Brown injured his ankle in the first half of the Wolfpack’s loss to the Virginia Cavaliers and his status is uncertain when the Hurricanes storm into town. Coach Mark Gottfried said yesterday that it was too early to tell if Brown was going to be able to play, as the junior attended classes wearing a walking boot.
Even if the ACC’s leading playmaker is able to go but in a limited form, N.C. State’s success is far from guaranteed as even a healthy Brown would still leave the game in question. The loss of Brown would be devastating and would no doubt keep the 7-0 Miami undefeated.
The last player the Wolfpack can afford to lose is their 6-foot-5 guard. Even C.J. Leslie wouldn’t be as impactful of a loss as losing Brown. Freshman T.J. Warren is a talented scorer and above-average rebounder that’d be able to slide into the starting line-up for Leslie. The Wolfpack have nobody who’d be able to fill the void left by Brown.
Freshman Tyler Lewis is the likely candidate to replace Brown in the starting line-up, unless Gottfried moves freshman Rodney Purvis over to the point guard position. Purvis has been playing at the off-guard slot next to Brown but is much more of a scorer than a passer.
Moving Purvis over would also likely place Warren in the starting line-up and that’s been something that hasn’t worked in previous attempts this season. Warren’s ability to come off the bench as an instant scorer is what suits him best as the offense has struggled when he’s started.
Not only would the Wolfpack lose Brown’s production but his leadership and defensive abilities could be the greater loss. Brown is averaging a conference-best 6.9 assists per game, but is also second in the ACC with 2.1 steals. His defense would be crucial trying to contain the trio of guards the Hurricanes possess. Miami is loaded on the perimeter with talented guards and without Brown they’d be able to pick apart the freshmen Wolfpack guards on both ends of the floor.
The only player ranked ahead of Brown in conference steals is Shane Larkin. You can bet the sophomore that plays like a senior would love the opportunity to match-up against someone who has seen limited court time like Lewis.
The other factor heading into this contest is these two are nearly the exact opposite on the team chemistry scale. The Hurricanes are on fire and playing like a team while receiving contributions up and down their line-up. The Wolfpack have more individual talent when matched position by position compared to Miami, but find themselves playing like individuals too often. It wouldn’t be surprising to see the Wolfpack defeat the Hurricanes or be blown out by 25 on their home court because they couldn’t stop turning it over.
Without Brown in the line-up to quarterback the offense and help limit the chemistry issues, it’s likely the latter could happen.
Miami is too hot right now to be cooled by a Wolfpack team missing its most important player. N.C. State could be able to suffer their first home loss of the season.