Sunday, November 14, 2010

Opener shows finding the right chemistry is key for Pack basketball

N.C. State fans are starved for a winner in basketball, which is why this season is so anticipated. Watching Sidney Lowe's previous teams could be dreadful at times, with plodding basketball and lineups that lacked the talent of State's Triangle rivals.

Now, though, N.C. State has some real players of its own, as the freshmen showed in Friday's 82-69 opening win over Tennessee Tech. That's hardly a thumping one might expect against a foe of that caliber, but the story of the game was the play of the freshmen.

C.J. Leslie had 21 points, Ryan Harrow 16 and Lorenzo Brown 14 - a pretty strong effort for a first attempt. But what State fans will watch closely is how those new players merge with the returning cast. Tracy Smith, who certainly expects to be the hub of this team, made only 2 of 8 shots for 10 points. Scott Wood had 11.

A player Lowe raved about in preseason, point guard Javier Gonzalez, made only 1 of 4 shos for four points and had only three assists in 26 minutes of action. Harrow made just 4 of 12 tries but had some electrifying moves in his 24 minutes.

All this makes you wonder how long some of the established players will keep their minutes, and how Lowe will balance the time with multiple players expecting to be on the court. State struggled with chemistry when J.J. Hickson was on the team, and even Dean Smith, with UNC in 1994, struggled to blend a group of talented veterans with a freshman class that expected to play right away.

If Lowe can find the right chemistry, then State has a chance to be exciting. Brown is the only freshman who started and he's a tough, physical player with an advanced build. Richard Howell did little on Friday but he's also a big body who gives State depth up front.

Lowe's advantage is he finally has real competition for playing time - no more keeping guys on the floor because there is no talent on the bench. That could make for a fun year for Wolfpack fans, who would love to see the RBC Center buzzing for more than just the Carolina game.

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