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NC State hosts Little Rock, which is plenty capable of providing a challenge

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But let’s hope they decide not to.

Arkansas-Little Rock v Nevada Photo by Jonathan Devich/Getty Images

NC State returns to PNC Arena on Saturday after a two-game vacation to Reynolds Coliseum, and the degree of difficulty is going up a few tics. Little Rock doesn’t figure to be a simple team to solve and sit at No. 151 in the Pomeroy Ratings, which is not too shabby for a mid-major. The Trojans played at Memphis (which was without James Wiseman) on Wednesday and lost by 10. Don’t be surprised if they hang around for a while on Saturday.

Little Rock’s Factors — Offense

2020 Trojans OE (rk) eFG% TO% OR% FTR
2020 Trojans OE (rk) eFG% TO% OR% FTR
Offense 97.1 (211) 51.2 (99) 24.7 (314) 32.8 (76) 34.9 (120)

Little Rock shot the ball well last season and so far so good in the early stages of the 2020 campaign. Last year the Trojans presented us with an example of how to squander good shooting: despite ranking 33rd in effective field goal percentage, the offense ranked only 260th in efficiency. Why? Well, they finished 337th in turnover rate and 324th in offensive rebounding percentage.

It is by no means easy to have a bad offense despite shooting the ball well, but that’s how you do it.

Of those two major issues, the turnover rate was most significant, and unfortunately, the Trojans aren’t showing an indication that they’re addressing this flaw. Y’see, fellas, the problem with turning the ball over is it means you don’t get a field goal or free throw attempt that trip down the court. Which is bad on account of you can’t score without those.

(I dunno, maybe they just hadn’t had that explained to them.)

Leading the offense for the Trojans this season is point guard Markquis Nowell, who has played 199 out of a possible 200 minutes this season. Little Rock has played four D-I opponents and he’s gone the distance in all four. I’m sorry, Markquis, you simply are not allowed to ever get tired for any reason.

Nowell is a valuable player, but this also says a lot about Little Rock’s lack of depth, as the Trojans are 350th in bench minutes. They are down two guys who were significant rotation players a year ago, one to a suspension and one to injury.

Still they were game at Memphis—it was a two-point contest with six minutes left—so this is a team that deserves NC State’s undivided attention, lest the Wolfpack earn another early-season black eye.

Nowell won’t impress you with his stature (5’7, 155) but he is a solid deep threat and is shooting 56% on twos in the early-going. He’ll be helped by Ben Coupet (6’7, 185) and Ruot Monyyong (6’10, 190), who are also averaging in double figures. Coupet is shooting nearly 47% from three, while Monyyong has been excellent at blocking shots and grabbing rebounds at both ends.

Little Rock’s Factors — Defense

2020 Trojans DE (rk) eFG% TO% OR% FTR
2020 Trojans DE (rk) eFG% TO% OR% FTR
Defense 96.5 (114) 45.6 (111) 22.5 (75) 31.2 (243) 43.6 (317)

The Trojans force turnovers at a good clip but that’s coming at the cost of a lot of fouls. They need to be better on the defensive glass and hope that the improved interior defense they’ve shown so far will hold up over the long term. That was a weakness for them in 2019.

The Pomeroy Predictor likes NC State by 14.