Sunday, January 2, 2011

With Smith back, N.C. State faces fascinating ACC run

The return of Tracy Smith sets up a conference stretch for N.C. State that will be among the most interesting in recent memory.

That the Wolfpack played poorly without Smith is undeniable. State was 6-4 with the  senior forward on the sidelines, and coach Sidney Lowe constantly talked about how losing Smith slowed the team's progress. Smith was terrific Saturday in his return getting 16 points in State's 76-54 win over San Diego.

The Pack has Elon Wednesday in Greensboro and then the steady run of ACC games begin. First up is Wake Forest in Raleigh, followed by games at Boston College and Florida State and home to Duke. This run will be an enormous test for Lowe, who has to integrate Smith back into a young team. And State enters the new year with its rotation undetermined.

For example, who is the point guard? Senior Javy Gonzalez remains the starter, but he played only 18 minutes Saturday and contributed four points and two assists. Gonzalez is nothing more than a backup on a good ACC team, but Lowe has stayed with him so far. That leaves Ryan Harrow coming off the bench, and he had 21 minutes and 12 points Saturday. Sure, that's lesser competition - what can he do against Duke? Or more significantly, what will he do against mid-level ACC teams like Boston College?

Assuming Smith is fully healthy, Lowe has to create a consistent playing rotation, and fast. This is still a team trying to figure out its parts. State appears to have the talent to be an upper echelon ACC team, especially in such a down year. But a poor ACC performance would be disastrous for State, which has yet to make the NCAA Tournament under Lowe.

No comments:

Post a Comment