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NC State faces #12 Tennessee in the Basketball Hall of Fame game

The MOST IMPORTANT GAME OF THE SEASON!!...until the next one

NCAA Basketball: Hall of Fame Classic-Northern Iowa at San Francisco
This may be the logo for the Springfield Hall of Fame college basketball game, It’ll do.
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

When: Saturday December 16 - 10:00 PM ET

Where: Basketball Hall of Fame game – San Antonio – Frost Bank Center

Opponent: Tennessee Volunteers (SEC)

TV: ESPN2

Preseason Conference Prediction: 1st (of 14) in the SEC

Pomeroy Prediction: Tennessee 79-69

Wolfpack Snapshot: KP #72, NET #55, 7-2 (Home 5-0, Away 1-1, Neutral 1-1)

Wolfpack Season So Far:

The Pack is 7-2, but are still looking for that ‘look at us’ OOC Q1 win. Tennessee is our last opportunity this season.

Checking our wins:

Boston College is now NET #77, if they nudge up to 75 they are a Q1 win. Go Eagles!

Checking our losses:

  1. BYU (9-1) is still at NET #3, a Q1 loss
  2. Ole Miss is still undefeated and has jumped 20 places to NET #63 so is now a Q1 loss

Wolfpack Player Report:

  • Mo Diarra missed the UT-M game with what was described as a minor issue, they expect him to play.
  • Kam Woods (and the other NCAA players in transfer limbo) received a 14-day temporary wavier, allowing them to play immediately.

THURSDAY NCAA UPDATE: A ‘clarification’ published by the NCAA today says, “...student-athletes who participate in games during the 14-day temporary restraining order will lose a season of eligibility if the ruling is reversed.” Link

Opponent Overview:

Coach Rick Barnes (and Justin Gainey, Associate Head Coach / defensive coordinator / homie / future POAPS) are coming off a 25-11 season in which they ended the season in (what they thought was disappointing fashion) the Sweet Sixteen against eventual Final Four team Florida Atlantic. During the season they notched wins against #1 Alabama, #2 Gonzaga, #3 Kansas, #10 Texas, and #12 Duke.

This season Pomeroy says they have the 10th toughest SOS. They started the season with a trip to Italy, then played two exhibition games, and they have not slowed down. The first week of the season they went to Madison and beat (KP #15) AP Top 25 Wisconsin. In a 9 day stretch in November, they went on the road and beat Syracuse, and lost by single digits to #2 Purdue, #1 Kansas, and #17 UNC. They just beat (KP #16) AP 20th ranked Illinois. NC State will be their 11th game, by then they will have played 2 teams ranked by Pomeroy in the 300s, 1 ranked in the 100s, and 7 top 100 teams.

Coach Barnes’ teams have always been tough defensively. Last season they ended the season with the top Pomeroy ranked defense, but the 64th rated offense averaging 70.8 Ppg. So far this season they are still very good defensively, currently rated 3rd, but have improved offensively, ranking 34th and averaging 78.1 Ppg against outstanding competition.

Their Season So Far:

The AP 12th ranked Volunteers (NET #12, KP #8) are 7-3. Other than that 3 game nightmare stretch they are undefeated, outscoring the opposition by 11.4 Ppg.

Team Statistical Comparison

Team PPG FG% 3PT% 3PT pg Reb pg Ast pg TO pg ST pg BL pg
Team PPG FG% 3PT% 3PT pg Reb pg Ast pg TO pg ST pg BL pg
NCS 80.3 45.5% 34.0% 7.9 38 14.3 9.7 8.1 3
UT 78.1 44.0% 33.0% 7.9 39.4 16.1 10.9 7.8 4.9
Qualifier: UT’s strength of schedule ranks #10, NCS ranks #292.

Player Notes

Pre-season ALL SEC - Santiago Vescovi first team, Zakai Zeigler SEC second team

Impressive note, of their top 9 players, 6 of them are, or have been, on the Academic Honor Roll.

  • The Vols supplemented their offense during the offseason by adding University of Northern Colorado grad transfer Dalton Knecht. Knecht led the Big Sky conference in scoring at 20.2 Ppg. Earlier this season he scored 37 points on the road against UNC in the DingDongDome, which is the second most points scored against the Heels in 15 years. This season he is leading the team in scoring. He may be the piece they were missing to avoid another ‘disappointing season’ like last year.
  • Last season’s leading scorer Santiago Vescovi is back and he’s second on the team in assists and steals. He’s a hot & cold 3PT shooter, either he misses them all or hits better than 40%.
  • Last season part time starter Zakai Zeigler was one of 10 semifinalists for the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year. He led the SEC in Apg at 5.4, with an impressive assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.37. He is leading the team in assists again this season.
  • Fifth year Vol, third year starter Josiah-Jordan James has scored over 1000 points in the orange. He had 12 rebounds in one game, and 7 assists in another. He is shooting 39.4% from 3PT and has taken 33 so far.
  • Jonas Aidoo ended last season tied for 4th in the SEC for blocked shots. He has already blocked 4 in a game this season. He leads the team in blocks and rebounds this season. He scored his career high of 29 points Tuesday against Georgia Southern.
  • Jordan Gainey (yes, he is related) comes off the bench and leads the team in 3PTA, shooting 35.4%.

UT Probable Starters

Player Class Pos Height Weight Ppg 3PT% 3PTApg Rpg Apg Bpg Spg PF
Player Class Pos Height Weight Ppg 3PT% 3PTApg Rpg Apg Bpg Spg PF
Knecht GR G 6'6" 213 18 38.8% 4.9 4.7 1.7 0.8 1 1.9
Aidoo JR F 6'11" 240 12.1 27.3% 1.1 7.5 1.2 1.8 1 2
James SR G 6'7" 220 10.6 39.4% 3.3 6.7 2.1 0.5 2 1.7
Vescovi SR G 6'3" 196 7.4 30.0% 4 4.3 2.5 0 1 3.1
Zeigler JR G 5'9" 171 5.7 24.3% 3.7 1.8 4.2 0 1 1.4

Keys to the Game - Analysis of their 3 losses

These were all single digit losses to AP Top 20 teams, so as you would expect, the margin of victory is very slim.

  • Shooting – While the number of made FG were about the same, the opponents shot a little better. Tennessee made more 3PT shots, but again, the opponents shot a little better percentage.
  • Free throws – The first significant difference is free throws taken and made. UT shot better, but the opponents got an average of a whopping 23.7 more attempts. The opponents scored 72 points at the FT line, UT only 28, a 44-point differential.
  • Rebounding – Also significantly, Tennessee was out rebounded in each game. They were out rebounded on both the offensive (+8) and defensive (+18) ends overall and in each game, the only exception being the Kansas game in which UT won the offensive rebounds by 4.
  • Assists – Kansas and UNC each had 6 more assists per game.

UT Losses - Team Comparison

Stat Ppg FG-M FG-A FG% 3PT-M 3PT-A 3PT% FT-M FT-A FT% Rpg Apg TOpg PO-TO Spg Bpg
Stat Ppg FG-M FG-A FG% 3PT-M 3PT-A 3PT% FT-M FT-A FT% Rpg Apg TOpg PO-TO Spg Bpg
Tennessee 73 25.3 63.7 39.8% 8.7 30.3 28.6% 9.3 12.3 75.7% 32.3 11.3 9.3 14.3 8 4.3
Opponents 80 24.7 55.7 44.3% 6.7 18.3 36.4% 24 36 66.7% 41 15 13.3 11 6.3 2.3
Difference 7 0.7 8 -4.5% 2 12 -7.8% -14.7 -23.7 9.0% -8.7 -3.7 -4 3.3 1.7 2
The table consolidates UT’s statistical averages in those three losses versus their three opponent’s.

For The Wolfpack to Win

Based on current AP and NET rankings, Tennessee is either the 1st or 2nd most difficult opponent on our schedule this season. (obviously it’s early) They start all upper classmen, they are well coached and as talented as any team we will play. To state the obvious, it’ll take our best effort so far this season. Keys to watch:

Offensively:

  • There will be few uncontested shots, so the Pack is going to have to find the open man and maximize shot opportunities.
  • They are very physical, we will need to maintain composure and play through contact. They tend to pick up fouls on the defensive end.
  • Aidoo is another big, shot blocking forward, we need to avoid serving any up to him. As a team they block a few more than Boston College did.
  • They force 13.2 turnovers per game and average 14.6 Ppg off turnovers, so the Pack will need to take care of the ball against an aggressive defense.

Defensively:

  • They are a threat to go off at any position. They have been led in scoring at the wing (Knecht, 7 times, season high 37), the center/forward (Aidoo, 2 times, season high 29) and the guard (Vescovi, 1 time, season high 21). Vescovi led the team in scoring last season. The forward, James, scored in double figures six times with a season high of 20 at UNC. The PG Zeigler gets most of his points at the free throw line.
  • Gainey appears to be the first off the bench, he is instant offense scoring 10 Ppg, and leading the team in 3PTA.