After a 28-point BYU win over Arizona State and 6-point win for NC State over Vanderbilt, the two best teams in the Vegas Showdown field will meet in the finals Friday night at 7:00 PT on ESPN2 in Vegas.
NC state is a very talented team with multiple players that can score. If BYU wins, they will almost assuredly crack the AP Top 25 next week. I don’t want to get ahead of ourselves, but a win could set up BYU for a historic start. After this game, a road game at Utah is the biggest remaining obstacle before conference play begins in January.
BYU-NC State by the Numbers:
BYU Record: 5-0
NC State Record: 4-0
BYU KenPom Ranking: 12
NC State KenPom Ranking: 54
KenPom Odds: BYU 75% win probability, 77-69 final score prediction
Vegas Spread: BYU -6.5 (BYU is the favorite)
NC State is arguably BYU’s toughest test of the season to date. San Diego State may be the better team, but BYU got the Aztecs at home and SDSU was without two rotation players on the bench and star guard Darrion Trammell played but was nursing a shoulder injury.
NC State was picked to finish 7th in the ACC and starts three talented guards and one giant man in the middle. The Wolfpack start three transfers and return two starters from last year. They’ve played predominately an 8-man rotation. Of the three bench guys, two are transfers and one is freshman. So six of the eight rotation players are new to the program this season. Compare that to BYU where all nine main rotation players that have played in each game are returnees.
I expect this to be closer than the 6.5-point spread and will not be surprised at all if NC State wins.
NC State Players to watch
DJ Burns, Center — The 6-foot-9, 275 pounds big man is a mountain in the middle. Burns isn’t a huge rebounder and shot blocker at his size, but he is a load to handle in the post. He averaged 12.5 games last for for NC State and is up to 14.3 this season.
Jayden Taylor, Guard — The 6-foot-4 guard transferred in from Butler where he averaged 13 ppg last year. He is up to 14.3 ppg through 4 games this season and scored 18 versus Vanderbilt.
DJ Horne, Guard — The fifth-year senior averaged double-figures in two seasons at Arizona State and is at 12 ppg to start the year. The 6-foot-1 guard shot over 35% from three in both seasons at ASU on a high volume.
Casey Morsell, Guard — Morsell is the best shooter on the — he shot 41% from three last year for NC State and is averaging 11.8 ppg so far this season.
Dennis Parker Jr, Guard/Wing — The 6-foot-6 freshman has come off the bench each game this season, but had a breakout game versus Vandy with 18 points in 33 minutes. When Parker is in the game he will act as the de-facto 4 man. Noah Waterman’s perimeter defensive will be tested, but he should have an advantage on the glass.
What to Watch For
- BYU announced that Atiki Ally Atiki is suspended for tonight’s game after punching an Arizona State player late in BYU’s win over ASU. He will be suspended only one game and no other BYU player will face suspension. Atiki’s absence hurts BYU’s front court depth, but some help could be on the way. Charlotte transfer Aly Khalifa has played in just BYU’s first two games as he nurses a knee injury he’s been dealing with since the offseason, but I think we could see him available tonight. I don’t think he’d play major minutes, but he’d be a nice boost for BYU who could use the 6-foot-11 big man to match up with DJ Burns. Khalifa’s ability to shoot the three and passing ability could also add an extra dimension in BYU’s offense.
- NC State doesn’t have a ton of perimeter length, but they play fast and their guards will pressure BYU at times defensively. The Wolfpack are top 30 nationally in defensive turnover percentage and forced 19 turnovers versus the Commodores. Turnovers were a huge issue for BYU last season, but through five games BYU has done a nice job taking care of the ball. Ball security is a theme to watch.
- NC State has the best guard line BYU has faced so far. They will get out and push the ball. BYU is one of the best offensive rebounding teams in the country, and they should have the edge on the glass versus the Wolfpack. One downside to crashing the glass, however, is that you are susceptible to fastbreak points if you don’t get the rebound. So that is one major key to watch tonight — to see if BYU’s tendency to crash the glass hurts them in defensive transition, and if it does, if BYU will be less aggressive on the glass as the game goes on.
- If BYU limits to turnover to 13ish or less I like BYU’s chances to win. BYU should have the edge on the glass, but BYU can’t give NC State additional transition opportunities, which is where they really excel. NC State’s defensive aggressiveness has made them foul prone, so BYU will need to continue its stellar free throw shooting, which is top 15 nationally at 81%. If BYU can limit turnovers and control the glass then I think BYU will win. If turnovers get above 17 or so, then I think NC State will take advantage of those opportunities and win.