State-Wisconsin Matchup a Contrast of Styles
There will be a class confrontation of contrasting basketball styles tonight when NC State and Wisconsin meet tonight at PNC Arena in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
Coach Kevin Keatts' Wolfpack wants to push the pace of the game offensively and turn the game into an uptempo affair, as illustrated by its season average of 83.6 points per game -- the second highest total in the ACC and 15th nationally. Wisconsin, on the other hand, ranks 254th nationally in scoring offense. at 68.3 points per game.
At the other end of the floor, the Badgers ranks 56th nationally scoring defense at 61.7 points per game while State ranks 215th, allowing 70.4 points per game.
Last year's matchup between these two teams played out in a style more favorable to State. And yet, Wisconsin still came out on top 79-75.
Here is what Keatts had to say on Monday about the matchup, having to adjust to a different style of opponent after playing up-tempo Memphis last Thursday and importance of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge ...
"That's college basketball. That's the ACC. That's what we get in our league. You play against a high-scoring team, you'll play Duke or Carolina who will run and then you've got to play against a really good Virginia team that you have low possessions. We're kind of used to that."
"College basketball is crazy now. On any given night you can beat anybody or you can lose to anybody. ... This Challenge is always exciting. It's exciting individually because you get a chance to play against a Power 5 team, but you also get a little bragging rights because of our conference. Obviously, we feel that the ACC is the No. 1 conference in the country and we look forward to these Challenges."
Keatts said that while the differences in style between his team and tonight's opponent are great, that isn't necessarily true for the ACC and Big Ten as a whole ...
"I don't think it's a big difference in style, because I think you can find a Big Ten team that plays similar to any ACC team and vice versa. I just think it's a really good conference. It's been a great conference for many years and I'm excited that the ACC, we're partnered with those guys and have a Challenge becuase it's great for your resume. You have a chance to win a great game. We played Penn State two years ago and last year it was Wisconsin. So those are good games early in the season that you already know you have scheduled."
Keatts had high praise for the Badgers, even though they're only 4-3 coming off consecutive losses to Richmond and New Mexico ...
"They're a good basketball team. I know they didn't have a good weekend, but you can say that about a lot of teams around the country about the way they've played in these tournaments. But I go back to the Marquette game (a 77-61 Wisconsin win on Nov. 17). Marquette is usually a good program. As we watch those guys, they played extremely well against those guys."
They haven't been shooting the ball well. We hope that continues, but certainly they are a a very capable team. And they're a dangerous team. (Nate) Reuvers is playing at a high level. He's 7-feet and he's tough to guard. Of course (Brad) Davison is a very good player, they have good guards. They post your guards up. They're a tough team to prepare for."
As for his own team, Keatts said he's hoping the Wolfpack plays like it did in the second half against Memphis, not as it did in a disastrous first half in which it was outscored 55-39 ...
"It was weird. It was two different teams. When you look at the last six minutes of the first half, I thought we had complete blown assignments on ball screen coverage. The game really changed when we had to take D.J. (Funderburk) and Manny (Bates) out of the game. They kind of blew it open before half."
"We gave up 55 points, which is not what we want to do. But the encouraging thing is that our second half was so great. We held them to 28 points, we shared the basketball, we got our big guys back in the game and we had our chances to win at the end. It was two different halves. I don't want to see the first half ever again. But I'm encouaged on the second half and hopefully we can build on that."