NC State Basketball
OUR TAKE: On NC State’s heartbreaking OT loss to #1 Purdue
Ok. Work with me here. First, I want you to think back to yesterday’s game. Next, I’m going to need you to grab a pillow. Now place it over your face and scream as loudly as you can for as long as you can.
Ok. Now you’re ready to read this.
NC State lost in the most NC State way possible. They led for 39 of the first 40 minutes, at one point by 13 points, only to allow #1 Purdue to come back in the end, force OT, and win. It’s depressing. It’s exhausting. But at the same time, it’s almost unbelievable that NC State was actually in the position to win this game.
NC State overcame the odds in a way nobody thought possible
NC State was so overmatched in this game it wasn’t funny. Look at the stats coming in. Everything pointed to a blowout. Look at the Vegas line. No one thought NC State could handle this Purdue team who was chomping at the bit to come out with a win after being shocked by Rutgers just days earlier. I’m not gonna bullsh*t you, I am an eternal optimist and even I wasn’t really seeing a way to keep this one close.
Purdue has the best frontcourt in the country. Edey is one of the most skilled 7 footers in the college game. Williams is a surefire pro, with triple-double potential every night. They have great shooters (42% from 3 coming in). They have an elite guard in Jaden Ivey. They have depth. They have a great coach, and they are coming off a shocking loss.
Meanwhile, NC State is without their best player, big man, Manny Bates. They are relying on a sophomore big man who is improving fast, but was torched for 36 by a 6’7 forward just a few weeks ago. State’s best defender, Casey Morsell, is hobbled. They aren’t shooting it very well, they are struggling mightily on the offensive boards, and they are starting a lineup of a freshman, 3 sophomores, and a senior.
If someone would have told you that NC State is going to lead this game by 13 or that they were going to take it to overtime, you would’ve called them crazy. But guess what, it happened.
So sure, you’re allowed to be pissed off at the fact that they lost the game. Pissed off at how they lost it and play Monday Morning Quarterback, but the truth is, even as a loss, this was a huge step forward for this NC State team.
This team showed confidence, heart, and hustle all day long
Keatts is going to be a topic of discussion after losing a 13 point 2nd half lead, and some of it is warranted. But the hardest thing for a coach to do is get their team to play hard, play together, have confidence in themselves, and expect to win no matter who they face. Keatts is doing this and has done this, with every team he’s had. He himself is a world-beater and loves being overlooked. And he’s instilled that in his teams. His rosters haven’t been stacked. His teams almost never out-talent people aside from early season non-conference games. But his teams constantly outwork people.
That was the case in this one. NC State was hungrier, they were more ready for the moment, and they were locked in until the end. Credit Keatts for all of that. You can implement X’s and O’s at any point, but being able to motivate your team and have them play as a unit is something a coach either has or they don’t.
Undone by youth, inexperience, and poor decision making
State was up 8 with 5 minutes to play. This is when it all started to fall apart.
First, Cam Hayes was pick-pocketed AGAIN. This was the 2nd time this game, and the 3rd or 4th time this season. This is unacceptable for a PG, period. You should maybe be picked clean like that once a season (if that). I’ve said it a million times on here. Cam Hayes will not be a true PG until he learns how to keep his dribble lower. His crossovers are quick, but they’re high and they leave the ball exposed for way too long at this level. These types of turnovers are the worst because they lead to a quick and clean bucket on the other end. Anyways, this led to a Jayden Ivey layup.
Keatts loves to give his guys a long leash. He believes empowering his players will lead to them playing with more confidence, and for the most part, he’s right. NC State isn’t even in this game without freshman Terquavion Smith’s 21 points. Those 21 points are a product of a confident player feeling like he can go out and play his game without being reined in by his coach. However, at the same time, this approach has its negatives. Smith took 3 jumpers over the next 2 minutes (on one he was fouled and knocked down 2 free throws.) The kid has been hitting all day, so maybe you’re fine with it. But maybe this was also a lesson to be learned. No matter how good a guy is playing, when it’s closing time, you go to your closer.
Under 5 minutes, with the lead, when it’s time to close, to nail the coffin shut, you put the ball in Seabrons’ hands and let him go. That’s it. No Hellems fade-aways. No dribble-drive pull-ups by Cam Hayes. No contested corner 3s from Morsell. Only Seabron creating, scoring, getting to the line, or finding a wide-open shooter. That should be the only allowed outcome for Keatts and hopefully, he’s seeing that.
There has to be a fine line between instilling confidence and letting them play and directing them on what needs to be done to win this game.
Terquavion Smith is emerging as a true scorer
When Casey Morsell went down with an ankle injury it looked like State was in serious trouble. They lost their best on-ball defender and a guy they were relying on for 8 to 10 points per game. However, that opened up more minutes for freshman Terquavion Smith, and Smith took full advantage. He scored 17 in the game Morsell went down, 14 in the next game as a starter, and led the team with 21 in this game.
Smith is just a freshman, and as with all freshmen, there are going to be ups and downs, but for now, Keatts needs to keep this kid in the starting lineup and let him grow. He’s a star in the making on offense and isn’t a bad defender either. The added scoring is something this team desperately needs, and there doesn’t seem to be much of a drop-off defensively when he’s in there instead of Morsell.
Gameplan was solid
We talked about it after we watched the Rutgers game. For NC State to have a chance, they need to follow the Rutgers blueprint. Play the bigs one on one down low, lock up guards, and limit good 3 point looks.
Keatts had his guys following this to a t. You can get on the man for his lack of play-calling down the stretch or the fact that his players just didn’t make plays when they needed to, but for about 37 minutes, his team was locked in on the strategy. Dowuona held his own in the paint. Edey struggled, but there was no answer for Williams. This, however, was the trade-off you had to be ok with. Purdue rarely got open looks from 3, they limited Ivey for the most part (aside from the final 5 minutes of regulation and all of OT), and they locked up the shooters (Purdue shot just 21% on 5-21 from long range).
This should be expected of a Keatts squad. They always play hard, they always hustle, and they always defend. He’s a defensive coach despite the fact that he has a reputation for letting his guys play free on offense. This team made the #1 team in the nation look lost offensively and that’s a product of defensive strategy and building out a roster of long, athletic, interchangeable parts and can switch every screen and rarely get caught in a mismatch.
The point is, there is a lot you should be praising Keatts for in this game. I know good and well the narrative is going to be “Keatts has no offense!” or “Keatts isn’t a good Xs and Os guy.” The fact is, those are probably more true than not. But don’t let that get in the way of seeing just how masterful the gameplan was executed against a team that had every advantage coming in.
This could have been a season-defining win.
So now this team needs to learn lessons and move forward. They have two more non-conference games before they start the ACC season and they need wins. If you look at the ACC thus far, aside from Duke, the league is wide-open. NC State seems to be finding itself and if they can clean up some of these late-game mistakes, they can end up having a pretty darn good season.
For Keatts, it’s about continuing to develop Dowuona and Smith. It’s about circling back and putting in a series of sets that they can go to when the game is on the line. This team has no problems playing hard and playing together, but they need to learn how to close. This will be on Keatts and it won’t be done by motivating guys in the huddle. It will be done by making it very clear the expectations of possessions down the stretch. The reigns need to tighten as the clock starts to wind down. There needs to be clear direction on who had the ball in their hands and what types of shots will be acceptable. Keatts needs to own this. If they lose because Seabron wasn’t able to get it going down the stretch, that’s fine, but he needs to be the one dominating the ball and making plays. So far he’s shown a ton of success when he needs to force the issue. He gets in the lane and either scores or gets to the line. At this point, you win or lose with the ball in Seabron’s hands.
NC State Basketball
UNC Transfer Dontrez Styles Expected to Visit NC State Soon
UNC Guard/Forward Transfer Dontrez Styles (6’6″/210) is expected to be visiting NC State soon. According to a source, he was expected to take an unofficial visit tomorrow, but it has been rescheduled to Monday.
Styles entered the Transfer Portal on March 17th.
Over the past two seasons, Styles has seen limited action for the Tar Heels, averaging 5.9 minutes in 45 total games (15 this season).
Styles is no stranger to NC State. He played high school for Kinston (Kinston, NC), and was offered by Kevin Keatts. Styles was a consensus 4-Star prospect coming out of High School. 247Sports ranked him as the #62 overall player nationally in the 2021 recruiting class, and the #2 player in the state of North Carolina.
ON3 ranks Styles as the #21 player currently in the Transfer Portal.
NC State Basketball
All-AAC Temple Transfer Damian Dunn Visiting NC State this Weekend
According to a source, Temple All-AAC Transfer Shooting Guard Damian Dunn (6’5″/195) was expected to be at NC State today on an unofficial visit.
Dunn entered the Transfer Portal on March 20th.
— Damian Dunn 🇦🇸 (@Dam1anKD) March 20, 2023
Dunn averaged 15.3 points per game this season, earning 3rd Team All-AAC honors. He shot 41.1% from the field this season, and 34.8% from three-point land.
In 2021-22, he led the Owls in scoring (14.9), and earned 2nd Team All-AAC honors.
Dunn originally is from Kinston, North Carolina, but played his Senior season of High School for Meadowcreek in Georgia, finishing his high school career as a 3-star prospect.
With the almost guaranteed loss of Terquavion Smith, NC State will be in need for a dynamic scorer, and Dunn has proven that he can do just that at the collegiate level.
Currently, Dunn is the 16th ranked player in the Transfer Portal according to ON3.
Dunn is a Redshirt Sophomore this season, with 2 years of eligibility remaining.
NC State Basketball
NC State’s Jack Clark Enters Transfer Portal
NC State Forward Jack Clark has entered the Transfer Portal.
NC State G Jack Clark has entered the transfer portal. Grad transfer. https://t.co/NQ6vpv4XPL
— Verbal Commits (@VerbalCommits) March 24, 2023
I heard from a source that it was close to 50/50 whether Clark would return to NC State next year for his final year of eligibility.
Clark started in 17 of the 23 games that he played in for the Wolfpack this season, averaging 9.0 points and 6.9 rebounds per game. Clark led the Wolfpack on rebounding in 22-23.
When it’s all said and done, I wouldn’t be shocked to see NC State pull in 6 players from the Transfer Portal when all the dust settles.
Brace yourself for the ride.
NC State Basketball
A few Point Guards we think NC State will target in the transfer portal
As stated yesterday, NC State lost Ebe Dowuona and might lose a couple more guys to the portal eventually. They also are very likely to keep their core guys aside from Terquavion Smith who is almost surely headed to the NBA.
The Pack has a few glaring needs for next season. They need a starting PG, they need a starting SG and they need a 4/5 guy that can be the bruiser option at the 4 against bigger, stronger teams, and also a guy who can slot in as a backup behind Burns if Mahorcic’s knee doesn’t get back to full strength. Those are the direct needs at this moment, however, based on what guys on the current roster do, there might end up being other needs. That said, we’d going to focus on the needs of today.
There is always the case that transfers can via the portal with no prior connection to the team. That means they aren’t local kids and they don’t have a prior relationship with the coaching staff. While that is possible, it’s not usually how this plays out. What usually happens is a kid wants to come closer to home, or they have some prior relationship with the staff (sometimes both).
So right now we’re going to limit our focus to a few guys that are in the portal and either local or have a prior relationship with the staff. We’re also going to limit the discussion in this piece to just Point Guards.
What is a ‘Keatts’ Point Guard?
NC State runs their offense off of an initial high pick and roll, like many college teams today. That means they need a playmaking PG. Now, a playmaking PG doesn’t mean a guy who just puts up a ton of points (although that is what Joiner was for the Pack last season), but it could also mean a guy who can score but also get his team involved.
Remember, the high pick and roll is not designed to get a PG open shots. Sure, that is one option, but if you have a good PG coming off that high screen, they have 3 real options. Shoot it, pass to the roll guy/pop guy, or draw help and kick out to the corners. If you have a guy who can do all of these things well, then the high pick and roll is nearly unguardable. However, if you have a guy who only does one of those things, the high pick-and-roll looks pretty stagnant and one-dimensional.
Right now, Keatts is constantly criticized for his offensive system, and based on his personnel and how the offense ran last season, I get it. But with a pass-first PG (who can also score), this offense could be really efficient. I think for the sake of the team and the sake of his job, Keatts would be smart to prioritize a PG who is a little more pass-oriented and creates a little more havoc off that screen (meaning he keeps his dribble alive on the drive and probes, not to score necessarily, but to bait the defense to get out of position.)
So, what would you say Keatts’ ideal PG looks like?
Well, we don’t really know. His first two recruited were Lavar Batts and Braxton Beverly, both taken in his first year and both kind of out of desperation. Then he landed Jalen Lecque, who was a 6’4 elite athlete PG, who opted to skip college and go to the NBA. Then he brought on Cam Hayes and Shakeel Moore. Moore was a late addition, who I believe was taken to entice teammate Josh Hall to come to NC State (Hall also skipped college to go to the NBA after committing to State). Hayes, however, was a Keatts guy and Hayes was a 6’2, 185lb combo guard who was known as a shooter and good defender (he ended up being not much of either at NC State unfortunately). Then he brought on Breon Pass, a 6-foot guard who has given State some good minutes the past couple of years, but doesn’t look quite ready to take over as a starter. Pass was known as a good scorer at a smaller NC school, and a very good defender. So far his defense has panned out but not as much scoring as we expected. Next there was LJ Thomas last year. He’s a bigger 6’2 190lb PG. Not quite as quick but more physical. Not as much of a playmaker, but more of a scorer. Then Keatts brought in Joiner this year, a 6’1 scoring threat who never averaged more than 2.3 assists per game before coming to Raleigh.
So, to us, this is Keatts biggest flaw during his NC State tenure. He has an offense built around having an elite PG, and he really hasn’t decided what an elite PG in his system looks like. The best he’s brought in was Joiner, but the offense ended up being a lot of isolation and one on one play. To really reach the next level, Keatts needs to find a PG who is a playmaker and passer, one who can defend and then pair him with an elite scoring guard.
Who is out there right now that we should keep an eye on?
Northern Arizona | 5’11, 175lbs | 18ppg, 2.5 assists, 40% from 3pt range | From Walkerton, NC
Cone started his career off at Virginia Tech. He was a 3 star kid who was super quick, and more of a scorer than a playmaker. He had offers from VT, Tennessee and Baylor, but that was really it. NC State was involved a little bit here but never given an offer.
He had decent stats at VT, but really came into his own when he transferred to Northern Arizona. Obviously, this is weaker conference, but he had 20pts, 10 rebounds, and 4 assists against Michigan State, 17 points and 6 boards against Arizona State. He did get shut down against Texas, scoring just 6 points and turning the ball over 5 times, but this is a guy who had games of 45pts, 38 pts, and 29pts. He’s super quick and really a good shooter. He’s a less physical version of Jarkell Joiner if you ask me. So maybe Keatts sees this as a decent fit, but in my opinion, you need to target a guy who is more interested in getting his teammates involved (but I guess that depends on your ability to lock down an elite scoring 2 guard). I’m also concerned about his 1:1 assist-to-turnover ratio. You want your lead guard to be better than that.
Kansas | 6’1, 190lbs | 2 ppg, 1.3 assists, 30% from 3pt range | From Durham, NC
Pettiford is a stout, physical guard who can defend, but really hasn’t shown much on the offensive end. That said, he’s had a case of the injury bug during his two years at Kansas. He started with an ankle injury and then had an abdominal injury, both really slowed him down. When he committed to Kansas (after decommitting from Louisville) Bill Self really thought Pettiford was going to be a major contibutor to his team saying “We were very fortunate when Bobby opened up his recruitment last month. He became a priority immediately. We feel Bobby has a tremendous future, great upside and will make an immediate impact for us. His work ethic and drive are something I think every program hopes every player has.”
Pettiford is interesting to me. He’s a very physical guard, a good defender, and a good finisher around the rim, but he’s not super athletic, nor is he a great long-range shooter. He also isn’t someone who is explosive in transition. Those seem to be all things Keatts is looking for in a PG, so you’d think Pettiford isn’t going to be a major target for State, but you never know. He has a lot of talent, but I’m not sure he fits great with the pieces NC State currently has in place. However, in HS he was a really good shooter and showed a real scoring ability, so who knows.
ECU | 6’2, 180lbs | 15.8 ppg, 5.6 assists, 33% from 3pt range | From South Bend, IN
Small isn’t a North Carolina prep kid, but his connection to the state is that he’s transferring from ECU. This is a kid who was a 3-star recruit and only had mid-major offers, but has erupted for the Pirates this season. He’s a big, strong PG who shot nearly 40% from the floor and 33.3% from long range. This year Jarkel Joiner shot 42.8% from the field and 35.4% from long range. So he’s not quite the shooter that Joiner was, but he’s not that far off. He also is more of a playmaker than Joiner. He averaged 5.6 assists per game and 3.4 turnovers per game. He was ranked 18th nationally in assist rate when he went down with a knee injury in mid-January. This is a guy that I think Keatts should try to bring in, and it looks like he’s already reached out.
ECU transfer Javon Small has heard from the following schools since entering the transfer portal, he tells @On3sports:
NC State https://t.co/oY8D4CDfHM
— Joe Tipton (@TiptonEdits) March 16, 2023
Check out his highlights…
WKU | 6’1, 195lbs | 16.5 ppg, 5 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 34% from 3pt range | From Shelbyville, KY
McKnight is being listed here because NC State has reached out to him. I’m not aware of any connection with the staff, but he definitely fits the Keatts mold. He’s a little bit of a bigger, stronger guard, and honestly is like an undersized James Harden with the way he creates space and attacks the basket (He’s also a lefty). McKnight is going to be a really unique player no matter where he ends up. He’s got a knack for creating space, great footwork, a nice jumper and he really loves drawing contact on his drives to the hoop. I can definitely see why NC State reached out, and if he really does pattern his game after James Harden, then the NC State high screen and roll offense is the perfect system for him. Don’t look at his frame and think he’s slow, either. The kid has speed and while he’s not going to play above the rim, he’ll be a scoring threat no matter where he lands.
Western Kentucky transfer Dayvion McKnight has heard from the following schools since entering the portal, source tells @On3sports:
Mississippi State https://t.co/rPam5GZvdb
— Joe Tipton (@TiptonEdits) March 22, 2023
Here are his highlights…
As more names get added to the portal with NC State connections, we’ll add them here and reshare this article.