Q&A with Backing the Pack

USA TODAY Sports

I was able to sit down with Steven from Backing the Pack to discuss some GT/NC State basketball. Check it out.

Georgia Tech has played very tough defense, with Gregory being quoted saying that his tough defense will help support the Jackets game plan when they are unable to convert in the front court. Offense and turnovers seem to be some of Tech's issues, while rebounding and defense have kept them in games. What are the pro's and con's of this NC State team? What is their "make-or-break" for a successful game?

The first thing that usually becomes apparent is that NC State's defense is bad. (Georgia Tech's is, too, despite what Gregory wants people to think.) It seems like the samae mental mistakes crop up every night, which ends up giving opponents some easy looks that they shouldn't get. State isn't forcing many turnovers and is doing itself no favors on the glass, either.

On the offensive side, an inability to shoot from outside and the lack of consistent scoring outside of TJ Warren has made it an adventure at times for the Pack to generate points in the halfcourt--especially against zone defenses.

But if Cat Barber is playing efficiently and under control, State can be pretty tough since that helps to open up some of its frontcourt options. The forwards (outside of Warren) have been pretty timid about creating their own opportunities.

As far as being successful in any given game, I usually look first to how the secondary guys are shooting jumpers and how competitive the team is on the boards. If they're doing okay in those areas, they're in good shape. If not...

TJ Warren is a huge scorer for NC State, throughout most of the ACC games thus far. However, it seems that UVa was able to stop him, scoring 4 points when playing 28 minutes. Can you explain what happened that game- Did he play bad or was UVa able to shut him down?

The entire team was dreadful in that game, and Warren is no exception. But Virginia's fantastic defense deserves a lot of credit as well. Tony Bennett's packline I think is just a bad matchup for Warren, and when you add in the fact that in UVA's case it's an impressively disciplined D, that compounds matters.

To follow that last question up, how do you stop TJ Warren?

You want to keep him out of the lane, for starters. His game is 15-and-in; he loves to streak toward the paint and shoot runners, and if he could do that all day, he probably would. His accuracy in close is exceptional, and you've also got to be aware of where he is after missed shots. That's why UVA was successful--the Cavs did a good job of keeping him out of his sweet spots. Doing that and encouraging him to settle for threes is a start to slowing him down. It's not guaranteed to work, but it's a start.

Other than TJ Warren who should the Jackets be concerned about? I know that Turner and a few others have made some huge contributions lately.

Ralston Turner is the team's only reliable three-point shooter, and as the game against Maryland showed, he is capable of getting hot and knocking down a few in a row if you lose track of him. Both Dez Lee and Cat Barber have had their moments this season; they have been unable to locate their shooting touch, though.

Outside of Warren, those guards are accounting for most of the scoring, but the young guys up front can be dangerous in spots as well. Kyle Washington seems to be growing more confident in his offensive capabilities, Lennard Freeman will do the little things, while Jordan Vandenberg could probably stand to get more opportunities considering he's making more than 73% of his twos.

From a quick glance, it seems that Georgia Tech and NC State are playing very similar basketball this year. Both teams have a strong PG, can't shoot from the 3 pt line, and are struggling a bit in the beginning of their ACC schedule. What do you think are the differences that stand out most between these two teams?

The biggest thing that sticks out, aside from stylistic differences, is defensive rebounding. Georgia Tech is doing a great job in this regard while State isn't. That could end up swinging this game in the Jackets' favor, depending on the circumstances.

Let's talk about the ACC for a minute. Do you think the ACC is the strongest conference in college basketball? What will it take to get to March coming from the ACC? How many wins will teams need? How many teams do you see going to the tournament from the ACC?

I'd say the Big Ten is clearly better, and I could make an argument for the Big 12 as well. This looks like a five- or six-bid league right now. Some of the teams in the middle tier are in decent enough shape RPI-wise to make a move and solidify bids, but it's tough to figure who--if anybody--is going to do it.

It's also difficult to guess how many wins each team is gonna need--North Carolina is probably in without much trouble at 9-9, but I don't see many strong cases materializing for the teams in the 7-12 range of the standings that fall shy of 10-11 wins. Of course, one of them could rack up a string of quality wins, which is an entirely different sort of 9-9 (or 10-8) or whatever. Just depends on how they get there. It'd help if more than a third of the league were in the RPI top 50.

I had a great time talking to Steven and getting his opinion. If y'all have any further interest in NC State's blog, make sure to check it out here.

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