The sad part of Saturday’s blowout loss to Duke is that it pretty much marks the end of State’s chances to make a miraculous run to close out the season and get an at-large NCAA bid. Of course, they could always win the ACC tournament. It’s not like they don’t have the raw talent. They have two great bigs, an emerging wing scorer in Hellems and some seriously talented freshmen. The problem isn’t talent, it’s experience.
NC State turned the ball over 18 times. They shot a miserable 2-10 against one of the worst teams in the ACC at defending the 3 pointer. They shot 55% from the free-throw line and barely got there. They didn’t force Duke to turn it over enough. There was a lot to not like about the Pack’s loss to Duke and we’re going to dive into it.
Here is our take on NC State’s loss to Duke:
Can’t handle the pressure
After rewatching the game, it was clear from the first possession that the NC State guards weren’t ready. for the defensive pressure, Duke brought. The scary part is, this is a Duke team whose defense has been pretty poor all season long. To their credit, however, they. did stay in the passing lanes and disrupt NC State’s offensive sets.
Moore, Hayes, Seabron, and even Thomas Allen were hesitant and seemed confused on what to do when the passes they usually make unpressured, were suddenly cut off. This was key for Duke since it makes these guards become real decision-makers and freelancers, and we all know that doesn’t usually end well for freshmen or guys just getting used to the ACC.
The Wolfpack guards constantly got themselves into bad situations by driving, leaving their feet, and forcing a pass that Duke was waiting for. There was no patience, there was no poise and there was no leadership on the court.
Losing Daniels was a big blow to this team on many levels. He’s a vocal leader, he’s a guy who leads by example, plays physical, and exudes confidence. He’s also the guy who dominated the ball most of the season. With him out, you’re putting the ball into the hands of guys who hadn’t been in that position all season and it showed. The Pack finished with 18 turnovers, most of which came in a 13 minute window in the first half that ended up sealing the game for good.
The bad news is obvious. State lost, they looked awful, the fans are pissed and the season outlook is bleak. The good news is that the only way these freshmen reach their potential is be thrown in the fire and now Keatts has no choice but to toss them in and watch them take their lumps.
Lack of communication on D and a lack of options for Keatts
Duke is definitely hard to guard when Matthew Hurt never misses a 3, but c’mon guys. The high pick and roll caused mass havoc for NC State. There is a reason Keatts doesn’t like to play 2 bigs at the same time, and you saw it vs Duke. When you don’t switch everything, you end up having to be great at communicating and very quick on the hedge, and recovery on a high screen. You also need to sag help down and hope your rotation is fast enough so there isn’t an easy kick out or skip pass for a 3.
That type of defensive communication is something you usually only see from a veteran team. The idea of team defense is almost always lost on a freshman coming from the AAU ranks. That is why you see the change in college basketball. With more bigger, more athletic PGs who are primary scorers, the high pick and roll has become a deadly weapon, and while teaching team defense where players are helping, recovering and rotating is probably the best way to play it, it breaks down with just one weak link. And with teams more reliant on freshmen than ever (thanks to players leaving early for NBA/Europe/D-League) you usually have that weak link on the floor.
That’s why most coaches have scrapped that methodology and have started to keep it simple. Recruit more versatile players who can decently guard 1 through 5 and just have them switch everything. Keatts’ was going that route when Daniels was healthy, but now he’s forced to have Bates and Funderburk on the floor at the same time if he wants offense.He also needs to rely on Beverly and the freshmen guards a lot more now. While Beverly is a senior and a leader, he’s also too a real liability on defense, to the point where opposing offensives run sets to get a bigger player in the post against him. Take out Beverly and you have a group of freshmen who give you more size, but turn the ball over way too much.
The TLDR is that this team has a lot to overcome right now. Daniels was the most important part of this basketball team and with him gone, everything changes, and none of it is for the better.
A coaching problem?
It’s hard to not see that State fans on social media are laying a lot of the blame on Keatts. At the end of the day, the buck stops with the coach, but is it all warranted? I think there is a lot to unpack there and we want to dive a little deeper on that question Stay tuned as later today we’ll be releasing a larger piece on how we feel Keatts is doing and what we feel his future may be with the Wolfpack.
The highlights and lowlights: