How They Are Doing So Far:
North Carolina State is currently 14-3, but have lost two of their last three games. That strong start came with some decent wins over teams like Vanderbilt, Penn State and, most impressively, Auburn. Like many teams though, the Wolfpack are having some troubles in conference play. Coach Kevin Keatts’ team started with a nice road win at Miami, before losing at home against rival North Carolina. And following a win against Pittsburgh, North Carolina State lost a tough game at Wake Forest.
Last Time Out:
NC State will hope to rebound from their loss at Wake Forest with a victory in South Bend. Much of that will have to do with the health of point guard Markell Johnson. Without Johnson, the Wolfpack scored a season low 67 points on Tuesday night. Torin Dorn and C.J. Bryce tried to pick up the slack. combining to score 35 points. But without Johnson on the floor, North Carolina State failed to get much offense from the rest of the team. Dorn and Bryce are guards who can often create their own shots and without somebody else creating offense, the Wolfpack became a one-dimensional offense.
Who To Watch:
The return of Markell Johnson, whose status for Saturday’s games is still up in the air, would make a huge difference for North Carolina State. The Wolfpack do have a lot of talent in the backcourt though and they will need to create some offense and, unlike against the Demon Deacons, knock down some shots consistently. Torin Dorn is the team’s top scorer, averaging 14.4 points per game. C.J. Bryce and Devon Daniels are double-digit scorers too. Most of the pressure should Johnson miss Saturday afternoon’s game will be on Braxton Beverly. The sophomore guard dishes out 2.9 assists per game and he will need to help get the offense moving against the Irish.
Who Else To Watch:
NC State’s recent offensive struggles are due to quite a few factors. Obviously the Markell Johnson injury hurt them on Tuesday. However, the team has not been shooting particularly well either. That is in part because of the lack of a consistent interior scoring threat. Sophomore DJ Funderburk has occasionally been a solid interior scorer. He scored a season high 18 points against Pittsburgh last weekend and added 15 points against North Carolina in the previous game. If the 6-10 forward can have another quality scoring game against Notre Dame, it will help create open looks for the perimeter scorers.
ACC wins have been tough to come by for Notre Dame and that will likely continue. Yet this is a good opportunity for the Irish to get a win against a top 25 opponent. The Wolfpack are certainly vulnerable right now and this could be a turning point game for them too. North Carolina State has games against Louisville, Clemson, Virginia, Virginia Tech and North Carolina after this game. That is an extremely tough stretch of games and heading in with a little momentum could prove very important.