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Louisiana Tech preview: Pay no attention to how important this game may be

Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports
Louisiana Tech Offense -- Four Factors eFG% (National Rank) TO% OR% FT Rate
2013-14 51.2 (102) 15.7 (32) 33.5 (103) 41.7 (131)
2014-15 52.7 (53) 16.9 (32) 28.1 (268) 45.4 (42)

Louisiana Tech hasn't been to the NCAAs since Mike White became head coach in 2011, but that's not for lack of wins: the Bulldogs finished 29-8 last season and 27-7 the year prior. They were a combined 29-5 in conference play over those two seasons. They landed in the NIT after conference tournament losses in both years.

The Bulldogs were missing opportunities for quality wins both in conference and non-conference play. Their situation hasn't changed--they've played two games against teams in the Pomeroy top 100 and lost both (Temple, Syracuse). They have NC State (No. 56) left in the OOC slate, and then in Conference USA play they might have a handful of top-100 games if they're lucky.

Temple and Syracuse were close scrapes for Louisiana Tech on the road. The Owls won by seven, the Orange by two. The other loss on Louisiana Tech's resume (again on the road) came against Louisiana-Lafayette (KenPom No. 155). Their best win according to the Pomeroy Ratings is a 63-44 victory over American, which is No. 130 in the ratings.

What I'm sayin' here is Louisiana Tech should be desperate on Tuesday night. And this might be the best offense NC State has had to contend with all season, even with the departure of several veteran players to graduation after last year. Not to mention that NC State has hardly had time to recover from an unusually physical game over the weekend.

The conditions aren't great. But NC State should have a sense of necessity with this game as well--the Wolfpack's non-conference schedule is not working out as planned (let's not discuss the state of Purdue basketball lest we all end up in tears). State's resume boasts next-to-nothin' right now. Louisiana Tech could be more nothing, but it is also possible that the Bulldogs end up direct competition for a bubble tournament slot, as they were in 2014.

Shooting guard Raheem Appleby leads Louisiana Tech in scoring, and the senior is used to having a major role. He's always been a high-workload kid--a good shooter, if not an elite one. In 3+ seasons he's made 47.6% of his twos and 34.1% of his threes. That's fine work since while on the court he's accounted for well over a quarter of the team's shots in every season.

Point guard Alex Hamilton and forward Erik McCree also average double-digits in scoring while handling above-average workloads. Hamilton has a knack for scoring inside the arc (over 52% for his career) but his range is lacking. The same can be said for McCree, who is 36-65 inside the arc and 8-28 outside of it.

Despite the fact that Hamilton and an McCree have combined to shoot 18-60 from three, alas, Tech is at 37.6% as a team. This area is one of Appleby's strengths. Additionally, Tech likes to shoot threes more often than your average club, and they have some support players who've been good. So in a worst-case situation for State, Louisiana Tech could carry itself with production from beyond the arc.

If I've made Louisiana Tech sound a bit like Kentucky it's because of this bad vibe I have about the game. Also the irony of my citing a "bad vibe" in a post like this is not lost on me. Dammit, gut, we've talked about this!

The Bulldogs are awful at rebounding--at both ends. They're below average from the free throw line. They have not played a top-25 team all year. (Syracuse probably isn't one, not even at home.) Pomeroy's schedule-adjusted metric isn't buying any notion Tech's defense is good.

The Bulldogs are thin as well--the same five guys have started all 11 of their games, and the drop-off in minutes to the bench is steep, with none of the subs averaging more than 15.3 minutes per game. That bench rotation includes three freshmen.

So they have a lot of not-great stuff going on over there. Lotta not-great stuff. Ain't great is what you'd say about a good bit of the stuff.

Pomeroy Predictor likes NCSU by four, by the way.

Louisiana Tech Defense -- Four Factors eFG% (National Rank) TO% OR% FT Rate
2013-14 46.0 (42) 22.8 (10) 29.9 (108) 38.6 (141)
2014-15 45.0 (70) 23.3 (30) 40.6 (343) 30.6 (66)