#8 – NC State
Hailing from the Atlantic Coast Conference, North Carolina State played one of the toughest schedules in the country this year. They had 17 regular season matchups against top 70 RPI teams, so this squad certainly counts as battle tested. All-ACC player Trevor Lacey averages over 15 PPG and he is flanked by Ralston Turner and Anthony “Cat” Barber. Defensively, the Wolfpack block shots (5+ per game) and rebound well on both ends of the floor. After coming up short against Duke in the ACC tournament quarterfinals, head coach Mark Gottfried said: “I am not one to assume anything, but I believe UConn lost their conference tournament game… Then they came back and won six straight games.” With the grueling schedule they played this year, the extra couple days for Gottfried and his staff to prepare for the tournament could set the under-the-rader Wolfpack up to make some noise.
– Dan Barto
#9 – LSU
Jordan Mickey (15.5 PPG, 9.8 RPG, 3.8 BPG) and Jarell Martin (16.9 PPG, 9.2 RPG) create probably the best frontcourt combo not wearing a Kentucky Wildcat jersey. Their NBA-ready bodies and skills allowed them to knock off top 25 ranked West Virginia and Arkansas. A near miss in a 71-69 loss to Kentucky means this is the last team people want to see in the first two rounds. But a short rotation of players who can contribute and an innate ability to play up or down to the level of the competition (bad losses to Missouri, South Carolina at home, Auburn at home and Tennessee) have their coaches and fan base frustrated. The keys for the Tigers to advance will be taking care of the basketball and allowing their star frontcourt players to get the volume of shots and offensive rebounds needed to succeed. Josh Gray and Jaylen Patterson have shared most of the time at the point but rarely have played well in the same game. Their skills complement one another and when Keith Hornsby, a UNC-Ashville transfer, is scoring with them they can play with anyone in the country. Small conference champions and teams are under athletic and like to slow things down want no part of this fast rising talent magnet. Look for teams to either zone exclusively to limit inside touches or pressure 94 feet to make the LSU guards prove the turnover statistics wrong (15 TPG). A Sweet Sixteen appearance this year could lead to a pair of NBA draft picks and a top 10 team for years to come, as top 2015 recruit Ben Simmons will be joining the team and could be joined by fellow five-star recruit Malik Newman. LSU could have John Calipari scrambling to hold on to the top of the SEC next year.
– Dan Barto
Yannis Koutroupis: LSU wins
Cody Toppert: NC State wins
Dan Barto: LSU wins
Dan Barto has been with the IMG Academy basketball program since 2003. Prior to becoming the Head Skills Trainer, Barto was the IMG Academy basketball program’s Developmental Head Coach. Dan has trained over 100 current or former NBA players and coached over 40 Division I players. You can follow IMG on Twitter @IMGAcademy or on Facebook here.
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