the activity of Johnson back.

Keatts can coach some forwards

Lennard Freeman had played three seasons at NC State and has never begun to resemble an offensive threat. This year he is averaging 12.1 points per game and hitting 75% of his shots. His development into an offensive weapon has been both impressive and timely, as his post offense has been tremendously important on some of the Pack’s poor shooting nights.

Freeman positions himself well, uses his body effectively to score and generate free throws, and has developed some strong footwork. It’s not just Freeman whose game has evolved either. Sophomore Omer Yurtseven has looked more like the impact player this season that he was expected to be last year. Keatts has done an exceptional job with both of these guys and it’s super exciting to watch after four years of post players with games stuck in neutral.