North Carolina State is not a tournament team, but because T.J. Warren is one of the most dynamic scorers in the country, the Wolfpack could give the Panthers a tournament-like game at the Petersen Events Center on Monday.
The Wolfpack have been a very up-and-down team, but have shown at times that they tend to play better when facing a more talented group. State has hung with Missouri, North Carolina and Syracuse. Obviously, the team’s best effort — win or lose — was against the Tar Heels when Warren scored a season-high 36 points. Warren could give Pittsburgh a lot of problems because he is such a relentless scorer. Pittsburgh’s man-to-man defense is tough to score against, but Warren is the type of player who just overcomes any sort of defensive situation. His size and agility makes him a player who can get to any spot on the court he wants to with astonishing ease.
Warren is the perfect player to get Pittsburgh ready for the NCAA tournament. Most likely, the Panthers will be an No. 8-10 seed and will play against a team that has a go-to player itching for the big stage. State is no longer playing for a bid — unless it wins the ACC tournament — so Warren will be totally set free by coach Mark Gottfried. This is a scary proposition for Pittsburgh.
The Panthers have had problems scoring for more than a month and needed overtime to reach 85 points against Notre Dame. The Panthers only scored 65 points in regulation and went scoreless for nearly five minutes late in the second half against the Irish. Warren is tough to slow and if Pitt falls into a drought, he could do enough to help State pull off the upset.
Pittsburgh should beat State, but Warren is not a player any team scrambling for tournament seeding position wants to play at this point in the season.