N.C. State has built a solid 9-2 record because of the standout play of sophomore sensation T.J. Warren. He is leading the Wolfpack in scoring (23.9 ppg) and rebounding (7.3 rpg). Warren is as much of a contender for ACC Player of the Year as anyone else, including Jabari Parker, based on how reliant the rest of the team is on the forward.
Warren has been a scoring machine this season and especially as of late. He has racked up 32 points (East Carolina), 21 points (at Tennessee) and 29 points (Detroit) in his last three games. Warren does this scoring at a highly efficient rate. He is shooting 55 percent from the field and is taking 17.5 shots per game. Warren also knows what he is best at. He stays inside the three-point line and does the majority of his scoring as close to the basket as possible. Warren only shoots 25 percent outside the arc, but only shoots from distance three times a game.
Warren is also getting some help with a supporting cast that offers four other players who score more than eights points per game. This is not necessarily the balance a lot of teams would like to have, but when coach Mark Gottfried has someone as talented as Warren, getting just a little bit from elsewhere helps.
Missouri offers a great opportunity for State to find out where it stands. The Tigers are 10-1 and just suffered their first loss in a game against Illinois. Missouri beat UCLA earlier this season and is averaging a solid 77 points per game.
The Tigers also have several players capable of leading the team in scoring in any game. Jordan Clarkson (19.9 ppg), Jabari Brown (18.2) and Earnest Ross (14.5) are not only the leading scorers on the team, but they — much like Warren — do it by not taking too many shots. Clarkson leads the way at 51 percent shooting from the field.
N.C. State has Missouri and UNC Greensboro left before ACC plays tips against Pittsburgh Jan 4. A respectable outing against Missouri could help build the momentum the Wolfpack need to hit the ground running into conference play.