Appalachian State (0-0) at NC State (0-0)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Friday, November 8, 7 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: PNC Arena (19,772) -- Raleigh, North Carolina. Television: ESPN3.com. Home Record: Appalachian State 0-0, NC State 0-0. Away Record: Appalachian State 0-0, NC State 0-0. Neutral Record: Appalachian State 0-0, NC State 0-0. Conference Record: Appalachian State 0-0, NC State 0-0. Series Record: NC State leads, 10-1.
GAMES NOTES: The vastly different looking NC State Wolfpack will look to grab a win in their first game of the season when the Appalachian State Mountaineers come calling for a non-conference bout at PNC Arena.
Friday will begin the final tour in the Southern Conference for Appalachian State, which is slated to join the Sun Belt Conference next year. The last few years have been colored by mediocrity as the team has had no more than 16 wins since the 24-triumph campaign in 2009-10. Last year the Mountaineers posted a 15-16 overall mark, though they did fight to a 10-9 record against the rest of the SoCon. The trademark for the Mountaineers is their high-powered offense. However, they will be tasked with recapturing the success on that end after the departure of leading scorer and rebounder Nathan Healy. The other four starters, including another skilled big man in Jay Canty, return to keep the Mountaineers in contention. Appalachian State is at home against Campbell in its next tilt.
Last year at this time NC State was predicted to be the program to knock off traditional powers Duke and North Carolina for the Atlantic Coast Conference crown. Though the Wolfpack finished with 24 wins and easily made the NCAA Tournament, they watched as Miami filled the role of conference champion. Now the Wolfpack are essentially starting over with four starters gone, including C.J. Leslie, Lorenzo Brown and Richard Howell. Head coach Mark Gottfried has proven his skill as a coach, with the team making the Big Dance in each of his two seasons. Now he gets to work with a roster of which he was the primary architect. Getting the group to gel and do so early on will be crucial as the ACC has only gotten more challenging. NC State has a difficult non-league bout after this one as its travels to face Cincinnati next.
Appalachian State won the first ever meeting between these teams in 1939 (39-25). Since then it has been all NC State, with the Wolfpack taking victories in 10 straight matchups. That includes a 92-68 rout in the most recent meeting, which came during the 2005-06 season.
If there was one thing Appalachian State could do better than anyone last year it was score. In fact the Mountaineers did just that in the SoCon, leading the league in points per game (74.4), despite ranking in the middle in field goal percentage (.436). What kept them from reaching a bigger number in the win column was a lack of dedication on defense, as foes posted 73.1 points per game on 45.7 percent shooting. Canty (14.3 ppg, 6.2 rpg) is now the go-to option, a role he looks more than ready to fill. Michael Obacha (5.3 ppg, 4.6 rpg) started in 29 games last season and is a serviceable frontcourt player. The backcourt also features a number of players that contributed quite a bit last season. Tabarris Hamilton (9.2 ppg) was the only player, other than Nealy, to start all 31 games and Mike Neal (8.8 ppg, 3.6 apg) made up for poor shooting as the team's best distributor.
Take your pick of major contributors for the Wolfpack last year and you'll probably name someone no longer in Raleigh. Leslie (15.1 ppg, 7.4 rpg), Richard Howell (12.7 ppg, 10.9 rpg), Scott Wood (12.6 ppg) and Brown (12.4 ppg, 7.2 apg) have all moved on leaving plenty of opportunity for the players left and the new ones coming in. T.J. Warren (12.1 ppg, 4.2 rpg) is the only player that is coming back that Gottfried can more or less count on. Warren was one of five players to score in double figures last year but the only one that returns for a Wolfpack squad that was a top 10 team in scoring (77.4 pg) and field goal percentage (.496). Gottfried does have his successor to Brown at point guard in Tyler Lewis. Though he played just 12.4 minutes per game, Lewis showed flashes of brilliance, including 29 combined points against Miami and Duke in his only two starts. LSU transfer Ralston Turner also figures to be an important piece in the backcourt.
There is no doubt that Gottfried's group is going to have some trouble this season as it adjusts to the roster overhaul. Appalachian State should be able to hang with the Wolfpack, but the Mountaineers' lack of defensive pressure, unless vastly improved, will allow NC State to grab a win in the opener.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: NC State 73, Appalachian State 62
11/08 10:45:42 ET