After a 28-4 season and an ACC Tournament win in the 2019-2020 season, the Wolfpack women’s basketball team and head coach Wes Moore are hopeful for another impressive season with most of its roster returning.
The Pack’s roster has to make up for losing some leadership from last year’s seniors, but sophomore wing Jakia Brown-Turner and junior center Elissa Cunane both showed last season that they are up to the challenge.
Cunane has already been named to the watch lists for the 2021 Jersey Mike's Naismith Trophy, 2021 Wade Trophy and 2021 Lisa Leslie Award, as well as being named to the preseason All-ACC team. Brown-Turner, after an exceptional freshman season, has been named to the preseason All-ACC team and 2021 Ann Meyers Drysdale Award watch list, which is awarded to the top shooting guard in women’s NCAA Division I basketball. Graduate student guard Raina Perez has been named to the 2021 Nancy Lieberman Award watch list, which represents the top point guard in the nation.
The AP preseason women’s basketball poll ranked NC State at No. 8, while the ESPN way-too-early list ranked the Pack at No. 6.
NC State will play five nonconference games before beginning conference play on Dec. 13. Four out of the five games will be held at Reynolds Coliseum, the first being against North Florida on Wednesday, Nov. 25.
At South Carolina, Dec. 3: South Carolina is ranked No. 1 after a 32-1 season last year. This will be the first meeting between these teams since the 2011-12 season, when the Gamecocks beat the Wolfpack 55-53. After a highly successful season last year, South Carolina has most of its roster returning, including sophomore forward Aliyah Boston, who was unanimously selected as one of five players for the AP preseason All-America women's basketball team. This game is undoubtedly the toughest of the season.
Notable ACC Matchups
At Boston College, Dec. 13: The Wolfpack will begin ACC play with a game in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts against Boston College. NC State bested Boston in its regular-season matchup last year, and then beat them again in the ACC Tournament.
Duke, Dec. 20: NC State split its games against Duke in the 2019-20 season. The Pack beat the Blue Devils in Durham 63-60, but was topped at home 70-65. Duke is starting this season with a new head coach in Kara Lawson. Two consistent high scorers, guard Haley Gorecki and forward Leaonna Odom, both departed from the team, but most of their roster this year is above a sophomore standing.
At Georgia Tech, Dec. 31: Georgia Tech was another team that NC State split its games with last season. The Pack lost to Georgia Tech in its regular-season matchup 65-61, but managed to beat the Yellow Jackets in the ACC Tournament 57-48. Georgia Tech graduated guard Francesca Pan but retained junior guard Lotta-Maj Lahtinen and senior forward Lorela Cubaj, who both contributed to the team’s success last season. Its roster this season is relatively young, with eight freshmen and sophomores.
At Louisville, Jan. 17: Louisville was one of four teams that beat NC State last season. The Wolfpack lost its one matchup against Louisville 66-59. Louisville retained senior guard Dana Evans, who led the team in scoring last year. Its roster is well-rounded age-wise, and the team starts the season ranked No. 5 by AP.
At UNC-Chapel Hill, Feb. 7: The Wolfpack will travel to Chapel Hill for the rivalry game against the Tar Heels in early February. NC State split its matches against UNC in the 2019-20 season, losing 66-60 in Chapel Hill but beat the Tar Heels at home 76-68. While UNC lost guard Taylor Koenen, who led them in scoring last year, it still has senior center Janelle Bailey, who has been named to the 2021 Lisa Leslie Award watch list, which is awarded to the top center in the nation. The Pack will also host the Heels on Feb. 21.
Notre Dame, Feb. 15, Play4Kay: The 16th-annual Play4Kay game will be against Notre Dame. NC State beat in the Fighting Irish in their matchup last season 90-56. Notre Dame has a new head coach this season, Niele Ivey. Its roster only has eight returning players, but one of those is graduate student guard Destinee Walker, who led the team in scoring last season. After a 13-18 season last year, Notre Dame is ranked No. 22 in the AP.
At Syracuse, Feb. 28: The Pack will finish its season out in New York against Syracuse. In the 2019-20 season, NC State beat Syracuse 69-60.
The 2020-21 ACC Women’s Tournament is scheduled for March 3-7 at the Greensboro Coliseum.