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#7 Auburn at North Carolina State Game Preview and Open Thread

Huge litmus test for Auburn tonight!

NCAA Basketball: Auburn at UAB Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports

Date: Wednesday December 19

Opponent: North Carolina State Wolfpack

Location: PNC Arena - Raleigh, North Carolina

Time: 6:00PM

Network: ESPN2, Auburn Radio Network

Get to Know N.C. State...

This is the first game of a home-and-home series between the two schools. The Wolfpack will come to Auburn Arena next season. They are led by 2nd year coach Kevin Keatts, who just received a 6 year contract extension last week. Looking over the matchup, these two teams have a lot of similarities. Both teams sit at 9-1 on the season. Both teams employ 10 man rotations. The Wolfpack are averaging 88.9 points per game so far this season, while giving up just 63.6 points per game. To compare that to Auburn, the Tigers currently sit at 84.8 points a game, while giving up 62.3 points per game. Both teams can run up and down the court and quite frankly, I feel like that suits Auburn better than when the game is slowed down like the UAB game was on Saturday.

As a team, the Wolfpack are shooting 51.5% from the field, 4th in the country. They are also shooting 40.7% from 3-point range, 14th in the country. 7 of the Wolfpack’s 10 primary players shoot over 40% from 3-point range. Senior guard Torin Dorn leads the team in points and rebounds averaging 16 points and 6.9 rebounds a game. Junior guard C.J. Bryce, who originally played for Keatts at UNC Wilmington, is second on the team averaging 12.4 points and 5.6 rebounds a game. Other players to keep an eye on include Another guard, Markell Johnson, averages 12.3 points per game. A couple other players to keep an eye on include 6’10” forward D.J. Funderberk averaging 8.4 points per game and sophomore guard Braxton Beverly, who is coming off a season high 18 point performance against Penn State on Saturday.

While the Wolfpack sit at #21 in the KenPom rankings, they are not ranked in either the AP or Coaches poll. One primary reason why is their strength of schedule as KenPom has their SOS at 349, the 5th worst in the country. Their best win is an 80-65 win over Vanderbilt on a neutral floor and lost their only true road game so far, a 79-75 setback at Wisconsin. N.C. State and Auburn also have a pair of common opponents on their non-conference schedules with the Wolfpack beating UNC Asheville 100-49 and Saint Peter’s 85-57.

What to Look for from Auburn...

I’m really excited to see how Auburn handles their first true road of the season. I expect PNC Arena to be pretty fired for a Top 10 non-conference opponent to invade Raleigh. I’m stating the obvious here but the Tigers have to shoot better than 4-22 from 3-point range in order to have a chance in this one. Hopefully the Tigers will get contributions from multiple players after relying on career highs in points from Bryce Brown and Jared Harper to carry Auburn over the last 2 games. Look for Bryce to bounce back after scoring a season low 5 points on just 1-7 shooting (0-6 from 3-point range) last Saturday. I also think Jared Harper is on a mission to prove he’s one of the best point guards in the country and he’ll have good matchup in a hostile environment to try and prove that. Chuma Okeke looked to be more aggressive, especially at the beginning of the second half on Saturday and hopefully he will continue that tonight.

Score Prediction

I’ll be honest, I’m pretty nervous about this game. With this being Auburn’s first road game, it will be a taste of how things will be once the Tigers get into SEC play in 3 weeks. Auburn’s played in some closer than expected games the past 3 contests and the experience Saturday should help them going forward. Auburn’s one of the best offensive rebounding teams in the country and they will have the height advantage in this one. If they can take advantage of that, then I think the Tigers can pull this one out, but it’s definitely not going to be easy and I don’t have a ton of confidence in this pick.

Auburn 84 North Carolina State 80