North Carolina State Wolfpack
| MESSAGE BOARD
REGION: East SEED: 10
COACH: Kay Yow CONFERENCE: ACC
Road to the Final Four ...................................................................................
|PLAYER TO WATCH|
One thing is for sure -- Kaayla Chones is never lonely. Chones, the 6-3 senior center, is averaging 15 points and 8 rebounds a game. Even more impressive is she's hitting on 52 percent of her shots despite the constant attention.
ANALYSIS BY ESPN'S STACEY DALES-SCHUMAN
After starting the season off losing five straight and finishing the first half of ACC play with a 2-6 record, N.C. State must have experienced some extraordinary revelation, because they soon put together the best turnarounds in ACC history. Kay Yow, the ACC's winningest coach, of course, played a large part of the transformation, and Yow and her team return to the NCAA Tournament after a two-year absence.
The Wolfpack have done well under the inspired play of senior center Kaayla Chones. She is yet another veteran in women's basketball who leads her team in both scoring and rebounding. Expect Chones to get 15 points and gather at least eight boards for her team inside, while senior two-guard Nanna Rivers delivers from the perimeter.
Though not the official point guard of the team, Rivers has one of the best assist-to-turnover ratios in the conference. For nearly every two assists she records, she averages just one turnover. The Wolfpack's lone captain, Rivers provides excellent overall team command, and her peers respect her tremendously.
Although she's only a freshman and the first substitute off the bench, guard Marquetta Dickens has also been a huge part of the team's turnaround. While she's the second-best scorer on the roster, Dickens' maturation through the ACC schedule has impressed people most.
The top board-getter on the team is senior forward Alvine Mendeng. The Cameroon native is by far the most athletic player on the squad, especially on the offensive glass. Understanding that rebounds are imperative in tournament play, Mendeng will be vital.
Part of N.C. State's courageous turnaround could also be due in large part to the strenuous nonconference schedule the Wolfpack faced early. With a relatively young group of women, the Wolfpack saw Texas, then-No. 24 ranked Oregon, Georgia, Baylor and Connecticut. If losing against that list early in the season doesn't demoralize a team that carries six freshmen, I certainly don't know what will! One can only credit Yow and Co. for inviting such a trying schedule that should help the team during postseason play.
Also vital to the Wolfpack's turnaround has been outrebounding their opponent, kicking up the defense and taking better care of the basketball from the guard position. On the whole, N.C. State wants to challenge in transition and exploit its post game with an inside/out attack, and to get the highest-percentage shots possible for players such as Chones. Ultimately, they are figuring out how to win games when the stakes are high due to composed leadership from their veterans. As a result, the young bucks have taken notice, also elevating their play. These factors combined foreshadow great promise for the N.C. State program to hit all the right steps in the Big Dance.