When: Friday November 10 - 7:00 PM
Where: PNC Arena
Opponent: Abilene Christian University Wildcats (Western Athletic Conference)
TV: ACC Network Extra
Preseason Conference Prediction: 5th in the WAC
Pomeroy Prediction: Wolfpack 77 – 67
The ACU Wildcats (KP #142) finished last season 13-17 / 5-11 and lost 3 high usage starters but returns five players who started at least six games last season, including leading scorer Immanuel Allen (10.8 ppg) at guard, leading shot-blocker Airion Simmons at forward. and guard Ali Abdou Dibba, who all averaged more than nine points per game.
“Defense is the identity of our team,” said Coach Brette Tanner. ”We have led the country in turnovers forced and turnover ratio and have consistently been in the top 5 in the country in both categories. It is something we stress, and the players know is important.”
ACU had 264 steals last season, for comparison NC State led the ACC with 266 steals. ACU averaged 19 points per game off turnovers last season.
Monday night ACU opened the season on the road against Big 12 Oklahoma State in Stillwater. OSU was the ’22-’23 NIT runner up, and was ranked #68 in the preseason by Pomeroy. (NC State ranked #61) The Wildcats were not good guests, they upset the Cowboys 64-59. They were up by 11 at the half and led by as many as 18 in the second half before OSU rallied to make it close.
So how did they do it? The team stats were very similar, they hit the same number of 3PT shots, had the same number of rebounds, the same number of assists. OSU had 9 steals to ACU’s 4, and ACU had 15 turnovers to OSU’s 13. Both of which you would incorrectly assume to have favored the winner. With a 5 point margin of victory, you expect the stats to be close, it all came down to their signature of making the most of their turnovers, and shooting a little better. ACU made 15 points off turnovers and OSU only 6.
ACU is a solid, experienced team. Also an international team, with players in the regular rotation from Sweden, Australia, Ireland, and Italy. Size wise, assuming we repeat the same starting lineup (not at all certain), it appears it will be the battle of two very big men underneath with Simmons banging against Burns. Both are backed up by 6’10” forwards. One curious note about their OSU game, Allen, their returning leading scorer and the player that started the most games last season, didn’t start, only played 16 minutes, and didn’t score. We may see more of him Friday.
Wildcat Expected Starters (OSU stats)
Two Keys To The Game
- Composure - Don’t get rattled by this aggressive defensive team and commit turnovers or take poor shots
- Defending the big men - Interestingly, their starting big men are solid 3PT shooters. They led the team in attempts last season, and again Monday against OSU. Simmons, took the most 3PT shots on the team last season and shot 34.5%. His will be a matchup to watch. Steele took the second most, and is their best returning 3PT shooter at 41.7%.
This is one of those early season games that could be a bad loss on selection Sunday, but appears to be a very good early season matchup for us to help us improve.