You wouldn’t quite know it from the attention put on MBB, but two other State sports are going for national glory this week. And on top of that, the outcome will decide who is State’s best current coach.
The Best of the Rest
I’m not saying there aren’t more than two great coaches at State. Rollie Geiger is the king of Track and Field. Laurie Henes just lead State’s Women’s Cross Country squad to a #2 finish at Nationals. Holloway has been everything for the Swim program. In the moment, right now, the climb that Wrestling and WBB have made are unmatched. They’ve entered another region’s domain or crashed through the ceiling of another sport’s penthouse. Popolizio and Moore have separated themselves and placed their programs on the verge of something BIG.
Wrestling’s Pat Popolizio
Pat Popolizio has been nothing short of brilliant since taking the helm of Pack Wrestling in early 2012. Twice ACC Coach of the Year (2018 and 2020) and National Coach/Co-Coach of the Year (2016 and 2018). Over his career at State, Popolizio has lead State to 4 ACC team championships, with another 20 individual champions.
Those accolades only tell half the story.
Wrestling has forever been a Great Plains and Midwest sport. Since it’s addition to the NCAA in 1928, 83 of the 88 national champion teams have come from four states; Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Iowa and Minnesota. Thank about that for a second…Beyond a random push from a Cornell or Arizona State, it ultimately comes down to a handful of schools. That means that when trying to build a program, it’s hard to even get your foot in the door. But Popolizio is putting State on the map.
Stud recruits are finding their way to State from Pennsylvania (where three just dominated their state championships). The Pack has placed in the top-17 at the NCAA Championships each of the last five seasons and should make it six this year. In those last six seasons, 52 of 60 starters qualified for nationals (87%?!?). The tides have changed and wrestling is growing in Oak City.
Coach Popolizio is one of State’s best coaches right now.
WBB’s Wes Moore
Wes Moore is so damn underrated. I just want to highlight this last five year stretch;
2017 – 23-9 – NCAAT
2018 – 26-8 – NCAAT
2019 – 28-6 – NCAAT
2020 – 28-4 – ACC Champs, would have been NCAAT
2021 – 20-2 – ACC Champs, NCAAT as a #1 Seed (First-time ever)
You see a trend there? Every. Single. Year. This team has improved, won more and advanced further (trust me, they would have made it to at least Elite Eight last year and I just broke my desk knocking on wood so hard for this year.) In Division 1 Women’s sports, you could argue that Basketball has the most top-heavy competition. In order to win a conference championship and subsequently make deep runs in the NCAAT, you have to be a legit contender. Nobody outside the top-ten makes it.
Here’s the fun and interesting part. Moore has started to take over recruiting.
In 2017 and 2018, State wasn’t even a top-20 recruiting class. Then he got 4-Star Cunane. The next year saw 5-stars Brown-Turner and Boyd, with a class ranking of #8 in the nation. Moore is growing the program and attracting more 4 and 5-star recruits than ever before. He almost is getting to the point that he has too much talent to put on the floor (just imagine if Crutchfield and/or Jones return again?).
In a sport that is all big name-based, Moore is breaking through the static. A run to the Final Four would mean that his name, should at the very least, be mentioned with Yow as State Women’s Basketball coaching greats. He loves State and State loves him.
Coach Moore is one of State’s best coaches right now.
So What Now?
As Pack Wrestling heads to the NCAA Championships in St. Louis and the Women’s Basketball team in Texas, the debate will be settled in a matter of days. Can Wrestling beat their all-time finish of 4th at Nationals? Can WBB make it to the Final Four? We’ll have to wait and see.
All I know, NC State couldn’t be lead by any better coaches.
Wolferetti: UNC’s 39 FTs vs. NC State were the most they’ve shot in an ACC game since 2007 (in a game that had eerily similar stats and outcome)
I’m over on Sports-Reference.com digging through these Free Throw attempt numbers and I’m finding some pretty interesting nuggets.
I spent yesterday morning digging through NC State’s FTAs and FT disparity numbers, which I put together in this article I posted yesterday.
Today I started looking at UNC’s FTAs and FT disparity numbers. Sport-Reference only goes back to 2010 for game logs, but up until that point, I wasn’t finding another game where UNC shot as many or more FTs than they did on Saturday. Then I moved to ESPN, where I had to go box score by box score. Finally, in 2007 I found a game. It was #1 UNC vs. Virginia, in Chapel Hill, on January 10th.
So, since 2007, UNC has never attempted more than 38 FTs in an ACC game. That means UNC’s 39 FTs vs. NC State was the most since that game. Meaning, NC Stayed played the most physical ACC game against UNC in 15 years?
Look, I watched the game, and I’m just going to go ahead and say, that’s not the case. In fact, I thought NC State was a little softer than usual in this game. But that’s just an opinion, so go rewatch and make up your own mind.
Meanwhile, I’ll just point out a few things about that 2007 #1 UNC vs. Virginia game in Chapel Hill and show you that there were quite a few interesting parallels to Saturday’s game.
In 2007 vs UNC, Virginia shot 11 free throws.
On Saturday vs UNC, NC State shot 12 free throws.
In 2007 vs Virginia, the Heels shot 41 free throws.
On Saturday vs NC State, the Heels shot 39 free throws.
In 2007 the UNC / Virginia FT disparity was +30 for UNC
On Saturday the UNC / NC State FT disparity was +27 for UNC
In 2007 vs UNC, Virginia shot a better percentage from the floor than UNC (44% to 38%)
On Saturday vs UNC, NC State shot a better percentage from the floor than UNC (42% to 37%)
In 2007 vs. UNC, Virginia shot better from 3pt range than UNC (36% to 23%)
On Saturday vs UNC, NC State shot better from 3pt range than UNC (29% to 22%)
In 2007 vs. UNC, Virginia had more FGs in the game than UNC (26 to 25)
On Saturday vs UNC, NC State had more FGs in the game than UNC (26-20)
In 2007 UNC beat Virginia by 10 points (79-69)
On Saturday UNC beat NC State by 11 points (80-69)
This was a #1 ranked UNC team with Tyler Hansbrough (who happened to be at the game on Saturday) and Brandan Wright in the middle. They were 15-1 at the time with their only loss coming to Gonzaga. This Virginia game was their 2nd ACC game of the season. 24 of the FTs were shot by the two bigs, but the rest were spread out amongst the UNC guards, meaning this wasn’t just Hansbrough and Wright drawing contact. EVERYONE on UNC was drawing contact. Ellington, Lawson, Rashawn Terry, Quentin Thomas, and Danny Green shot the other 17.
Anyways, again, this doesn’t prove anything, but it is pretty peculiar. I was out here looking for FT totals in ACC play and couldn’t find one that was equal to or higher than the 39 from Saturday. And it just so happens that when I do find one (allll the way back in 2007), it’s also had the largest FT disparity we’ve seen by UNC in ACC play since Saturday. These crazy high (25+) FT disparity games don’t come often in the ACC for UNC, but when they come they seem to come on nights when they are shooting really low percentages from the floor.
Take from this what you will.
WOLFERETTI: Only 3 times in the Keatts era has an ACC team shot over 30 FTs with a positive double-digit disparity vs. NC State. All 3 times it’s been UNC.
This loss doesn’t sting, it stinks.
I’m not going to beat around the bush here. The refs were the primary reason NC State lost this game. What we watched wasn’t basketball, it was guys in striped shirts controlling an outcome.
Now, did they mean to do it? Did they get caught up in the UNC home crowd? Was there some kind of unconscious bias in play? Was it just a coincidence? Did NC State force their hand?
We’ll never know, but it seems par for the course if you’ve watched enough ACC basketball.
Think I’m being dramatic or making excuses? Judge for yourself.
UNC was 32-39 from the free-throw line. NC State was 12-12.
Yes, the Heels shot 27 more free throws than NC State last night.
You RARELY see a disparity in numbers like that in the ACC. I mean, sometimes you’ll get a game that is called super tight. In those games, you’d expect to see high Free Throw Attempt (FTA) totals for both teams. And sometimes you’ll get a game where the refs let you play, meaning you have low FTAs across the board. But I’ve never seen a conference game where on one side it’s called as extremely tight and on the other side they mostly just let the guys play. But that is exactly what happened last night. And if you somehow think that might be normal, I’ll take the time here to prove that it’s an EXTREME outlier.
Free Throw Attempt (FTA) Disparity in ACC games from NC State’s 2022-23 season to date
(+4) NC State 19 – Pitt 15
(-5) NC State 12 – Miami 17
(-3) NC State 21 – Louisville 24
(+6) NC State 18 – Clemson 24
(-11) NC State 15 – Duke 26*
(-4) NC State 21 – VT 25
(-2) NC State 20 – Miami 22
(+2) NC State 21 – GT 19
(-27) NC State 12 – UNC 39*
Yeah, you see it. 27 is by far the largest FTA disparity we’ve seen all season, and it’s not even close.
So why does that matter? Well, the more fouls that are called, the more referees control the pace, flow (and score) of the game.
See, the more fouls, the quicker the teams get into the bonus, and when teams are in the bonus, any foul is one that stops momentum, sends guys to the line for free shots, and thus, changes the score without offense or defense involved.
Now, I’m not saying ACC referees stack up the fouls in games in order to control the game, but what I am saying is that IF someone was going to try to control a basketball game from the referee’s position, this would pretty much be the way you’d do it. How do I know? Well, it’s one way they DID do it in the NBA according to former NBA referee Tim Donaghy who was caught by the FBI for fixing games. Don’t take it from me though, Operation Flagrant Foul (a documentary about the Donaghy saga is on Netflix right now).
Now look, before you lose your mind and accuse me of accusing ACC refs of cheating, that’s not what I’m saying. I’m explaining how games are controlled and I’m telling you that I only know that because a former ref explained it to the world. Now, after 30+ years of watching NC State basketball, I’m starting to wonder how it’s possible these unlikely things keep happening. Some people call it the Curse of Jimmy V. Some people call it NC State S#*t. Whatever you call it, you know what I’m talking about.
The main problem is, I’m not superstitious and it’s getting harder and harder for me to believe that no matter who the players are, no matter who the coaches are, no matter who the athletic director is, the same story continues to unfold with Wolfpack basketball.
So what is going on?
Last night was just another chapter is the story. NC State plays UNC, fouls somehow play a role, the game flow just doesn’t feel like the rest of the games we’ve watched, and then the Pack loses. Fans get pissed. Blame the refs. Rinse and repeat.
So I wondered if I looked closely at the numbers if I’d find any patterns or try to uncover any hints as to what is going on. Again, not saying anyone is cheating, but wondering if there are subconscious biases involved or something. And if I didn’t find anything then I was going to just jump on the superstition bandwagon and call it a day.
Anyways, here are a few things that stood out to me.
– I saw that State’s season-low of 12 FTAs is tied for the lowest in conference play this year for the Pack.
They DID have 2 games where they shot fewer, but they were not in conference play. Those were vs Austin Peay and vs. Elon. In those games, NC State shot a ton of 3s. 28 vs AP and 33 vs Elon. So I guess in those games you could argue that they were playing mostly on the perimeter and there wasn’t much contact happening on dribble drives or post-play. This doesn’t hold true vs. UNC. NC State played physical on both ends, They were going down to Burns while Smith and Joiner were attacking the basket quite a bit. NC State shot just 17 3s (least amount in a conference game this season) vs. UNC. The Pack wasn’t just hanging out around the perimeter hoisting up 3s. They were playing a very similar style to what UNC was playing (UNC shot 18 3s) So there goes the ‘different styles of play’ argument.
– I found out There is very rarely a +20 FTA disparity in the ACC.
In fact, in the Keatts era, there have been only 7 games with a FTA disparity of 15 or more on either side, and of those, only 2 have had a disparity of 20 or more. I listed them below…
15+ FTA Disparity game (NC State games – ACC) | 2021-22
(-27) NC State 12 – UNC 39 = Lost by 11
15+ FTA Disparity game (NC State games – ACC) | 2021-22
15+ FTA Disparity game (NC State games – ACC) | 2020-21
(+15) NC State 24 – Clemson 9 = Lost by 4
15+ FTA Disparity game (NC State games – ACC) | 2019-20
(-18) NC State 7 – UNC 25 = Lost by 10
(-18) NC State 13 @ UNC 31 = Lost by 6
15+ FTA Disparity game (NC State games – ACC) | 2018-19
(-19) NC State 9 @ Wake 28 = Lost by 3
(-22) NC State 7 @ Louisville 29 = Lost by 7
(-17) NC State 11 @ Duke 28 = Lost by 16
15+ FTA Disparity game (NC State games – ACC) | 2017-18
The only Pattern I could find here is that NC State lost all of these ‘high FT disparity games.’ It also may be worth noting that of the 7 ‘high disparity’ games, 5 of the 7 were Tobacco Road teams. And the last note here is that 5 of the ‘high disparity’ games FTA slants went against NC State and only once went for them. However, they even lost the one where they shot a ton more FTs.
– I found out that NC State rarely have games where one or both of the teams attempt 30 FTs in ACC play.
Actually, during the Keatts era only 7 times during ACC play has NC State played in a game where this occurred.
1 – Last night vs UNC (they shot 39 FTs)
2- In 2021 vs. Pitt (they shot 34 and NC State shot 30 FTs)
3. In 2020 vs UNC (They shot 31 FTs)
4. In 2019 vs Wake (They shot 30 FTs)
5. In 2019 vs FSU (They shot 30 FTs)
6. In 2019 vs UNC (They shot 37 FTs)
7. In 2018 vs Wake (They shot 31 FTs)
No real pattern here other than UNC being here 3 times, and again 5 of the 7 games are Tobacco Road teams.
– However, if you look at those 30 FT games again, and then look at the disparity of those FTs, here is what you find…
1. NC State 12 – UNC 39 (-27)
2. NC State 34 – Pitt 30 (-4)
3. NC State 13 – UNC 31 (-18)
4. NC State 30 – Wake 26 (+6)
5. NC State 21 – FSU 30 (-9)
6. NC State 24 – UNC 37 (-13)
7. NC State 31 – Wake 22 (+9)
The only time over the entire Keatts era (during ACC play) that you had a team with extraordinarily high Free Throw Attempts (FTAs) in a game AND a double-digit disparity in team FTAs was the 3 UNC games, one of which was last night.
Kind of interesting if you ask me. But not convinced of anything….
Then I went to see “What if this had happened in any other ACC game prior to last night for UNC.” I wanted to see if UNC just lived at the foul line all the time while their opponents weren’t able to get there. If so, maybe they just play a style of basketball that I was unaware existed. One where you’re able to be very physical on offense and get to the line, but able to play such good defense that you don’t allow your opponent to the line.
I mean, you could also just say they always get calls, but I’m trying to give them the benefit of the doubt.
However, what I found is that aside from the NC State game, their highest Free Throws Attempted (FTAs) in ACC play is 27 vs VT. And in almost every conference game this season, their FTA discrepancy has been around 3 to 5. Oh, but there was one other outlier other than the +27 from last night, which was a +16 vs. Georgia Tech (They shot 24 to GTs 8 FTs) and that game happened to be on the heels of their 4 game losing streak when the bottom was falling out and they NEEDED a win.
Interesting again, but at the end of the day, this proves nothing. Maybe NC State was just foul-happy last night and UNC wasn’t. Maybe despite a full roster of different players, the same thing tends to happen every couple of years, only when NC State takes on UNC. Maybe, these are just excuses and NC State really is just cursed.
Or maybe not.
Wolferetti: A recap of UNC’s no-good, very bad weekend
Sure, this is an NC State site, and we like to keep things positive. So we were positive in our decision to rehash with our readers, the awful weekend that UNC just had. And yeah it’s Tuesday and I should have written this Monday, but I was busy, so you get it today. Let’s get to it.
First off, you had NC State capping of the football season with a win over UNC, at Carolina. To make matters worse, NC State was starting their 4th string QB (Ben Finley) who just so happened to outperform their Heisman-hopeful freshman.
And the way they lost was brutal. A missed chip shot in overtime, which was one of two missed FGs on the night for Noah Burnette. Here, watch…
Ouch. And Finley didn’t just outperform Maye, he also dug at him in the meeting with the media.
NC State quarterback Ben Finley gets a little dig on UNC quarterback Drake Maye, letting him know he is excited about getting his degree from NCSU in December: pic.twitter.com/TVnsdCJAXS
— TheWolfpackCentral (@NCStateRivals) November 26, 2022
And then there was Dave Doeren who didn’t mince words when he said this…
Doeren, paraphrased during the broadcast:
“They don’t like us. We hate them. We’re blue collar, they’re elitist. Their coaches talk down to us, they talk behind our backs in recruiting, and negatively about our coaching staff.”
Well then. https://t.co/3PGco9BNhl
— Andrew Carter (@_andrewcarter) November 25, 2022
According to the broadcasts, after saying this to the reporters, they asked if it was on the record and Doeren said “I don’t give a &*$#”.
Later that night, UNC, the #1 ranked team in college basketball also had a pretty bad showing, losing to Iowa State by 5…
And then turning around the next day, and losing to Alabama by 2 in overtime.
This led UNC to see the biggest single-week drop (from #1 to #8) by a #1 team in the AP Poll era.
North Carolina’s drop from No. 1 to No. 18 in this week’s AP poll is the biggest single-week drop for a No. 1 team in the AP poll era, per @ESPNStatsInfo.
— Jeff Borzello (@jeffborzello) November 28, 2022
So to recap. Their Drake Maye Heisman dreams were crushed, they lost to rival NC State, they were the but of a joke by a 4th string QB, they rival coach called them elitist, and their basketball fans realized despite returning almost all of their talent from a team that made it to the National Championship, they still aren’t #1. Oh, and with another loss, they fell the furthest of any #1 in the history of the AP.
That’s a pretty sucky weekend for UNC. But me, personally, I’m here for it.
Wolferetti: It’s time to see what Delbert Mimms can do at RB
Delbert Mimms only totaled 3 carries against Florida State on Saturday, but with NC State down 1, with just over 9 minutes to play and facing a 2nd and 4, he showed Wolfpack nation what he’s capable of. Mimms broke off a 14-yard run, and put them into FG range, which helped them knock through what ended up being the game-winner.
The sophomore RB stands at 5’11 and weighs in at 215lbs. He’s NC State’s biggest back, yet he really has been stuck behind Jordan Houston and Demie Sumo for most of the season despite averaging 4.7 YPC.
Now, I get it, you have an experienced Houston who runs extremely hard, but so far this season he hasn’t been able to really break out. He’s averaging 4.1 YPC on the year. Meanwhile, Sumo has kind of had most of the hype, and deservedly so. He’s leading the team in rushing with 299 yards and 3 TDs (the only 3 TDs all season on the ground by NC State RBs). However, if he plays vs. Syracuse this Saturday he’ll likely be a bit banged up (He went out of the FSU game with an injury.)
That said, Sumo really struggled versus Clemson, the first real stout defense the Pack has faced this season, carrying the ball 5 times for just 10 yards. Against FSU he was a bit better, carrying it 8 times for 37 yards, but still not really allowing NC State to rely on the run and pound it down the defense’s throat like Dave Doeren would like to do.
So where does NC State go from here?
Well, I believe it’s time to give Delbert Mimms a true look. If you remember, he was my ‘sleeper pick’ in our preseason prediction piece.
Mimms isn’t some home run hitter. He isn’t a guy that’s going to break off 70-yard runs, but Dave Doeren isn’t looking for a guy like that. He’s looking for a ball-control bruiser. A guy that sees a hole and hits that hole with authority. He’s a guy who is going to give you great yards after contact and can help sustain drives.
Demie Sumo may very well be that guy for NC State as the season goes on, but Sumo is a very patient runner. If you watch his footwork, he likes to let the line set up their blocks before he picks his hole. If NC State’s offensive line was a little better, I wouldn’t be writing this piece because I think Sumo would be solving a lot of the Pack’s problems himself. However, the line hasn’t been that great setting up the run. The holes, when they’re there, don’t stay open long enough for a back like Sumo to reach his full potential. Because of that, I think they need a guy like Mimms. The sophomore doesn’t dance, he gets to that first level fast and is able to shed arm tackles because of his size and downhill running style.
Now, I think Houston does these things as well. He doesn’t dance and he hits the hole hard, but he hasn’t been as great at shedding those arm tackles without being slowed up. This is why I think with this team, at this point, it’s time to start working Mimms in.
I know the Sumo faithful won’t like this take, and I’m not saying Mimms needs to be NC State’s featured back, but Mimms passes my eye test. When NC State is taking on a faster defense, I think the move is to not try to beat them with speed or with patience, NC State will lose that battle. I think your best bet on the ground is to beat them with a leg-churning bruiser.
We’ll see how it plays out going forward, but I saw something in the preseason and I saw that same thing this weekend when Mimms took 3 carries for 21 yards. He’s got value for Dave Doeren, and with the offense sputtering as of late, I think it’s time to see what he can do.