The ACC/B1G Challenge is in full swing and the two conferences are tied 4-4 after two days of competition. This year, the Wisconsin Badgers (4-3 overall) travel to Raleigh, N.C. to take on the North Carolina State Wolfpack (5-2 overall, 0-1 ACC) in a return game after the Badgers won last season’s matchup.
Wisconsin has lost two straight games and will be trying to get off the schneid in a tough road environment. Steven from Backing the Pack, our N.C. State SB Nation cousins, was nice enough to answer our questions.
1) Give us a quick recap of N.C. State’s season so far. Best win, team MVP so far, things of that nature.
NC State has won the games it was supposed to, with the exception of Georgia Tech to begin the season. But the Wolfpack also was without its best player (Markell Johnson) and its best big man (DJ Funderburk) in that contest. The team’s best win of the season probably was its 16-point victory over Little Rock, which gave Memphis a tough game earlier in the year.
Senior wing C.J. Bryce has had the best start offensively and has been a consistently effective scorer inside the arc. Most likely, Johnson will end up being the MVP--or at least he had better be if this team is going to get back to the NCAAs.
2) Will Brad Davison, taker of game-winning charges, need a security detail when he steps off the plane in Raleigh?
That wouldn’t be the worst idea. And no doubt he can expect to be booed every time he touches the ball on Wednesday night. If he draws a charge during the game, it might be the officials who need the security.
3) Who is an under-the-radar player for the Wolfpack that Badgers fans can bring up at the bar to sound smart on Wednesday?
Freshman forward Manny Bates is off to a nice start after missing all of last season with injury. He’s a role player in the offense but has been good on the offensive boards, and he’s proving to be a good shot blocker as well. He’s not going to lead the scoring but definitely can have an impact in those other areas.
4) Who has taken over for Torin Dorn as leading scorer/reboudner?
Bryce, who I mentioned above, is a similar player, though not quite as good on the glass. He’ll continue to be an important piece because he can bring that type of versatility--I won’t be surprised if he leads the team in rebounding all year.
Bryce has been the leading scorer thus far, but I expect he’ll give way to Markell Johnson once Johnson gets over his slow start to the season. That’s partly been due to an ankle injury that he suffered in the preseason. So far, Johnson’s outside shooting has been off, but once that comes around, he’ll be the leader at that end of the floor.
5) Where do you think Wisconsin can take advantage of N.C. State?
NC State lacks front-court depth and in general isn’t too great at defending twos, and that’s probably going to be a lingering concern throughout the year. Wisconsin is maybe not quite as well-positioned to take advantage of that as it was last season, but the Badgers definitely can have success in the paint.
6) Final score prediction and leading scorer for the game?
Give me, oh, let’s say, NC State 70-65. Markell Johnson scores 18 to lead the way