The Jackets take on NC State tonight in the first game of the 2019-20 season. Before the game, we sat down with Steven Muma from Backing the Pack to get his insight on what he expects when the Wolfpack and Jackets battle in Raleigh.
FTRS: On Monday, NC State head coach Kevin Keatts said “We’re a little banged up. We’ll make a gametime decision on a couple of guys. I won’t say who, but right now we’re not at full strength.” Any idea who may be missing and what the impact will be?
Jericole Hellems was held out of the second half of NC State’s exhibition game last week, and freshman wing Dereon Seabron didn’t play at all. So those are two possibilities. Hellems would be the bigger loss of the two--well, probably; no telling what Seabron brings to the table.
D.J. Funderburk will not be suiting up, though that is the result of an offseason suspension, not an injury. His absence is going to be tough for NC State to overcome, since the Wolfpack didn’t exactly have a lot of front court depth to begin with.
FTRS: How do fans feel about NC State this year without Torin Dorn?
Pretty optimistic in general, thanks primarily to Markell Johnson’s decision to come back to school. we’ll miss Torin Dorn’s contributions for sure, but I think NC State should be able to replace him in the aggregate without it costing anything at the offensive end. We expect to be back in the NCAA tournament this season.
FTRS: Who do you expect to be leading scorer and leading rebounder for this team?
Markell Johnson should slide into the top scoring spot with Dorn’s departure, but the rebounding category is tougher to figure. I’m going to guess that it’ll be D.J. Funderburk if for no other reason than he’s going to log a lot of minutes. He’s not a great rebounder at the defensive end, but he’ll get lots of opportunities.
FTRS: Is there an x-factor for the Wolfpack this year? Someone who may not have huge expectations, but could make a big impact?
I think Devon Daniels qualifies after his underwhelming debut season with NC State in 2019. I think the coaching staff thought he’d be a bigger part of the offense last season, but he ended up shooting a lot worse than he did in his one season at Utah.
He’s better than he showed last season, and with some modest improvements to his perimeter scoring, he can provide a significant boost.
FTRS: What was the reaction around the program to being left out of the NCAA tournament last season? Could the NIT success be viewed as a blessing in disguise for this seasons team?
It was disappointing but at least it was something we could kind of see coming, which eased the blow at least a little. I did enough ranting in the spring about how it’s silly to ignore your own in-house metric which is built for schedule adjustments and in any event, y’all ain’t interested in this sob story.
I don’t think playing in the NIT did anything one way or the other, but it was a nice excuse to get the team back in Reynolds Coliseum in March.
FTRS: What’s your prediction for the game? Who wins and why?
Georgia Tech seems likely to have a decided edge in the frontcourt and that could make the difference in the game, as it did in the meeting between these two last year. But I’m not gonna go predicting a defeat in the first game of the season, that would just be silly. I think State gets a big performance from Markell Johnson, which is enough to win in a close one.
Many thanks to Steven for taking the time to answer my questions. Make sure to check out some NC State coverage over at Backing the Pack.