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NC State Basketball Roster Prediction - Redux

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Updating the old guesses with new guesses

NCAA Basketball: ACC Tournament-North Carolina State vs Pittsburgh Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

You hear a knock at the door.

You open it to see a delivery man.

“Telegram for you, sir.”

“Why thank you, Orville. Here’s something for your troubles, say hello to the misses.”

Hurriedly opening the telegram it reads:

“BASKETBALL. STOP. SEASON. STARTS. STOP. WEDNESDAY!. STOP. WE. STOP. HOPE. DON’T. STOP. STOP. BELIEVING. STOP.”

Astounded at this news, you find a second page:

“NEVER. STOP. GIVE. STOP. UP. STOP. ALSO. STOP. NEVER. STOP. STOP. NEVER. STOP. STOPPING. STOP. P.S. STOP. WEAR. STOP. A. STOP. MASK. STOP”

You slump in your chair, unsure how to proceed. The final page in the envelope encloses a copy of the 2020-2021 NC State Men’s Basketball Roster and (for now) their schedule. That roster reads as follows:

gopack.com

How did we get here? Everything in 2020 has been haywire. Against all odds, and doubters, football did happen after all. It may have benefitted from being on one side of a curve that is trending troublingly in the wrong direction. Somehow basketball seems to have snuck up on us. It shouldn’t feel weird, it starts literally every fall, and they’re usually a handful of games into the season by now. But even though we haven’t had it since March, for some reason it feels like, “wait, basketball already??”. I guess 2020 stays being 2020. Will we get a full basketball season? Well, Duke sure is off to a grand start. A Gardner-Webb team member tested positive so to be safe the game is postponed for now. As it was with football, any games we get will be a blessing.

Now where does that leave NC State??

Since the beginning of the Kevin Keatts era we’ve been saying “just wait until gets the full roster he wants”. For the last year we’ve been saying, “help is on the way”. Last year’s roster was hamstrung by injuries and not having Deron Seabron eligible to play as planned. Even with that, Keatts took that roster to the verge of what we will always assume was a berth in the NCAA tournament. I would say last season’s team slightly overachieved, finishing 20-12 (10-10), 6th in conference.

But now.. it appears that FINALLY in year 4 of his tenure, Kevin Keatts has 100% of his own players, all recruited to fit his system. The players on this roster are a mix of veterans and high upside newcomers.

A few months ago, I put together my predictions for how the starting lineup would shake out for this season. My take at that time:

PG: Cam Hayes / Shakeel Moore / Braxton Beverly

SG: Devon Daniels / Thomas Allen / Dereon Seabron

SF: Jericole Hellems / Josh Hall / AJ Taylor

PF: DJ Funderburk / Nick Farrar

C: Manny Bates / Ebenezer Dowuona

(Now, Hall and Taylor are no longer with the team. Side note, it turns out that Hall, Jalen Lecque AND Omer Yurtseven were all picked up by the Oklahoma City Thunder. Nothing else to say on that, side note complete.)

I can’t believe I wrote that at the BEGINNING of the pandemic, so much has not happened since. Sigh, I digress.

As Steven noted Monday, Kevin Keatts really likes this team. Even with those departures, this is definitely the most talent the Wolfpack have had top to bottom in years.

In order to update the predictions for the roster, I’ll focus on the 2-deep at every position (mostly). Keatts says he has 8 guys who could realistically start. That’s probably true, but a few of them are definite locks.

SF: Devon Daniels / Jericole Hellems

PF: DJ Funderburk / Nick Farrar

C: Manny Bates / Ebenezer Dowuona

Barring injury, Devon Daniels, DJ Funderburk and Manny Bates are definitely locks to start. Keatts has said that DJ and Bates (DJ Bates would be a good Halloween themed DJ name) have gotten more comfortable playing with one another.

As for DJ Bates’ backups, I’m sticking with Nick Farrar and Ebenezer Dowuona. Farrar has been impressive in his short time so far by all accounts. He’s only 6’6”, but at 260lbs he will be a significant change of pace for defenders who got used to going against Funderburk. Dowuona is similar in size and weight to Bates, but his inexperience will likely limit his impact, especially early on in the season.

This brings us to the logjam at the guard position. Interesting tidbit, gopack’s depth chart only lists guards at forwards, no further detail than that. It seems in line with the fact that multiple people at a time will be seen bringing the ball up the court, as Keatts wants it.

PG: Cam Hayes / Shakeel Moore / Braxton Beverly**

SG: Thomas Allen / Dereon Seabron

I’d originally slotted Daniels at the SG but I’m sliding him to SF to make room for my newest prediction: Thomas Allen will start. This would bump Jericole Hellems to the bench, but I feel he’ll likely be the 6th man and first to check in for Daniels at SF. Seabron will back up Allen. He may end up starting, but he’s very green and hasn’t played any actual games in over a year. We have only seen glimpses here and there. He is clearly very athletic, but we will have to wait and see if he has the discrete skills needed at this position. With little besides snippets of footage that’s out there, I think ball security might be a learning area early on for him. At the same time, we will likely see him bringing the ball up the floor. He’s not exactly a Magic Johnson 6’9” PG, but at 6’7” he’d be the tallest person to do so since maybe Julius Hodge? Feel free to fact check me on that one.

I’m only using PG and SG as lines in the sand even though they don’t really apply to this team or this coach. Keatts himself has said recently he doesn’t feel he’ll have a traditional PG in the way that Markell Johnson was. For this roster, Cam Hayes is the closest equivalent. All reports have led me to believe he will be the (eventual) starting PG for this team. In March, it was a gut feeling, but it has now been bolstered by scuttlebutt about how good he looks. His likely backup, Shakeel Moore, has been described by Keatts as the best on-ball defender since he’s been there. That’s high praise, and that defensive intensity will be sorely needed. Hopefully it’s infectious to the rest of the team, and also hopefully his defense has been making Cam Hayes better.

This brings us to Braxton Beverly. For anyone that watched the delightful show Ted Lasso recently, Beverly is the “Roy Kent” equivalent. The wily vet that’s seen it all, but has lost a step compared to the new (younger) talent coming in. Note the asterisk in my list below. I think this is because Beverly will start the season initially, but Hayes will assert his presence on the court and force Keatts’ hand. Braxton provides a steady hand, but if we’re being honest, PG is not his natural position. He has been placed in that role out of necessity when “not good Markell” showed up or due to injuries, or both. He plays much better off the ball, where he can catch and shoot 3’s. But then he can’t start at SG because Allen will likely have a lock on it. Then, at a VERY generous 6’0”, he has to compete with 6’7” Seabron. On top of all this, his back is still a question mark. We don’t know if the extended time off allowed him time to heal or if that issue will reappear.

For these reasons, I think the course of the season will move him out of the starting lineup. Meanwhile, I foresee Moore making a name for himself on defense that turns into fast break offense. As much we love Beverly and thank him for his service, it will be hard to keep with a guy who can do this. Moore is the same height, yet lightyears more talented. He is the opposite of the liability Beverly can be on defense. We will likely see Moore placed on the opponents best backcourt player.

One odd man out is Jaylon Gibson. I don’t think we should be expecting much in year 1. He can take time to develop since there will likely be roster space next year for him to contribute more often.

This brings me to the following predicted lineup for the 2020-2021 (that is hard to type or say) roster:

PG: Cam Hayes / Shakeel Moore / Braxton Beverly** (initial)

SG: Thomas Allen / Dereon Seabron

SF: Devon Daniels / Jericole Hellems

PF: DJ Funderburk / Nick Farrar

C: Manny Bates / Ebenezer Dowuona


The more I look at the roster, they more I get excited about all the permutations it could take. Keatts’ uptempo full court press leading to fast break offense can definitely work with this group. Obviously, we’re assuming the injury bug doesn’t bite this team. We’re hoping we'll finally get to see the fully armed and operational result of years of recruiting, training and experience. If pulled together well, they can achieve a much higher standing than the middle of the road position predicted for them by the press.

Sky’s the limit with this crew.

p.s. to the coronavirus, please don’t take away basketball from us a second time. I couldn’t take it.