North Carolina State coach Kevin Keatts likes where his team stands as it prepares to open Atlantic Coast Conference play at Miami on Thursday night.
The No. 18 Wolfpack (12-1) will be seeking its best start since the 1973-74 national championship team won 13 of its first 14 games.
"I'm excited about our team," Keatts said after N.C. State beat Loyola-Maryland 97-64 last week for its sixth consecutive victory. "I just told the team that I thought we did a tremendous job in our nonconference play. If you had told me that we would be 12-1, I would've taken it. Obviously, we had our chances to be 13-0.
"This team has grown in a lot of areas, and I'm proud of these guys because we have gotten better. We have been able to develop our depth. Some guys have gotten some playing time lately that I think will really help us when we get into ACC play."
The Hurricanes (8-4) have won their last three outings, but none matches the Wolfpack's 78-71 victory over then-No. 7 Auburn on Dec. 19. North Carolina State also has wins by 15 over Vanderbilt and 11 over Penn State, with the team's only loss being a 79-75 setback at Wisconsin.
"What I like about our team is the versatility we have," Keatts said. "We can play a lot of guys at a lot of different positions."
Keatts basically plays 10 players a game, while Miami's Jim Larranaga has been limited to a seven-man rotation. Guard Torin Dorn leads the Wolfpack in scoring (15.1 points per game) and rebounding (6.5 per game).
Keatts, however, is concerned about his team's recent issues with turnovers -- 56 in the past three games. But N.C. State also is forcing an average of 19.2 per game, which was the fifth-best mark in the country heading into Wednesday night's games.
"They pick you up full court for 40 minutes every game, mostly in different defenses," Larranaga said. "They play full-court man-to-man, they'll trap you out of a zone trap full court, and then they also go three-quarter court."
That could be a concern for the Hurricanes. Point guard Chris Lykes (16.6 points per game) had six turnovers against Campbell in Miami's last game and was charged with 19 during the Hurricanes' four-game losing streak. Miami is averaging 12.6 turnovers per game.
"We've had games where we've turned the ball over very infrequently," Larranaga said, "and then we've had games where we've turned it over far too often, even when the opponent wasn't pressuring us."
The other issue for Miami is the status of veteran forward Dewan Hernandez (formerly Huell). The team's leading returning scorer (11.4 points per game last season) hasn't played since a preseason exhibition because the NCAA is sorting out his eligibility status.
"Dewan is practicing," Larranaga said. "If they turn around and say he can play tomorrow night, then he's going to dress and play."
NC State-Miami Preview