NC State fell to Miami in their ACC opener 81-63. The story was somewhat simple. Miami’s veterans knew what to expect and how to prepare, and NC State’s young guys did not. The youthfulness of the Wolfpack was glaring, and before they could recover, the game was already out of hand. Let’s take a look at the specifics.
Lack of Leadership
Miami’s vets (Reed, Murphy and Newton) combined for 52 points and answered the bell every time NC State rang it. On the other side, NC State looked shell-shocked. Instead of running the offense and getting good shots, they decided to go one on one and try to win it that way. That’s not going to work in the ACC. Miami owned the pace of play and the overall basketball game. If you’re wondering where improvements can be expected, I think it’s obvious. Dennis Smith Jr. is, whether it’s fair or not, the guy this team is looking to. While he’s only a freshman, he is the one whose voice, body language, and style of play matters and sets the tone for his teammates. He is still learning this part of the game.There is a fine line that Smith will find eventually, between “Coach on the floor” and “take-over scorer,” however, we’ll just have to wait as he work this out.
Note: Smith did have 21 points and 5 assists, so he didn’t play bad on paper, however as we’ve said in the past, Smith is a kid who is judged on a different scale (again, fair or not), and the intangibles he shows will be the difference between a competitive NC State team, or one that’s lost in the shuffle.
Soft in the Paint
First off, let’s say this. Abu (11pts, 9 rebounds)was the lone bright spot in this game and it was a shame that the team went away from feeding this guy the ball. He had an advantage that should have been exploited early and often. As for Yurtseven (5 pts, 4 boards in 24 mins), he we cruelly welcomed to the ACC. It was men against boys in there, and as harsh as that fact may be, Yurt was abused with physicality. You can’t fault the kid since this is literally the first decent opponent that he’s faced in college, but if he’s going to be the x-factor for NC State and get big time minutes, he’s going to have to learn to love contact, and fast. He’s a very skilled, very intelligent player, so I’m positive that he is pouring over the film and plotting a better performance next time out.
The downside of a soft schedule
You can’t say that we didn’t warn you. We’ve talked extensively about NC State’s scheduling. We have laid out the good and the bad. The fact that this team will have a pretty easy time in the non-conference as they learn to play together, but be rudely awakened in ACC play. That is what you are seeing now. In fact, we said to expect a slow start before figuring it out right before ACC play, then a slight dip (adjustment period) in ACC play, before the team peaks mid-ACC season. We’ll see how that goes, but so far that is exactly what has happened.
The team simply was not ready for the physicality, the road game hostility, and the level of efficiency that comes with ACC play. They had been running through teams recently and thought they could simply play their way and win. That proved to not be the case…which bring us to the next point.
Learning Lessons the Hard Way is Part of the Plan
Some of you guys give Gottfried a really unfair shake, IMO. The thing is, if you expect Gott to simply take teams and have them peaking in November and sustaining that level of play until March, then yes, you have grounds for complaining. But, name a coach outside of maybe 2 or 3 elite guys who can do that with his teams year in and year out?
If you haven’t paid attention to Gottfried’s coaching style, it’s very player-centric. He is not a Bobby Knight, shove it down your throat, ‘my way or the highway’ type coach. And to be honest with you, that type of Coach is rarely successful in today’s game. Like it or not, kid’s have the decision now and they will choose a player-centric coach nearly every single time over a disciplinarian. Now, there are those who know what it takes to be great and want a coach who breaks them down from day one in order to build them back up, but those players are few and far between. You see the 2 or 3 of them coming out of HS every year going to UNC, Duke, Kentucky, or Kansas (…more established programs).
So if you are Gottfried, what do you do? Be a disciplinarian with kids who don’t want to be disciplined and have the option of transferring out? That’s simply a recipe for disaster. Sure you end up with a group of kids who are bought in, but do you have enough talent to take on Duke and UNC, who have teams that are both bought in and uber-talented? The answer is no and literally the situation Herb Sendek found himself in at NC State.
Instead, Gottfried takes a different approach. He brings in talented kids and gives them a chance to do it their way, and they respect that. It’s why he lands a lot of the guys he’s brought in. Sure, they have an offense and are being coached, but Gottfried let’s his teams take their lumps before laying down the hammer.
It’s called learning the hard way and it’s why his teams historically peak in February and March. If you want to understand this you have to be able to remember back to when you were a child. It didn’t matter what your mom or dad told you, you weren’t going to listen because you ‘knew’ how to do it. This led to learning many lessons ‘the hard way.’ After you fail on your terms you are much more open to guidance. That is literally the way Gottfried has coached his young teams. Now, eventually he’ll have a group of veterans who take his way, make it theirs, and pass it down to the underclassmen. That is how you build a dominant program like the ones we talked about above. But until then, let the man work. He knows how to deal with these kids and we all knew there would be some lumps to take as these kids learn.