The game could have gone completely different. The refs could have looked past Caleb Martin running into a UVA player after a basket and not called a flagrant 1. Trevor Lacey could have hit a near uncontested layup in the closing minute to tie the game. Ralston Turner could have hit just one of his six 3 point attempts. Those things didn’t happen, and the Pack once again fought hard but squandered a chance at solidifying their tournament resume, losing 51-47 on Wednesday night.
This was their latest best chance. UVA’s leading scorer and best defender, Justin Anderson, was out with a broken finger and UVA only shot 37% from the floor, but State couldn’t capitalize.
Really, that’s been the story all season. State plays hard, but lacks the mental toughness to kick it into that final gear and push over the top. That final gear is where winners live. That is that realm where focus, hunger and talent merge. There is no mercy to be found there. It’s a place of unwavering confidence where an unquenchable thirst to watch your opponent suffer exists. When you’re there they can see the obsession in your eyes and the lengths you’ll go to get what you want. It’s a place for takers.
Sound crazy? sick? psychopathic?
It is, but that is what champions are. They’re a little crazy in the length they’ll go to get what they want. They have a sickness that only winning can cure. They have a narrow, laser-guided focus and won’t let up until the buzzer sounds. They are finishers.
NC State isn’t there yet. Maybe they are too young. Maybe they haven’t been taught or they haven’t bought into this level of insanity. It’s hard to say, but it’s just obvious that this is not a championship caliber team right now and as the season winds down you have to wonder if they are ever going to get there. If that switch is ever going to flip.
Virginia has the NCAA’s best defense, but without Anderson they are certainly not as dangerous. They were not able to make the type of offensive runs that they usually do with Anderson leading the way. They simply played smart, position defense and took NC State’s most dangerous weapons out of the game. It was a good gameplan, but NC State were the ones who allowed them to execute it. The Pack played Virginia basketball last night, and have been allowing opponents to dictate their style of play far too often this season. The Wolfpack needs a change if they are going to come back to life this season. Here is where we hope/expect to see it…
LACEY MUST BECOME EVEN MORE TO THIS TEAM
As we have stated lately and pointed out in our pregame article, Lacey has trouble being an elite level scorer when he can’t pull-up at will. Lacey, who leads the NCAA in isolation scoring is best off the dribble with the ball in his hands. He likes to shake, create space and pull up. His elevation and high release allow him to shoot over smaller guards, even with a hand in his face. However, when you get a bigger, equally as strong guard on him, he really struggles to get going. Lacey still had a productive game (14pts on 6-13 shooting) but right now State needs Lacey to be getting off nearly 20-25 shots per game. I know that sounds like a lot, but if they continue to play this one on one style of basketball and their offense is not going to create any open looks near the bucket, it’s going to have to be Lacey doing some serious volume scoring.
TURNER’S STRUGGLES AREN’T ENDING…TIME TO GO BIG
Gottfried needs that off the ball moving, high energy, spot up shooter in his offense. So many of his plays revolve around getting Turner open on the baseline or on the wing. The problem is that Turner has become way too easy to guard. He’s shooting 21% from 3 over his last four games and he’s taken 28 of them. That is absolutely killing the Pack right now. If Turner isn’t going to knock down the 3, then he’s too one dimensional on offense to be out there. Now look, I know that’s harsh and very ‘what have you done for me lately’ because he’s a senior that has done so much for this team, but this is crunch time.
So what is the alternative? Well, you’d like to have a guy like Caleb Martin in there who can shoot, drive and defend, but that’s not really working out perfectly. Martin did provide 9 boards and made a lot of great hustle plays, but he too is not providing the Pack with everything they need…mainly offense. So what do you do when you have no one to turn to on the bench to fill that gaping hole?
You get creative and solve problems a little differently.
What State could do, and really should do is go big. A lineup of Barber, Lacey, Washington, Abu and Anya. Sure this would slow State down and limit driving lanes, but they’re not exactly killing it in transition and outside of Barber, who even drives? You could also argue that Abu and Washington run the floor as well as Turner.
This lineup would cure a lot of ills. It would help tremendously on the boards, but more importantly it would free up Lacey. Having 3 bigs in the game would mean that you couldn’t switch as easily on ball screens against Lacey. They would also be forced to guard bigs with bigs. They couldn’t interchange Lacey and Turner’s men, going bigger on Lacey to stop the pull up and smaller on Turner to aggravate him and deny him the ball. While opponents might try to take their quickness advantage at the 3, good luck driving into that forest of Washington, Abu and Anya. All that is nice and fine, but the real advantage to this in the end is making them guard Lacey with a normal 2 guard, in most cases this would give Lacey his advantage back.
This would switch State into much more of a attack-first basketball team. It would get them more offensive rebounds which lead to easy put backs, it would get them to the line more and allow them to protect leads better. Look, as a team shooting 36% from 3 (5th best in the ACC) I don’t think you want to live and die from beyond the arc. This team needs to attack, and by playing 3 guards (2 of which don’t like to attack the basket), you are really putting your team in a box.
Adapt or die.
NOW OR NEVER
At 14-11 NC State is on the outside looking in as far as the NCAA Tournament goes. They have 6 regular season games left, 4 of which are on the road and 2 of those are against top 15 ranked teams. To say that things need to change drastically and quickly is not an understatement. Expecting this team to simply start clicking at a level that could run off 6 straight wins and two huge upsets isn’t very smart. They can still improve, and they certainly have the talent to do it, but Gottfried needs to start tinkering more, he needs to get a little gimmicky and start changing things up.
Virginia did not have more talent on the floor than NC State last night (especially with Justin Anderson out), but they were more organized, more focused and just a lot more mentally tough than the Wolfpack. Some of that falls on the players, but at this point, some of that is going to have to be shouldered by Gottfried. State has today and tomorrow to figure out what needs to change as they head to #9 Louisville, but just hoping Ralston Turner starts hitting 3s again is not going to be the correct answer.
NC State’s 2023-23 Men’s Basketball Schedule Has Arrived
NC State’s 2023-24 Men’s Basketball schedule has arrived!
NC State to Honor David Thompson with Statue Outside Reynolds Coliseum
RALEIGH – NC State University will pay tribute to three-time All-American David Thompson with a statue sculpted in his honor that will be placed outside of Reynolds Coliseum.
The unveiling will take place at 11:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 6, the day of the Wolfpack men’s basketball team’s annual Heritage Game at Reynolds Coliseum, and will be open to the public.
“This is such a deserved honor for the greatest basketball player to ever wear an NC State jersey,” NC State Director of Athletics Boo Corrigan said. “He is one of the most iconic players to ever play in the ACC and our hope is that this statue will ensure that generations of NC State students and fans will always remember the legacy and contributions of David Thompson.”
Thompson is widely recognized as one of the greatest players in college basketball history. A 2008 ESPN story ranked him as one of the ten best college basketball players of all-time, and he is regarded as one of greatest athletes in Atlantic Coast Conference history.
The Boiling Spring, N.C., native played three seasons at NC State from 1972-75 and was a unanimous first-team All-American at the conclusion of all three seasons. He was also named the ACC Player of the Year all three seasons.
He was named the Associated Press National Player of the Year in 1974 and 1975 and remains one of just five players in college basketball history to win multiple AP National Player of the Year honors.
Thompson immediately made his mark on the Pack, helping lead NC State to an undefeated season (27-0) in 1973. The Pack dominated the 1972-73 season and was at the top or near the top of the polls all season as Thompson averaged 24.7 points and 8.1 rebounds per game.
Thompson returned in the 1973-74 season and led the Wolfpack to a 30-1 record and the school’s first NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball National Title.
In the Final Four, Thompson and the Wolfpack met up with UCLA, the seven-time reigning National Champions and the only team to have defeated NC State that season. The Pack trailed 74-67 in the second overtime when Thompson’s heroics helped lead NC State back. Thompson pulled down a defensive rebound and made the go-ahead basket with under one minute remaining and then made two free throws with 38 seconds to go to give the Pack a 78-75 double overtime win in a game that is still considered one of the greatest Final Four games ever played.
Thompson finished the game with 28 points and 10 rebounds in the win over Bill Walton and the Bruins.
Two nights later, the Pack won the National Title over Marquette, 76-64, behind 21 points from Thompson. Thompson was named the Most Outstanding Player of the tournament.
To make it into the NCAA Tournament, the Pack defeated fourth-ranked Maryland, 103-100, in overtime in the 1974 ACC Championship, in a game that is routinely considered one of the best games in college basketball history.
As a senior, Thompson averaged 29.9 points, still the highest single season average in NC State history. He scored an NC State and ACC record 57 points in an early season win over Buffalo State. The Pack started the season ranked No. 1 in the nation and never fell out of the top-10, but lost in the ACC Championship game to end its season. The Pack finished the season ranked seventh in the nation but because the NCAA Tournament at that time only allowed the conference champion into the tournament its season was over.
Thompson closed his career with 2,309 points in 86 career games. He led the ACC in scoring all three seasons and was NC State and the ACC’s career scoring leader when he graduated.
Former NC State Basketball Player Torin Dorn Joins Coaching Staff of G-League SLC Stars
Former NC State basketball player Torin Dorn has joined the staff of the Salt Lake City Stars, the G-League team for the Utah Jazz. Dorn’s title is Player Development Associate/Assistant Coach.
After playing 3 seasons at NC State, Dorn went on to play professionally overseas in Poland and Czech Republic, before joining the Wolfpack coaching staff last season as a Graduate Manager.
Dorn will be working under newly appointed head coach Steve Wojciechowski (former Duke PG), who was the head coach at Marquette the past 7 seasons.
NC State Guard MJ Rice Will Be Returning Soon After Stepping Away for a Period of Time
NC State Guard MJ Rice (6’5″/215) announced yesterday that due to personal reasons, he had to step away from the basketball program, but was excited to be back with his teammates soon. He was clear that his commitment to NC State hasn’t wavered.
Life is much bigger than sports. These young men are human beings first and foremost, and as we all know, this life is never simple and easy.
Rice transferred to NC State this offseason from Kansas with three years of eligibility remaining. The former High School McDonald’s All-American didn’t get a lot of playing time in his Freshman season at Kansas, averaging 7.6 minutes per game in only 23 games played.
Coming out of Prolific Prep in California, Rice averaged 20.1 points and 5.3 rebounds per game as a Senior. Rivals ranked him as a 5-star prospect, ON3 ranked him 24th nationally, and ESPN ranked him as the #1 player in the state of North Carolina.
Whatever Rice is working through, we value him as a person more than we do a player.