I know a lot of fans are pissed off. It hasn’t been a very rewarding season thus far for us.
First, you lose your best player in Manny Bates, only a minute into the first game.
Then you dominate the #1 team in the nation for 35 minutes, before falling apart and losing in OT.
Next, you lose your first 3 ACC games by a total of 15 points. All close games, all down to the wire.
To compound it, the last loss comes in a game where you played well, led most of the game, and had a chance to tie with 8 seconds left. Then Keatts called a timeout.
When people criticize a coach it’s usually from a high level. Meaning, it’s usually a critique on style, or discipline. It’s hard to ever point to one particular play and blame the coach for a loss since it’s the player who is actually out there playing the game. But when a coach decides to take a controversial timeout, on a play where a majority of the fans wanted to let them play, with the game riding on a bucket, the coach is putting it on his shoulders alone.
This is what Keatts did, and as we know, it didn’t work out. Now he faces the fallout.
A frustrated fan base, sick of losing, sick of being led on by early leads, and now this? For some, this will feel like the straw that broke the camel’s back. Those who were on the fence about Keatts, may now, for the moment, ready to go in another direction.
If you’ve been following here at PI, you know me. I’m not holding back. I’m not here to write puff-pieces about kids who aren’t pulling their weight because they’re 18 years old. I’m not here to pander to these coaches or spin negatives into positives because I want access. In fact, screw access. It’s 2022, players and coaches take classes on how to deal with media. It’s canned answer after canned answer these days. I was brought on because I know basketball and because I don’t know when to shut my mouth.
With that said, I know you want me to go off on Keatts. I know you want me to tell you he’s not the right fit. I know you want me to confirm what you’re feeling.
But I’m not gonna.
Kevin Keatts isn’t perfect. In fact, I’ll give you a little of what you want before I give you a bunch of what you don’t.
- Keatts teams play poor position defense as a whole. His guards are always getting beat, and it puts pressure on his bigs to make too many decisions.
- Keatts isn’t a great in-game X’s and O’s guy.
- Keatts’ offense is extremely reliant on having a tall dual-threat PG with leadership skills, yet he hasn’t landed one over his first 5 years. Despite that, he hasn’t done a ton of tweaking to the offensive philosophy to fit his personnel.
I know a lot of you are reading that and saying ‘Yea, Joey, and this is exactly why we need to move on.’
That’s where you’re wrong.
See, these are problems, but they are all fixable. Bring on a defensive specialist as an assistant and the defense can be fixed. Bring on an X’s and O’s guy and sit him next to you on the sideline.
Sure, some of this is going to have to be Keatts swallowing his pride a little bit and admitting that the style of play he was trying to bring over from UNC-W isn’t exactly taking the ACC by storm, but if he does that, these things can easily be cleaned up.
The reason you stick with Kevin Keatts is that, despite all of those things listed above that he doesn’t do well, there are a group of more important things that he does do well.
- Keatts motivates his guys to play 100% every time they take the floor.
After years of fans complaining that Herb Sendek didn’t motivate his team enough or bring enough energy, we got Sidney Lowe. Lowe’s tenure was plagued by a lack of discipline and a lack of focus on the court. Then came Gottfried and while his teams played hard at times, they certainly looked lethargic and disinterested when it wasn’t a big game (especially late in his tenure). You can’t say that about Kevin Keatts. I can’t think of a single game over the past 5 years that his teams didn’t show energy or interest. The man can motivate and demands his guys play hard. If you know anything about 17 and 18-year-old kids, they aren’t all that easy to motivate. Just look around college basketball. Few teams play with the overall energy of NC State for a full 40 minutes.
- Keatts gets and keeps his guys in shape.
If you’re going to play hard for 30 minutes a night in the ACC, you have to be in serious shape. Kevin Keatts is the first NC State coach I’ve seen that seems to take this seriously. His guys almost always go through a body transformation when they enter his program. They all get better stamina as they progress, and they all add serious muscle to their frames. Again, this speaks to being able to motivate these kids every day. Whether the bright lights are on or not.
- Keatts is a great recruiter…yeah I said GREAT
Look, say what you want about Keatts, but he’s a great recruiter. I don’t care if things haven’t worked out perfect in his first 5 years on the trail at NC State. The guy was an elite recruiter at Louisville and he was an elite recruiter at UNCW. He’s perfect for NC State. He’s hasn’t cut his teeth in programs where he gets the pick of the litter. He has made his name finding talent where others don’t see it. He did this at UNCW with guys like CJ Bryce and DaVonte Cacok and he’s doing it at NC State.Just look at Dereon Seabron. The kid was a 3 star who wasn’t highly recruited. Now, he’s a superstar. Or Terquvion Smith. Another 3-star when Keatts signed him. Now he’s on pace to be the best freshman scorer at NC State in 20 years. He also signed Josh Hall and Jalen Laque. Both were 3 stars when Keatts landed them, but both ended up getting so good, they skipped college altogether. What about Manny Bates? DePaul and Tulsa were his best offers when Keatts came in and offered. He went on to become a 4-star, and has led the ACC in blocked shots for 2 straight seasons (and was about to break out offensively this year if he didn’t get hurt).
We could keep going on this one, but he’s done it all despite the fact that the program has had a cloud hanging over it over since he got here. Every time Keatts has recruited a kid, he had to fight an unwinnable fight. Other coaches would tell kids to steer clear of NC State because they were about to be punished by the NCAA. They would have a postseason ban, or worse. Keatts would reassure them that they wouldn’t but couldn’t promise anything, because honestly, he didn’t know. Hell, he lost Saddiq Bey, a kid who had already committed, because another coach got in his ear about the sanctions. Bey only ended up becoming an elite scorer for Villanova and going on to be drafted 19th overall by the Pistons.
The point is, Keatts has made his mistakes, but he’s also been fighting uphill. He’s caught some bad breaks and he’s had to deal with the possibility of those NCAA sanctions. He bought himself some time by playing the transfer game early on, but now that the NCAA has ruled that the Pack isn’t getting a postseason ban, he can truly start to show what he can do on the recruiting trail.
Aside from all of that, Keatts has intangibles that are too hard to find. You can’t just turn on him now and let him go. The ability to motivate kids, and to have kids trust you and go to war for you every night, in 2022 is something special. Keatts is about as much a disciplinarian as you’re going to find these days. He doesn’t take crap. I know that for a fact. He’s hard on his kids and he demands full buy-in and full dedication. So he’s got some on-the-court issues as far as play-calling and strategy. Those are fixable.
Give the guy some time. I know losing is frustrating, but please trust me when I say this. He has the traits of a championship coach. The output you are witnessing in terms of hustle, buy-in, and dedication isn’t by chance. They are products of Kevin Keatts.
I can’t promise you he’s going to succeed. I have no idea. But I do know that the foundation for creating a champion isn’t about X’s and O’s or when you call timeouts. It’s about creating a culture of discipline, commitment, hard work, and loyalty. Keatts has that foundation laid. Will we let him take the time he needs to build the house?
It’s Not Over Till It’s Over
Look…I know the odds of NC State’s Men’s Basketball team going to the NCAA Tournament is next to zero percent.
In fact, according to Bart Torvik, the Wolfpack have a 1.1% chance of making the Dance as an at-large bid.
Don’t accuse me of wearing rose colored glasses, because I’m not. The fact remains, it’s not over until it is over.
What would have to happen for NC State to make the NCAA Tournament?
More than likely, NC State would have to win out the rest of the way, in games against Boston College, @ FSU, @ UNC, Duke and @ Pitt.
Maybe there’s a scenario where the Wolfpack beats BC, FSU, Pitt and beats either Duke or UNC. In order for that to play out, I imagine the Wolfpack would have to make a splash in the ACC Tournament as well.
Or maybe NC State could earn a bid winning 4 of 5 if they all of a sudden put together astronomical offensive and defensive efficiency numbers, which thus far has killed their position in the NET Rankings.
Either way, you would need some legit Cardiac Pack vibes for this team to make the Dance.
Call me unrealistic, but I think NC State should be in the NCAA Tournament every single season. Historically speaking, heading into this season, NC State ranked 27th for the most wins in college basketball history. If I lowered the standard a bit to 75%, accounting for an off year every now and then, the program is still way off the mark.
Read into this what you will, but if the Wolfpack doesn’t go to the Big Dance this year, that means they will have only gone twice in the past 7 years, and in my opinion, that’s unacceptable.
With that being said…GO PACK!
#6 NC State 70 UNC 80: BOX SCORE (with notes)
#6 NC State was defeated by their rival UNC this evening, falling 70-80 to the Tar Heels. Below is the Box Score with notes underneath.
- This game came down to shooting.
- UNC shot 50.8% from the field and NC State shot 35.2%.
- The Tar Heels shot an insane 52.4% from three, hitting 11 from beyond the arc.
- The Wolfpack shot 9 of 27 from deep.
- Junior Guard Aziaha James led the Pack with 24 points (10-24), and also grabbed 9 rebounds.
- Senior Forward Mimi Collins had a double-double of 11 points and 10 rebounds.
- The Pack needed to feed Collins. She was 3 of 6 from the field.
- Junior Guard Saniya Rivers had 13 points (4-13), and knocked down 4 three pointers (3-6).
- Senior Guard Madison Hayes had 11 points (4-12) and 9 boards.
- Senior Center River Baldwin struggled, hitting 2 of her 9 shots.
- The Wolfpack did manage to score 17 second chance points, compared to UNC’s 7.
- They also made 11 free throws, compared to UNC’s 5.
- UNC played extremely good defense, but NC State missed an obscene amount of shots around the rim.
- The Tar Heels looked like the better team tonight, leading for 3/4th of the game.
The Wolfpack will play at Duke on Sunday at 5:30pm on ACC Network.
#6 NC State Looks to Sweep Rival UNC This Evening
The 6th ranked NC State Women’s Basketball team is looking to sweep their rival UNC this evening at 8pm on ACC Network. Back on February 1st, the Wolfpack beat the Tar Heels 63-59. At the time NC State was ranked 5th, and UNC was ranked 24th.
Since arriving in Raleigh, Wolfpack Head Coach Wes Moore has led NC State to a 13-9 overall record against the Tar Heels, but they are 4-6 in Chapel Hill under his watch.
NC State lost to UNC the last time the game was played in enemy territory, falling 46-57 loss in Carmichael Arena on January 15th of last year. In that contest, the Wolfpack were ranked 11th and the Tar Heels were ranked 22nd.
If NC State wins tonight, it will mark the 4th time that Moore has led the Wolfpack to sweep UNC in the regular season.
Historically, NC State holds a 63-54 advantage in the series against UNC, but they are 20-30 on the road.
NC State’s Wes Moore is 1 of 15 on the Late Season Watchlist for the Naismith Women’s College Coach of the Year Award
NC State Women’s Basketball Head Coach Wes Moore is 1 of 15 on the Naismith Late Season Watchlist for the Coach of the Year Award.
The leader of our Pack 🐺🐺
— NC State WBB 🐺🏀 (@PackWomensBball) February 21, 2024
Currently, Moore has led NC State from being unranked in the preseason polls, to #6 currently. The Wolfpack are 23-3, and numerous publications project them to be a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Moore was a finalist for the Naismith Coach of the Year Award in 2020-21 and a Semifinalist in 2015-16.