North Carolina State is always the third school in the state anyone thinks about during the college basketball season and usually it is for good reason. The Wolfpack are rarely a highly ranked school and do not have the number of NBA players their ACC rivals North Carolina and Duke have.
This season, coach Mark Gottfried is directing a group that could spring a few upsets and make a case to be selected to the NCAA tournament. This can be said because of how amazing sophomore forward T.J. Warren has been. Warren is averaging 23.1 points per game and seven rebounds. He is doing this shooting 54.4 percent from the field while having to face defenses geared to stop him. Warren showed glimpses of his talent last season, but he is now a player who looks totally comfortable in big moments and someone who will not shy away from taking a difficult but makable shot. Warren has already scored 20 points in eight of the team’s 10 games and has scored 30 points twice. This ability to score the ball efficiently will make him a tough matchup for any team in the league.
Syracuse is the only team in the conference who has yet to be beaten and may have a loss before the Orange play the Wolfpack. If Syracuse is still unbeaten come Feb. 15, Warren could end a perfect season bid because of his style of play and pro physique. Duke has had problems on defense this season and does not have a single player who can lock down and contain Warren. North Carolina’s frontcourt is long enough to frustrate post players, but Warren is such a heady player that he will likely use fakes and a variety of shots from difficult angles to score.
N.C. State has only two losses this season to surprising Cincinnati and North Carolina Central squads. However, both were early in the season and the Wolfpack look much different now than they did then. Along with Warren, Lennard Freeman has been solid as a freshman grabbing more than seven rebounds per game and only committing one turnover per game. State could use another confident scorer, but Warren is talented enough to take over games.
The Wolfpack may not have been a team that scared anyone on the schedule in the preseason, but having a game-changer like Warren now makes them a team that can beat anyone in the country on any night.
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