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Wolfpack still seeking consistency as ACC heats up

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N.C. State has reached the quarter mark of the Atlantic Coast Conference men’s basketball campaign and the Wolfpack has yet to find any consistency, except when it comes to players missing action.

In five league games, N.C. State head coach Kevin Keatts has only had a completely healthy team on the court for one game — a road victory at Wake Forest in December.

That will change soon. It could happen Wednesday evening.

C.J. Bryce is a game-time decision for N.C. State’s Wednesday evening matchup at home against Miami. The 6-foot-5 wing leads the Wolfpack in scoring and rebounding but has been out the previous four games with a concussion.

The Pack is currently 1-2 in league play during Bryce’s absence.

“C.J. Bryce practiced (Monday),” head coach Kevin Keatts said. “He looked pretty good. He will be a game-time decision. He is trending the right way. I’m hoping that our doctors will see what they like and that he feels like he’s good enough to go tomorrow after shoot-around. It’s completely up to him and our doctors whether he’s going to play or not, but he did have a good practice yesterday.”

Keatts is following protocol with the redshirt senior, but is eager to have him back when he is cleared.

“He has not been 100% cleared,” Keatts said. “He’s been cleared to be able to practice, but in order for competition, that’s going to be one of those things that he and the doctors are going to have to decide on.”

It is easy to look at Bryce’s stats (16.1 points per game on 52.9% shooting and 6.8 rebounds per contest) and think that is the crux of what the Wolfpack is missing, but it his absence runs deeper.

Without the normal depth that he likes to employ, Keatts has been left with a stylistic dilemma. The Wolfpack has not been able to use the frantic pace offensively or implement its full-court press in a way resembling the past two seasons. It has put a premium on N.C. State’s halfcourt offense and, in particular, 3-point shooting.

For the season N.C. State is shooting only 33% (122 of 370) from 3-point range. In the last four games sans Bryce, the Pack’s marksmanship from long range has dipped to a frigid 23.5% (24 of 102).

“The way we like to play, the way we like to press, the way we like to run, I think the biggest thing that’s hurt us is that we don’t have another sub at the guard spot,” Keatts said. “That’s the obvious. The other thing is that it’s tough, I don’t care what sport you’re in, to have one of your better players who’s also a senior in the locker room not to be there. We’re missing some of his production, 16 points (per game), and he’s our leading rebounder. Those are the two obvious things. I think our depth is the biggest thing because we haven’t been able to press the way we love to press in any of the games he’s been out.”

Keatts still feels there is time to develop a chemistry and make a move towards the top of the ACC standings despite the Pack’s 2-3 start in league play. He also believes that it is a trend throughout the nation, and that his team is not an outlier.

“I’m like every other coach, I wish we’d won every game that we played but when you look at our conference there’s so much parity,” Keatts said.

“If you pull up the rankings of our conference and even, I’ll take it a step further, most of the Power Five conferences throughout the country, everybody’s right there. We’ve got four or five teams sitting right at 2-3 then a couple of guys at 3-3, and then there’s a couple like Duke and Florida State that are playing well. Then you’ve got three or four teams that just have one win. I think, on any given night, everybody can beat everybody. It’s one of those things that I’ve told everybody. There’s not one team that’s dominant.”

Rob McLamb of Inside Pack Sports has covered N.C. State athletics and recruiting since 2012. You can follow him on Twitter @RobMcLamb.