| ||Tuesday, March 14|
Special to ESPN.com
|Last season, North Carolina State was one of two ACC teams in the NIT that thought they should have been in the NCAA field of 64. However, the numbers that N.C. State put up in 1999 suggest otherwise. The Wolfpack went 6-10 in the ACC, but were an anemic 1-8 on the road. Nine of the Wolfpack's wins were against teams ranked below the top 150.
Given that the ACC is a difficult league to find wins, this game against Purdue provides an opportunity to gain a quality road win that will impress this year's selection committee.
Purdue was a Jekyll-and-Hyde performer last season, but showed how good it could be when it got to the NCAA Tournament. Gene Keady is one of the best coaches in America, yet gets little credit for his great success. Keady seems energized by this group, and through their hard work and conditioning, the Boilermakers have a chance to be very good.
When N.C. State has the ball
Freshman swingman Damien Wilkins is a strong wing player who can shoot or drive, and he adds scoring ability at the three spot. Justin Gainey, Anthony Grundy and Archie Miller are capable guards, and freshmen Clifford Crawford and Marshall Williams will both see significant time.
Watch for Wilkins' ability to get out in transition and take the ball to the basket. While he can shoot it, he is reputed to be best when he puts the ball on the floor. Also, keep your eye on Miller. While he may not look like much, Miller has the potential to go off and hit multiple threes if he gets open looks.
When Purdue has the ball
Purdue has played 94 feet over the past few seasons, but last season the Boilermakers did not run the floor consistently. It will be interesting to see if Purdue will continue to press fullcourt. On offense, Purdue runs a passing game with a few set plays that leads it into its passing game. Jaraan Cornell is the shooter who Keady wants to see with the ball in his hands as often as possible. A lefty, Cornell defends well and shoots with consistency.
Cornell had a bit of a shock last season when he and Brian Cardinal were the primary threats that other teams targeted in their scouting reports. The season before, Chad Austin and Brad Miller were the targets, and Cornell was able to find opportunities off of them. This could be a big year for Cornell because he knows exactly what to expect from the first day.
The guy that will get the ball to Cornell is Carson Cunningham, the transfer from Oregon State. Cunningham has put on weight and muscle, and will be looking to cut down on turnovers.
Cardinal plays with reckless abandon, and is the emotional leader on the court. However, Cardinal did not look to score as much as Keady would have liked last season. It's time for Cardinal to step forward to be a marquee player, and nobody wants him to do that more than Keady. Cardinal makes a huge impact on the game by doing the little things like diving on the floor for loose balls, making steals or playing great post defense.
Mike Robinson, Greg McQuay, John Allison and Rodney Smith all improved over the summer, and each of them needs to step forward and produce on the glass and when they get the ball. Robinson and McQuay have the ability to be solid Big Ten performers.
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