We had no energy. Zero. It’s frustrating. I tried everything I could in the last couple of days to get us off the mat a little bit and we came out seemingly lifeless. We had no zip.
That’s Mark Gottfried talking about his team’s lack of energy in their loss to Louisville on Sunday.
Now, it’s one thing to lose because you missed shots, or lose because you turned the ball over too much, but it’s simply never acceptable to lose because you ‘didn’t have zip’ or were ‘lifeless.’ Call it whatever you want but ‘lack of zip’ and lifelessness are symptoms of either a tired team, a team paralyzed with fear, or a team that just doesn’t care. No matter which one you choose, there really is no viable excuse to point at.
NC State was coming off a road win over #17 Duke and it wasn’t like they had a quick turnaround with this Louisville game. They had 6 days to prepare. They had 6 days to get rid of the ‘big win hangover,’ to rest up and to mentally focus on their next matchup.
Just because you guys keep telling us that you are sick of us calling this team ‘young’, doesn’t make it any less true. What that means is that every experience is going to be one to soak in and learn from. So maybe Dennis Smith wasn’t aware of NC State’s dismal record after a Duke or UNC win. Maybe he and the rest of the freshman thought that in the ACC, when you beat Duke or UNC, that all the other teams just lay down for you. Maybe that is what happened. Maybe they are young and just didn’t know what to expect.
Avoiding that type of pitfall is the coaches job. There is no doubt Gottfried is aware of the possibility (likelihood) for this hangover. He almost certainly told his team that this is human nature and conquering those instinctive feelings would take mental focus and discipline. He knows because he’s been there, he’s seen it. But what is concerning is the fact that he obviously didn’t get the message through to them. Maybe he delivered the wrong message? Maybe he delivered the right message, but the wrong way? Whatever the case may be, his job was to prepare his men for battle and NC State looked anything but prepared to play against Louisville.
Sure, the players need to own up to their end of the bargain and come out and compete, and they failed themselves in that sense. However, having an entire team (top to bottom) playing lethargic, playing with no passion and playing that soft has to fall on the coaching staff to an extent.
We have fended off the Gottfried criticism at every turn. Telling you to give this team time to work out their kinks. Let them get on a little roll and then judge Gottfried. At this point, after that performance, we can no longer make those excuses. All the fans ask is for the team to be sold out to win. To work as hard as they can for just 40 minutes, once or twice a week. If you lose that way, fine everyone will accept that. But when you lose because you had a ‘lack of zip’ or because you were lifeless, then you can not ask the fanbase to stay quiet and wait it out.
To be quite honest, there seems to be something wrong behind the scenes with this basketball team. Something is not clicking. From an outsiders perspective, it looks to be a lack of structure and discipline. Maybe that’s not the case, however , when you are almost 3/4 of the way through the season and the team is struggling with the same problems they faced two months ago AND they aren’t even giving consistent effort night in and night out, what are people supposed to think?
At the end of the season, if this team doesn’t turn it around quickly and drastically, there are going to be a lot of questions and excuses. One excuse that won’t fly is “they didn’t have the talent.” So what will it be? What is it now?
Mark Gottfried is going to be the guy that many point the finger at. Not because his team lost to UNC and to Louisville, but how they lost. Not because his guys made mental mistakes, but because there were nights when his guys simply looked like they didn’t really care to be out there. It’s a harsh reality of being a college coach and your livelihood depending on the production of 18 and 19 year olds, but it’s why they dole out the big bucks for that position. If Gottfried wants to prove that he can get through to his team, then Wolfpack fans will be waiting to see it vs. Syracuse tomorrow night. If they come out lifeless yet again you can bet the Wolfpack fans will be anything but on Thursday morning.