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Our Take: Wolfpack Flatlines in 73-56 Loss to Clemson

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NC State suffered a serious hangover from the Syracuse loss, losing to Clemson 73-56. There was a lack of energy, zero defense and just not much want-to out of a Wolfpack team that was playing with their backs to the wall.

I really am not sure what to say here. The breakdown is simple, NC State just didn’t want it as much as Clemson did. Maybe it was the unusual travel schedule or the fact that they felt cheated out of that Syracuse game, I don’t know. What I do know is the performance should be seen as unacceptable from Mark Gottfried. His team had a shot to make a move and sneak into the tournament, now they pretty much need to win out to secure a spot and with games at Pitt and against UNC, it’s not going to be the least bit easy. So really, what went wrong?

TJ Warren was off
Sure Warren put up his usual 20 points, but it wasn’t vintage Warren. He really struggled on offense and just couldn’t seem to get his game going. He had 7 turnovers by himself, many of which were just balls slipping out of his hands. There was a complete lack of focus early on in this one and caused the Pack to dig themselves a hole.

Defense was poor 
There are going to be games when you really need to lock down on defense and this was one of them. If you pressure Clemson and really lock down, they’re not going to score. It really set the tone early when PG Rod Hall went right at Lewis early in the game. He got some easy buckets and State was forced to take out Tyler. Now, I know that is the trade-off you get with Lewis. He’s not a great defender due to his size, but he’s got to get better if State wants to succeed night in and night out with him on the floor. As crafty as he is on offense, he seems to not bring much of that to the game defensively. When guards drive on lewis he gets very handsy and is often called for the foul. As a small guard, your best defense is to make contact with your chest. Lewis does often stay in front of guys, but when they get physical with him and force their way in, he either gives way, or uses his hands. If he’d just make contact with his chest and keep his hands out, the refs wouldn’t be able to make this call. He also could take a page out of Barber’s book. Cat stays in front of his guy and when they try to force their way in, he allows their momentum to take him backwards, usually resulting in a charge. Lewis has got to get more crafty on defense if he wants to be the long term option for NC State at PG.

The team needs toughness
This team has been better than most expected, but their is a huge problem with lack of toughness and lack of ability to play through contact. Teams like Clemson, UVA, Duke and at times UNC are very physical. They invite contact and use it to their advantage. These are the type of teams that NC State is getting crushed by. The Pack is shying away from contact, and are timid when teams really get up in them. Now, we do need to realize that this team is young and that they are still learning how to play in this league, but going forward toughness and physicality is going to be the difference-maker in this team becoming a contender in years to come.

I know this team is down, but they need to get their chins up and come back with an attitude. I’m not sure where it starts who who is the catalyst for this type of change, but it needs to happen. They have seen success with teams that lay back and don’t apply pressure, but have wilted when teams got physical and upped the pressure. And yes, I’m mainly talking about the guards. The Wolfpack bigs have really played strong and with a ton of passion this season, but the guards have had a ton of trouble against teams that key on defense. If they want to make a run, the guards need to toughen up quick.

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NC State Basketball

Here is the 2024 ACC Women’s Basketball Tournament Bracket

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The bracket for the 2024 ACC Women’s Basketball Tournament is here. The 10th ranked NC State is the #2 seed in the tournament, and their first game will be on Friday at 5pm on ACC Network.

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The Wolfpack will play the winner of the Duke (7 seed) vs. Georgia Tech (10 seed)/Pitt (15 seed).

NC State defeated Pitt 83-47 on February 11th, and they defeated Georgia Tech 86-85 on February 18th.

The Wolfpack lost to Duke 58-69 on February 25th. NC State entered the game as 1.5-point favorites, but ended up losing in enemy territory.

Georgia Tech defeated Pitt 68-58 on January 7th. Duke defeated both Georgia Tech and Pitt this season, defeating the Yellow Jackets 84-46 on January 14th, and the Panthers on 69-38 on February 1st.

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NC State Basketball

There is Reason to be Frustrated

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If you are an NC State fan, it’s only reasonable that you’re frustrated with the state of the Men’s Basketball program.

Under Kevin Keatts, NC State has gone to the NCAA Tournament twice in 7 seasons. The Wolfpack didn’t win a game in the Big Dance in either of those appearances.

Keatts has led NC State to a 3-5 record in the ACC Tournament, failing to reach the semifinals a single time.

You could make an argument that his first season in Raleigh was his best (I don’t think it was), because the Wolfpack finished 5th in the ACC, which is the highest the team has finished in the conference under his watch.

2017-18 – 5th
2018-19 – 8th
2019-20 – 6th
2020-21 – 9th
2021-22 – 15th
2022-23 – 6th
2023-23 – 9th (currently)

Average finish: 8.3

(For context, in 6 seasons, Mark Gottfried’s average finish was 8.7.)

Over the past 7 seasons, NC State has been ranked in the Top-25 in only 8 polls (2 separate seasons), with the highest being on January 7th, 2019, when the Wolfpack were ranked 15th.

Under Gottfried, NC State was ranked in 13 polls (all one season). With Herb Sendek at the helm, the Wolfpack were ranked in the Top-25 in 5 different seasons, in a total of 35 polls.

Do I think Kevin Keatts is the worst coach at NC State in recent memory? No, that award goes to Sydney Lowe. In all reality, NC State’s record overall and in conference play is nearly identical under Keatts, as it was under Mark Gottfried and Herb Sendek.

(Overall/Conference)
Kevin Keatts – 58.3/48.3
Mark Gottfried – 58.9/45.3
Herb Sendek – 59.1/45.0

What’s the difference between Keatts and the other two?

A couple of observations.

Sendek finished his time at NC State with 5 consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances, and Gottfried started off his tenure with 4 consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances. The Wolfpack advanced to the 2nd round 3 times, and the Sweet 16 once under Sendek. Under Gottfried, they advanced to the 2nd round twice.

Sendek led NC State to the ACC Championship game 3 times (in 10 years), and the semifinals 4 times. Gottfried led the Wolfpack to the semifinals on 3 occasions. Heck, Sidney Lowe led NC State to the ACC Championship game once, and the semifinals on another occasion.

Is the NC State Men’s Basketball program worse off under Keatts than it was under the previous coaches? If you simply look at total wins and losses, that’s not necessarily the case, but when you look at the Wolfpack’s production in postseason play, there is no other answer besides ‘yes.’

Every now and then you have to be willing to eat crow. Years ago, I was of the opinion that Herb Sendek needed to go. Do I think that Sendek would have brought NC State back to where it was in the 80’s? I didn’t think it then, and I’m not certain my opinion on that has changed, but the past 20 years has proven to me that the grass isn’t always greener.

Call me nostalgic, but from a historical perspective, I believe NC State fans have right to expect their Men’s Basketball program to be successful…to consistently be ranked in the Top-25…to finish in the top half of the ACC…compete for conference championships…and go to the Big Dance on a regular basis.

There is reason to be frustrated.

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NC State Basketball

Madison Hayes Will Be Returning for Her Final Year of Eligibility in 2024-25

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Last night NC State Guard Madison Hayes was honored on Senior Night, but she also announced that she would be returning in 2024-25 for her final year of eligibility. She was honored alongside Center River Baldwin and Forward Mimi Collins, who are both out of eligibility after this season.

Hayes is in the midst of a breakout season this year, averaging 11.7 points and 7.0 rebounds per game, which are both career highs. She ranks 3rd on the team in scoring, behind the other two Guards in the starting lineup, Aziaha James and Saniya Rivers, who will also be back in 2024-25. Even though she is a Guard, Hayes leads the Wolfpack in rebounding. Her 44.1% Field Goal Percentage is the best of any of the Wolfpack Guards, and her Three Point Percentage of 41.7% is the best on the squad.

As a Senior in high school, Hayes was named a McDonald’s All-American in 2020, and she earned a spot on the All SEC Freshman team in 2021 as a member of Mississippi St. In 2021-22, she transferred to NC State, and played in 26 games off the bench, but earned a spot in the starting lineup last season.

Big news for the Wolfpack Women’s Basketball program!

 

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NC State Basketball

NC State 64 #9 Duke 79: BOX SCORE

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#9 Duke defeated NC State 79-64 in PNC Arena this evening. With one game remaining for the Wolfpack in the regular season, they are now 17-13 overall, and 9-10 in ACC play. Below is the Box Score.

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