With the cancellation of the 2020 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, Wolfpack nation may never know if the NC State men’s basketball team did enough in the closing weeks of the season to punch its ticket to the big dance. While that question will likely never be answered, there are a number of questions dating back to before the season that can be answered about this year’s team. Here are some of those questions and answers:
Is this team going to be deep enough?
The question of depth was arguably the biggest one on most people’s minds heading into the 2019-20 season and it didn’t take long to find out that the team wasn’t. Only six players averaged over 20 minutes per game, and that number only increases to eight if you go down to 10 minutes a game.
When someone got into foul trouble, especially one of the bigs, head coach Kevin Keatts didn’t have many options to go to on his bench. The Pack’s consistent injury woes didn’t help the depth situation, but the problems were there before anyone ended up injured.
Will the graduate transfers contribute?
One possible solution to the Pack’s depth problems could have been the graduate transfer duo of Danny Dixon and Pat Andree. Standing at 6-foot-10 and 6-foot-8 respectively, the duo looked like the ideal rotation that could come in when redshirt freshman Manny Bates or redshirt junior D.J. Funderburk got into foul trouble or needed a breather. Unfortunately, neither turned out to be the solution.
Dixon stole the hearts of Wolfpack fans on social media, for some reason, but apart from a few big offensive rebounds against Virginia and Notre Dame, and a 10-point game on Senior night, Dixon did not contribute much of anything when he was on the court.
While Dixon had a moment here or there, Andree disappointed and angered fans, as the supposed sharpshooter failed to live up to the expectations fans had for him after a solid junior season at Lehigh where he shot 42% from beyond the arch.
Andree shot an okay 33% from outside for the Pack, but that was only good enough for fourth on the team among players who took over 10 shots from deep. It is safe to say that neither contributed at the level fans expected them to at the beginning of the season.
How well would Funderburk and Bates play together?
The duo of Funderburk and Bates was very exciting when the duo was able to be on the court together, but due in large part to the aforementioned depth issues, the pair was rarely able to do so. Since Keatts did not have a reliable third big man on his bench, the duo had to swap in and out for each other during games.
With Bates’s ability to protect the rim and Funderburk’s ability to stretch the floor at the four, the two big men were dangerous when on the court together. With the likes of Nick Farrar and Ebenezer Dowuona, two potentially solid big men, the pair should have more opportunity to play together in the 2020-21 season.
How would Markell Johnson and C.J. Bryce step up in their senior seasons?
Senior guards Markell Johnson and C.J. Bryce were set to be the Pack’s two go-to players at the beginning of the season. After losing the previous season’s top scorer Torin Dorn, the two needed to step up, and for the most part, they did.
While Bryce missed some time with injury and there were a fair few sightings of “bad” Markell, the two were solid. Bryce averaged 13.3 points per game and Johnson averaged 12.8, the two highest scoring averages on the team. Johnson also added to his scoring with nearly seven assists per game.
The pair of senior leaders might have been inconsistent at times, but they did step up across the season, which is exactly what fans expected from them.
What would the biggest surprise of the season be?
Going into every season NC State fans know there will be one or two really big surprises, either good or bad. This past season, the surprise was undoubtedly the leap that redshirt junior guard Devon Daniels made, going from turning heads for all the wrong reasons to being one of the most consistent players on the team.
Daniels averaged 12.7 points per game this season, nearly three and a half more points per game than his first season at NC State. While Daniels was only the fourth-highest scorer on the roster (trailing Johnson and Funderburk by just 0.1), the thing that made him stand out the most was his jump in efficiency.
The transfer from Utah shot 47% from the field, a 6.1% increase from the season before, 32.2% from beyond the arch, a 1.1% increase, and 70.3% from the line, a 4.2% increase. He also increased his assists total by 15, his rebound total by 12 and his steal total by 21 all while decreasing his personal foul total by two and his turnover total remaining the same, despite playing eight more minutes per game.
If you told someone at the beginning of the season that Daniels would be arguably one of NC State’s best players this season and definitely the most consistent, they would have laughed in your face. But now with the, albeit shortened, season finished, Daniels has proven he is a very good player, and while his future at State is uncertain with the guard set to go through the NBA draft process (along with Funderburk) if he does return next season, expect to see even more from him.