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OUR TAKE on NC State’s frustrating 91-83 loss to Miami



Another game, another heartbreak.

NC State led Miami at the half and then led by 8 with 11 minutes left in the game, but once again, they fell apart at the end. With ACC play now fully in swing, NC State needs to figure this thing out or they risk having the worst season in the Keatts era.

Here is our take:

Once again Dereon Seabron was great
Seabron is a double-double machine this season. In fact, he was 4 assists shy of a triple-double in this one. The redshirt sophomore scored 14 points on an efficient 6-9 shooting, tallied 11 rebounds, and dished out 6 assists. The only problem was that the Pack, for whatever reason, failed to get him more volume.

The only real answer right now for NC State is to ride Seabron as hard as they can. In our opinion, that means getting the ball in his hands a lot more. Looking back at some of NC State’s better wins, Seabron dominated the ball down the stretch. There are a few games where he single-handedly took over the game (the Nebraska game stands out). So when you see that he only attempted 9 shots, you have to scratch your head.

The NC State guards need to get him the basketball, but that’s not happening. So we think it’s time to shuffle things around. It’s time to move Seabron to PG and let him be the primary ball-handler.  What do you have to lose? The guy is your best scorer, he’s your most consistent player, and guess what, he’s leading the team in assists. He handed out 6 vs. Miami and he leads the team with over 3 per game. Meanwhile, Cam Hayes ranks last in assists of all ACC PGs and NC State ranks 320 out of 350 of all D1 teams in assists/Made FGs. That’s abysmal and the real reason the offense appears so stagnant.

Hellems has refound his mojo
Earlier this season, Jericole Hellems looked lost. The guy NC State came into the season leaning on for scoring couldn’t buy a bucket, but it seems he’s turned it around. Last night he went for 24 points on 9-17 shooting and 2-6 from long range. They’re going to need this Hellems from here on out, so let’s hope this is just the beginning.

Breon Pass and Ernest Ross are starting to look comfortable
At this point, it’s all hands on deck. Keatts needs every guy on his roster to be contributing in one way or another. The good news is that last night Breon Pass and Ernest Ross looked like they were at least up to the challange.

Coming into the game Pass and Ross hadn’t done much, and it’s not like they put up amazing numbers, but if you watched the game, you saw two guys who had seemed hesitant, finally start to look more confident.

Pass finished with 5 points in 11 minutes. He had 2 rebounds and 2 assists with no turnovers. He was moving the ball, attacking when he could, and seemed to be in control of the offense. The question is, why did he only play 11 minutes when Hayes was struggling all night? The season is already at its tipping point, and what they’ve been doing isn’t working. It’s time to start getting Pass more integrated into the rotation.

Meanwhile, Ernest Ross played 12 minutes, had 1 rebound, 1 block, and 5 points of his own. Ross still looks soft on the block, but the only way he’ll reach his potential is by getting him more touches. This is a 4-star recruit brimming with potential, playing on a team that has almost zero post presence. It was good to see him slot in as the backup big over Gibson, but going forward we hope to continue to see his role increase.


Thanks for finally joining us Thomas Allen!
As we’ve said before, we aren’t really sure what has been going on with Allen. This is a guy who was known as a shooter in high school, however, we haven’t really seen him start clicking at all this season. In fact, he’s looked almost disinterested any time he took the floor. So, it was good to finally see him locked in and playing well. He logged 27 minutes (3rd on the team), was 6-10 from the floor, and scored 13 points. What you may have missed is the fact that he also grabbed 7 rebounds, had 3 assists and a steal, all while only turning it over 1 time. With Hayes struggling, Morsell trying to regain his confidence post-injury, and Smith still working out freshman kinks, Allen playing well is a welcomed sight.


Our defense keeps killing us
NC State isn’t some offensive juggernaut, so it’s imperative that they at least do a decent job on the defensive side. That hasn’t been happening. Miami shot 55.4% from the floor and 52.6% from 3 point range. And you know what, they weren’t hitting any crazy shots. Most of their buckets were open looks. NC State continues to fail to keep opposing guards out of the lane despite having the length, and athleticism to do so. Isaiah Wong, Charlie Moore and Kameron McGusty got into the lane at will and either scored it or found open guys. This is simply inexcusable. The only guy on the NC State roster who gets down in a defensive stance, doesn’t reach, and plays strong position defense is Casey Morsell (who spent two years playing under Bennett at UVA). If Keatts can’t teach these guys to play fundamental defense, he needs to bring someone in who can. This has been a problem for Keatts’ teams since he arrived.


Cam Hayes is out of position
Our columnist Joey Wolferetti hit on this in his piece earlier today, but one reason NC State’s offense is so stagnant is because they don’t have a PG. Hayes is a talent and a guy who can help this team with his scoring, but he’s not a PG. We won’t get to deep into it, because Joey already did that, but the fact is, if State is going to become a factor in the ACC, they have to get someone in there who can attack the lane and find open cutters/shooters. This is Basketball 101. You’re not going to win games going one on one and relying on shooting jumpers over defenders. It just isn’t going to happen.

What they’re doing isn’t working. You’ve got to adjust
It’s not tough to see. NC State’s style of play, without Bates in the middle doesn’t work. Sure, they might win a few games if they get hot from 3, but this strategy isn’t going to consistently win games. They don’t have the horses to play this brand of basketball despite Keatts now having a full roster of his guys. It’s time to adjust, and if you don’t adjust then well, there’s no one else to blame but Keatts. Losing Bates hurt. The entire approach was built around having an elite shot-blocker in the middle, but things happen and it doesn’t look like Keatts had a plan B.

We are still early in the season, but if they just keep plugging away with this lineup, playing this style of basketball, it’s not going to end pretty. It’s time to move around your pieces, start grooming your freshmen and do everything you can to salvage the season.

A pasta eatin', Wolfpack lovin' loudmouth from Raleigh by way of New Jersey. Jimmy V and Chuck Amato fanboy. All opinions are my own and you're gonna hear'em.

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1 year ago

There is no way I would remove Smith from the starting five. He just needs to be coached…hard. That would shore up some of the bad mistakes he makes. He needs to stop taking bailout shots unless we’re in a bailout situation. Ross needs to play just as many minutes as Dowuona. If you don’t play your freshmen they will either transfer or be just as green when they are sophomores. Dowuona getting more time last year would be paying dividends this year. Instead he is a second year big who plays like a timid freshman. It’s getting better but… Read more »

1 year ago
  1. (agree with you): Bench Hayes for Seabron at PG
  2. Bench Smith for Allen at SG
  3. Morsell at the wing

Starters: Seabron, Allen, Morsell, Hellems, Dowuona
First off Bench: Smith, Ross, Pass, Hayes
Next: Gibson, Gantt

Pack Insider Staff
1 year ago
Reply to  Papajohn

Allen hasn’t shown me enough consistency to get that role just yet. Smith needs minutes to mature. The more you can get him, the faster he truly arrives and if we are going to be competitive over the next few years, it’s going to be because of him and Seabron.

However, if Allen keeps this up, then I may be willing to sacrifice the experience for a few wins.

NC State Basketball

Wolferetti: Feed me my crow. NC State lost to Creighton and I’m here to break it down (and admit I was wrong)



I was wrong.

I thought this matchup was a good one for NC State. I watched a lot of Creighton this year and to me, they looked like a team that NC State could roll over. Let me explain why.

I knew a few things. I knew Nembhard was a PG that could get a little out of control if sped up. I knew with a little defense and physicality, Sheierman could be made uncomfortable. I knew Kalkbrenner was a good defender but was going to sink on the pick-and-roll to protect the basket.

Joiner’s pull up just wouldn’t fall

I figured that Joiner, the pull-up king would be taking that DJ Burns screen, getting to the middle, and pulling up as Kalkbrenner sank. I figured Smith would exploit this as well. Well, turns out Joiner was off and couldn’t get his pull-up game going and Smith, well yeah Smith did exploit this pretty well.

Burns didn’t look like Burns

The other thing I’d figure would happen is that I thought DJ Burns would really frustrate Kalkbrenner. If you’ve looked at games where Kalkbrenner had to face a really good, physical back-to-the-basket big man, those bigs usually had pretty good games in the scoring column.  I honestly don’t understand what happened to Burns in this one. Sure he got a few stupid early fouls, but before he even picked up a foul he looked out of it. With no double teams coming, Burns is usually calculated, slowly backing you down and hitting you with a flurry of head fakes, pump fakes or spins. If the big doesn’t bite, Burns can fade away, go with a contested hook shot, or pass out.

In this game, Burns looked sped up for some reason. The first time he got the ball he quickly backed in and threw up a hook that rattled out. Not awful, but usually you see him probe a little more. Then the next time he didn’t even look for contact, instead, he threw up a little floater that didn’t fall. While neither were awful shots, both were uncharacteristic of Burns. On top of those things, he looked absolutely gassed within minutes of coming in. My guess is that it was the altitude, but either way, it took a toll on him.

Whatever it was, it had him frustrated and he had two really bad fouls where he just shoved Kalkbrenner (he also had a phantom foul that was ridiculous). That said, it just wasn’t his night and this made NC State a lot more one-dimensional.

Casey Morsell came to play, but this NC State roster just wasn’t built to get a guy like him going, which is a shame. Jarkel Joiner was a huge reason why NC State got to where they got. His scoring ability, his speed and his toughness and leadership skill were huge. But Joiner is a scoring guard, and great basketball teams need POINT guards.

What is a point guard, and why can’t we have one?

A point guard isn’t just a guy who dribbles it down. It’s a guy who understands the games within the games. Guys who dictate pace, call plays (sets) and are essentially coaches on the floor. NC State and Kevin Keatts never had that this season, and while you can get a long way with scoring guards and good big men, you’ll never compete for anything of worth until you prioritize the skill set of a true point guard. I think that has been NC State’s problem for years, and I find it kind of insane that coach after coach falls into this idea of having a scoring guard play as a PG for more offense to get on the court.

This is no shot at Jarkel, either. The guy was one of my favorite players to watch on this team, but it just is what it is. He is a scoring guard who happens to be slotting in at PG. When you see Keatts bring in a guy whose priority is getting his guys open and dictating pace, then you can start to believe that this program may be close to arriving. Until then, sneaking into the tournament and hoping guys get hot hands is as good as it gets.

Look at Kihei Clark (Virginia’s PG). I know it’s not a great time to be talking about Clark, whose errant pass ended up losing the game for Virginia on Thursday, but look at Clark’s build.5’10, 170lbs. Look at his stats. Mid-30s shooting % from 3. Hight 70s from the FT line. The guy is nothing special when it comes to the numbers, but he’s a leader and he distributes the basketball to the right guys at the right time. Tony Bennett has started Clark for 4 years despite the fact that he’s coaching a team that is always in the running to win the ACC and won a national championship less than 5 years ago.  He could replace Clark with an elite, tall, athlete at any moment. But he doesn’t. Why? Because he understands what I’m talking about. It’s a puzzle that coaches need to put together, and one piece of that puzzle is a guy like this.

I was wrong about this game. I thought things would play out differently. They didn’t. I’m not blaming anyone in particular, but the makeup of this team vs. the makeup of teams that play deep into March are different. Maybe this is step one to getting there. We’ll have to see how the roster shapes up next season.

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NC State Basketball

VIDEO: NC State falls to Creighton 72-63 in first round of NCAA Tournament | Extended Highlights & Box Score

NC State came out flat, DJ Burns looked gassed, and for the most part, the Pack looked shell-shocked vs. Creighton from the opening tip. However, Terquavion Smith is excluded from all of that. He was amazing and in what was likely his final game at NC State, he kept the Pack afloat, dropping 32 points on 12-25 shooting. In the end, it wasn’t enough as their big man, 7’1 Ryan Kalkbrenner went for 31.



NC State came out flat, DJ Burns looked gassed, and for the most part, the Pack looked shell-shocked vs. Creighton from the opening tip. However, Terquavion Smith is excluded from all of that. He was amazing and in what was likely his final game at NC State, he kept the Pack afloat, dropping 32 points on 12-25 shooting. In the end, it wasn’t enough as their big man, 7’1 Ryan Kalkbrenner went for 31.

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NC State Basketball

VIDEO: Smith, Joiner and Keatts talk in postgame press conference

Terquavion Smith, Jarkel Joiner and Kevin Keatts meet with the media after 72-63 loss to Creighton in the NCAA Tournament.



Terquavion Smith, Jarkel Joiner and Kevin Keatts meet with the media after 72-63 loss to Creighton in the NCAA Tournament.

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NC State Basketball

Wolferetti: 3 reasons why NC State is going to win today



God bless these guys over here at PI. I submitted this article to them this morning and got this back.

“Joey, this is a good piece, but are you sure you want to come out and say that NC State is going to win? Why not just do a ‘keys to the game.’ or something? Hedge your bets. Why are you always wanting to put your reputation on the line?”

To that I say, “Nah, I’m good. I want my reputation on the line. What fun is this if I’m not callin’ it like I see it?”

Look, they’ve been worried about me stating outlandish opinions before. Like when I said after game #1, after I first laid eye on this team, that it was going to be a team that will flirt with or get into the Top 25? I got hammered for that, but was I right? And today I’m back on my prediction tip, telling you that NC State will survive and advance. And here are my 3 reasons why.

1. Creighton hasn’t fared well against teams with great Turnover Margins.

If Creighton has a glaring weakness, it’s turnover margin.

NC State’s turnover margin ranks 16th in the NCAA. Creighton’s is a miserable 291st. This means Creighton turns the ball over a lot and doesn’t create many turnovers. Meanwhile, NC State is the exact opposite. They create a lot of turnovers and really protect the basketball. This statistic right here is going to play a major role. The Creighton guards, especially Nembhard, can get sped up, and when they do, they can get sloppy and out of control. Meanwhile, Joiner and Smith flourish at top speed.

Let’s look at the one team that Creighton lost to every time they played them (and played them multiple times). That team is Marquette.

What do Marquette and NC State have in common? Well, they are both Top 20 in the nation in Turnover Margin. Marquette ranks #3 in the NCAA while the Pack is 16th. Creighton turned it over 18 times in their first meeting at Marquette. The second time these two teams met, Creighton turned it over 15 times.

The other teams they faced in the Top 50 of Turnover Margin in the nation?

#39 Arizona State
#10 Texas

That’s it. And guess what, Creighton lost every single one of those games. They have yet to beat a team in the Top 50 in Turnover Margin.

Reminder. NC State ranks 16th.

2. Large, back-to-the-basket bigs have fared well against Creighton

6’9, 245lb, Adama Sanogo from UConn dropped 17 against them in a win.

6’9, 215lb, Oso Ighodaro from Marquette dropped 16 on them in their first meeting, and then 18 in their second.

6’7, 220lb, Bryce Hopkins from Providence scored 20 on them in both meetings. One of which was a win.

All of these guys are big, strong, back-to-the-basket bigs and all of them bullied their way to huge games again Creighton.

In all 3 instances, Creighton refused to double-team on most possessions and the big men ate. So how will they deal with a big that is bigger than any of these guys?

DJ Burns is 6’9, 275lbs and he’s going to be a focal point for NC State in this game. If Creighton opts to play Burns straight up, history says they are going to have a long night and Burn is going to have a big game.

3. Creighton hasn’t seen guards like Joiner and Smith

Sure Creighton has quick guards. Nembhard, the 6’0 PG rarely gets a matchup where he doesn’t have a quickness advantage. Today, against Joiner, he won’t have one. There is so much talk about Creighton’s guards bottling up their opponents, but watch them play and you’ll see that they simply haven’t had to face guys like Joiner or Smith. Creighton will allow the floor to be spread and will not fight against playing this game at a fast pace, and those are the types of games we’ve seen the NC State guards feast.

Creighton is a very good team. They have some very good pieces, but I just think they’ve found themselves in a matchup that isn’t very good for them despite being data-darlings. I could be wrong, but to me, this looks like a game where people are reading off statistics and making assumptions without watching film. Without looking at each team’s Achilles heel. And without really breaking down the matchups.

I think this is a really good matchup for the Pack and I think I’ll be back talking to you in about 24 hours looking at who the guys will play on Sunday.

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