NC State looked pretty darn bad in their loss to Illinois on Tuesday in their ACC/Big Ten matchup. When the dust settled, the Pack had lost 88-74.
So what went wrong?
— Defensively, this team needs an identity
Wow. NC State’s defense is very, very concerning. I think, defensively, most of the guys are showing good effort, however, fundamentals, communication, and anticipation on that end of the floor is non-existent.
After the game, both Torin Dorn and Ted Kapita sounded off about the team’s effort on defense. Both made it clear that this team needs to work harder and get smarter on the defensive end. This is true, but how do they do it?
They need to figure out who they are defensively. What is thier identity? Are they a team that sits back and plays position defense? Never reaching, never infiltrating the passing lanes on the perimeter? This style of defense doesn’t get many turnovers, but it does force tougher shots. It’s of the thinking that if they are going to get beat they are going to get beat by teams that shoot it well over top of them. This defense is usually more for teams that like a slower pace and can execute well in the 1/2 court on offense. If you ask me, this does not suit this NC State team.
This team is one that is going to gamble. They are going to jump passes and look to get out and run. That is fine, but that comes with a few caveats.
1) You need strong, solid interior defense. You can’t have a bunch of gambling guards and bunch of block hungry bigs. You need your bigs to be space eaters, who make it tough to get easy buckets in the lane (without fouling). This type of defense puts pressure on the bigs, and requires them to be quick to the spot, anticipate faster, and be more about altering shots than blocking them.
2) You need to pick your spots. If a guard gambles, they have to weigh the situation. Every gamble, every little reach, or pass jumped needs to be thought about situationally. Is it a good time to take a gamble? How badly to we need a stop? Do we drastically need a momentum change? This is where your guards have to be smart in understanding the risk vs the rewards on defense. Every time you get out of position by reaching, breaking on a pass or leaving your feet on a pump fake/shot, you are putting your teammates in a vulnerable position. They are forced to play 4 on 5 until you can recover.
3) You need good communication for fast rotation and recovery. As laid out in the last section, every time you gamble to you create a situation of help and recover. As a guard, when you reach and get out of position you are now demanding help, usually it’s from a big stepping up to stop the drive. When he steps up, his man is going to dive to the hoop. You need your wings to see this, anticipate this and be able to drop down and fill that space before the ball handler can drop it off to the ‘help man’s’ guy. But then you have an open wing guy. So you need either the next in rotation to take that guy, or you need the guy who gambled to recover. Team defense is complicated, it takes 5 men working together, with constant communication and a lot of talking. It takes knowing your teammates and knowing your rotations. All of this because you wanted to reach for a steal. So was it worth it? Was all of that confusing worth the gamble? That is what the NC State guards need to get better at deciphering.
So what went right?
So there actually was some good news on the night. Let’s run down that list.
– Torin Dorn scored 17 points, was 7-11 from the floor and 3-4 from 3pt range. He was the star of this game and continues to be State’s most consistent scorer.
– Abu shot the ball well. You want Abu showing teams that he can knock down the 15-20 footer, but really you only want this so they press up on him, which would allow him to beat his man off the dribble. Hopefully. tonight is the beginning of Malik finding his stroke, but let’s hope it also doesn’t end up with him falling in love with jumpers. Then again, if he’s making them I guess we’ll take it. Abu finished with 16 points and 5 boards (6-9 shooting).
– Ted Kapita put in 28 solid minutes. 13 points and 5 boards. He and Abu are a nice combo for this squad, but fouls keep them from being on the floor much at the same time. Kapita is showing nice touch around the rim, good effort and tons of intensity. The only knock on him right now is his passing. He’s seeing the open man, but he’s having trouble with the delivery. With only a few games under his belt, we believe he’ll continue to improve here.
– 12-13 from the free throw line. There is no way around it, being great from the line is going to be huge when ACC play comes around.