It’s been a bumpy launch for NC State basketball this season. The Wolfpack are 7-2, but their wins have only come against teams ranked outside of KenPom’s top 125. The Pack, however, will receive a significant boost this week with the addition of five-star center Omer Yurtseven to the lineup.
Yurtseven’s nine-game suspension concluded after the victory over Tennessee State this past weekend, and his debut will occur Thursday night, when NC State hosts in-state foe Appalachian State.
The offense for NC State has actually been pretty darn good this season, and mostly stayed afloat because of their ability to get to the foul line. The Pack has already attempted 241 free throws, which ranks 59th in the nation; Dennis Smith Jr. is attempting greater than seven free throws per game. Mark Gottfried’s club has attempted 68 more free throws than their opponents, but a once again leaky defense has submarined an offense that ranks 33rd in the nation in terms of adjusted efficiency.
It hasn’t been just the Creighton game; this team has struggled against dribble penetration all season, and it shows: they rank No. 120 in the country in adjusted defensive efficiency, according to Ken Pomeroy. On top of that, their rebounding efforts have left a lot to be desired, too.
Despite possessing a frontcourt led by two upperclassmen — Abdul-Malik Abu and BeeJay Anya — State has performed below expectations on the glass. The Wolfpack rank 248th in the nation in terms of total rebounding, per Sports-Reference.com. They’re currently minus-15 on the glass for the season. NC State was one of the best offensive rebounding teams in the country last season, but has fallen outside of the top 150 in terms of offensive rebounding rate, despite returning most of their key bulk personnel. It can’t all be the absence of Lennard Freeman.
State, of course, has played small at times sans Yurtseven and Ted Kapita, who also missed time amid eligibility concerns. However, both should be back in the lineup Thursday night for the first time this season.
If the 7-foot Yurtseven, who has an incredible track record playing in Europe, can lift up State’s interior game around their prolific perimeter trio — Smith Jr., Terry Henderson and Torin Dorn, who combine to score better than 52 points per game — then the Pack have a chance to reroute in a different direction. Yurtseven won’t solve their issues on that end of the floor, but it would go a long way if he could at least help complete defensive possessions with a rebound. Right now, State is getting demolished in this department. They’ve given up 121 offensive rebounds this season, which averages out to more than 13 per game. State is among the worst in the nation in opponent offensive rebounding rate. That has to change, and the sooner, the better.
NC State has four games on the docket before conference play starts up at Miami on the last day of 2016. Those four opponents give the Pack 160 minutes to integrate Yurtseven into their rotation before the schedule hits another level in difficulty.