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NC State should have its hands full with Furman

NCAA Basketball: Charleston Classic Seventh Place Game David Yeazell-USA TODAY Sports

NC State really needs to close out this month on a four-game winning streak, and for starters that means getting past a good, veteran Furman team. The Wolfpack doesn’t have a ton of quality on its non-conference slate, but the Paladins present an opportunity: they’re the best team in the SoCon and have a good shot at being regular season and conference tournament champs.

This would be a good win to have. Doesn’t figure to be easy, though: Furman is experienced, has a shocking amount of roster continuity, and plays legitimately good offense.

Who’s ready for some offense?

Furman in '23 Adj OE/DE (rk) eFG% TO% OR% 2FG% 3FG%
Furman in '23 Adj OE/DE (rk) eFG% TO% OR% 2FG% 3FG%
Offense 110.5 (43) 56.3 (16) 17.5 (97) 28.8 (178) 60.1 (8) 34.4 (141)
Defense 101.5 (157) 56.6 (344) 20.5(97) 19.8 (3) 57.1 (337) 37.1 (303)

The game is a lot more fun to watch when shots are going in; Furman agrees. You’ll rarely see a larger split in field goal percentage offense and defense, but the Paladins do it for the people. After all, what’s the point of playing if you aren’t going to entertain?

Furman is led by a pair of fifth-year seniors: Mike Bothwell (6’3, 195), who is averaging 20.3 points per game, and Jalen Slawson (6’7, 215), who averages 15.5. Both probably could have transferred up a level last offseason if they’d wanted to, but the normal college basketball forces don’t seem to apply in Greenville. The Paladins didn’t lose any key guys to the portal, and there’s only one transfer on the roster (former Wake guard Carter Whitt).

Bothwell is off to a blazing-hot start to 2023 and has already scored 25 or more in a game three times. He’s shooting 63.9% on twos and 80.6% at the free throw line; outside shooting has never been a strength, but he’s knocked down a third of his three-point attempts, which is right around his career average.

Slawson’s versatility is impressive. He’s an excellent passer, a talented and disruptive defender, great on the defensive boards, shoots well at the free throw line, and he’s a career 59% shooter inside the arc. He’s in his fourth year as a starter for the Paladins. Really good player.

Furman also returns starter Marcus Foster (6’4, 200), whose outside shooting has slumped from 36.7% last season to 22.6% this year. He’s effective inside the arc, though. (Hey, who on this team isn’t.)

Junior big Garrett Hien (6’9, 215) is playing some inspired hoops in his first year as a starter: he’s at 70% on twos, and he’s 7-13 from three. And 5-13 at the free throw line. He’s only a career 48.6% free throw shooter, but it doesn’t seem to be slowing him down elsewhere, so hey.

On the defensive side, Furman is surviving as best it can with turnovers and rebounds, but that’s a losing battle unless the Paladins can start forcing just a few more missed shots here and there. All eight of the D-I teams they’ve played this season have shot at least 50% inside the arc. (So did one of the D-II teams they’ve played.)

They’re embracing the hardcore gotta-guard-us-too-pal lifestyle.

KenPom likes NC State by seven.