1. How quickly the tides can turn:
In the matter of a couple days NC State basketball went from a lock to be in the top 25 to a team that will likely be a bubble team as the news dropped that Trevor Lacey would forgo his final season and Kyle Washington would transfer. I know many are thinking this is par for the course for NC State athletics, seriously the Wolfpack seems to be the definition of Murphy’s Law. A couple of questions that arise from this is did the coaching staff do everything they could to guard against these unforeseen circumstances? It has been well documented how the Pack have 0 commitments in the 2015 class. Were the coaches banking on the majority of the players returning? I am not 100 percent confident in saying that they didn’t do their due diligence because the staff has been relentlessly pursuing recruits and have tirelessly tried to persuade prized recruit Brandon Ingram to commit the the Red and White. Maybe the answer is that the staff didn’t really love any of the recruits in this year’s class outside of a select few. Or they have great confidence in the 2016 class. Truthfully we will have to wait a little while before we can pass any judgement.
2. How good will the 2016 class be to NC State?
It is no secret that the 2016 class is regarded as one of the highest touted classes in recent memory as it is loaded with talent. Out of the top 60 recruits in the 2016 a total of 11 are considering the Wolfpack. Out of all of them, the prized recruit that the Pack is hoping to land is Dennis Smith Jr. out of Fayetteville. A couple of things the Pack have in their favor is the fact that Raleigh is close to home and they play a style that caters to the point guard. Smith Jr. reminds me a lot of John Wall with his outstanding quickness and leaping ability, check it out for yourself in this highlight video from our friends Ball is Life. Another thing in the Pack’s favor is the fact that Dennis Smith Jr. plays for an Adidas sponsored AAU team.
In addition to Smith looking at the Wolfpack #3 rated Josh Jackson SF out of Michigan released his top schools with NC State in the mix. Jackson is a jack of all trades forward who has an excellent handle and size at 6-6 to get to any spot he wants on the court. He also possesses a smooth jump shot that keeps the defense honest. Here is a highlight video so you can see for yourself.
2016 could determine the fate of Coach Gottfried and his staff as they must have a big time recruiting class to reload in order to get over the hump in the NCAA Tournament. In order for this to happen it will take a group of recruits seeing the potential that NC State holds as a traditional basketball power with top notch facilities, fan base, and competes in the best conference in America. Kids will have to have a mindset that they want to blaze their own trail!
3. Will Gottfried have a different philosophy next season?
Offense is what makes headlines, and to be completely honest I love to watch a team that can light up the scoreboard as much as the next person; however, what I enjoy more is winning. I would love to have the best of both worlds, for example my favorite team in the NBA is the Golden State Warriors…alright before you call me a bandwagon fan I have been a fan of this team solely since they drafted Stephen Curry (many losing seasons and ankle injuries have finally yielded results). This season they led the NBA in both Field Goal % offense and held teams to the lowest Field Goal % in the league. This is a feat that hasn’t been accomplished since the 1980-1981 76ers.
With that being said the Wolfpack is far from being a top notch offensive team next season given their current personnel. I draw this conclusion strictly on what I saw last season, but hold out hope that our guys will improve this offseason. Returning next season the Pack have a group of 7 players who are all capable of being great defenders. If Gottfried wants to be relevant next season he must find a way to get his guys to defend at a high level every game and for 40 minutes each game. Another important factor that will be critical is our ability to defend without fouling! This past season depth was a strength that currently does not look like a luxury the Pack will have this coming season. Yet a 7 man rotation has advantages as each player will see more minutes which should push our guys to be extremely motivated.
Gottfried could elect to play small ball in order to maximize the athleticism on our team. A line-up that consists of Barber, Henderson, Caleb, Cody, Abu or Anya would be an extremely quick group that could force lots of turnovers. I am banking on the Martin twins to be vastly improved offensively and much more efficient around the rim. If State plays small then one of the twins will have a bigger defender on them which will allow them to use their quickness to beat them to the rack. Both Caleb and Cody have all the attributes necessary to finish at the rim!
Next season will hinge on Gottfried and his Staff’s ability to maximize the talent that they do have more than ever. Yes we were dealt a bad hand with Lacey leaving and we will miss Washington, but we still have a talented group that could exceed expectations.
Here is the 2024 ACC Women’s Basketball Tournament Bracket
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.
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.
There is Reason to be Frustrated
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.
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.
Madison Hayes Will Be Returning for Her Final Year of Eligibility in 2024-25
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!