Monday, November 19, 2007

Missing Engin Atsur at N.C. State

Guess we underestimated the importance of Engin Atsur to N.C. State.

The Wolfpack was ranked No. 21 by The Associated Press last week because it returned four starters from a 20-win team that won three games to reach the ACC tournament final last season.

Atsur, who was the senior point guard, is the lone starter who isn’t back. His replacement, Iowa State transfer Farnold Degand, posted a decent stat line Sunday night. Degand scored eight points on 3-for-7 from the field with four assists and two turnovers. But Atsur was a gritty floor leader who never would have allowed N.C. State to lose 65-63 at home to New Orleans.

Coach Sidney Lowe showed his lack of confidence in Degand by giving the ball to small forward Gavin Grant with 15 seconds remaining and N.C. State down a point. Grant drove the length of the floor for a layup, but New Orleans’ T.J. Worley banked in a 3-pointer with 1.7 seconds left for the win.

Without Atsur, Lowe has problems. Freshman center J.J. Hickson scored 31 in the opener against William & Mary and 22 against New Orleans, but his emergence could damage team chemistry.

Junior center Ben McCauley, who was important enough to this team that he was one of two players selected to represent the Wolfpack at the preseason ACC media day in Greensboro, has totaled 23 minutes in two games.

Forward Brandon Costner, a preseason first-team All-ACC selection, attempted five field goals and scored seven points against New Orleans.

Atsur might have had enough clout in the locker room to manage damaged egos. Now that job falls to Lowe as the Wolfpack prepares to head to Orlando, where better competition awaits in the Old Spice Classic.

The loss to New Orleans already makes N.C. State one of the ACC’s biggest early season disappointments along with Georgia Tech. Though Charlotte Latin grad Anthony Morrow is off to an excellent start, losses to UNC Greensboro and Winthrop show that the Yellow Jackets may be destined to finish near the bottom of the ACC.

Miami and Virginia, meanwhile, are the ACC’s biggest surprises. The Hurricanes won the Puerto Rico Tip-Off and have freshman James Dews emerging as a potential complement to hot-shooting Jack McClinton in the backcourt.

Virginia is 3-0 after a win at Arizona and has point guard Sean Singletary poised to give North Carolina’s Tyler Hansbrough competition for ACC player of the year honors.

– Ken Tysiac


Anonymous said...

Virginia should not be a surprise in the ACC. They were ACC co-champions last year and are much deeper this year, capable of playing at least 12 guys. Biggest concern is inside production, plenty of bodies but little offense.
NC State is riding a lot of preseason hype, Atsur will sorely be missed.
Hansborough will win POY because he plays at UNC, and because he is a great player obviously as well. Singletary is more important to UVA though.

DrFrankLives said...

I'm having fun imagining what Jason Richards is going to do to NCSU's ballhandlers.