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OUR TAKE: On NC State’s loss to #8 Duke and what adjustments we’d like to see moving forward

NC State Basketball

OUR TAKE: On NC State’s loss to #8 Duke and what adjustments we’d like to see moving forward

OUR TAKE: On NC State’s loss to #8 Duke and what adjustments we’d like to see moving forward

Early in the season, as we looked ahead to the ACC schedule, the one game that, no matter how we looked at it, was going to be a problem, were the matchups with Duke.

Duke just has so many weapons. Whether it’s Wendell Moore Jr, Paolo Bancharo, or Mark Williams, NC State was going to have bad matchups. All of our concerns played out, and while NC State kept it sort of close for a big portion of the game, the final result never seemed to be in question. Duke was just better.

Here is ‘Our Take’ on the loss…

Dowuona played decently but was no match for Williams
NC State’s interior defense and interior lack of offense continues to be a problem. Dowuona started strong with three follow dunks, and he finished with a good line of 10 points and 9 boards, but the stat line didn’t tell the story. Duke’s Mark Williams absolutely dominated this game. He finished with 19 points, 11 rebounds and 8 blocks. NC State had no answer. They tried and tried to get to the rim, but when they did, Williams was there to deny them. On offense, he was there to clean up misses, and really impacted the game on every front. NC State simply can’t beat teams with solid bigs.

Cam Hayes continues to struggle
Hayes was supposed to be one of NC State’s top players coming into the season, but the sophomore guard is looking worse and worse as the season wears on. This was a game where the Pack needed his height and ball handling, but Keatts wasn’t even able to keep him on the floor. He’s playing rushed, he’s making bad decisions and he simply seems to have lost all confidence. Hayes played just 8 minutes and had 3 turnovers. Two of those were soft, sloppy passes and one was where he simply dribbled off his own foot at the top of the key. He also had two or three other questionable passes that could have resulted in turnovers. He’s struggling to make simple point to point passes at this point, and it’s forcing Keatts to keep him on the bench.

So what’s wrong?

Hayes isn’t a bad player. In fact, he’s actually a very skilled, big guard, who could be an impact player for the Pack. We believe the problem is that he’s playing out of position on this current roster. Hayes is at his best when he’s able to drive to the lane, pull up, and hit jumpers. He’s never been very efficient at creating for those around him. Last season, and early this season, he was a guy who had a very low turnover rate, mostly because he wasn’t taking many risks. He likes to either make point-to-point passes from the top and run the offense, or attack and shoot. He is not very effective at breaking down his man, getting in the lane, and finding the open shooter. However, with the current roster, NC State needs a point man who can create havoc, get into the lane and find open guys. This has put Hayes in a position where he’s really not comfortable, and it’s showing. He has tried to be that guy, but as you can see, it’s not working out. The turnovers are mounting up and his confidence is fading. As we’ve stated before, Keatts needs to change the way he’s being used. The problem is, Hayes isn’t shooting it well either. He’s shooting just 33% from the floor and just 22.9% from long range. Until he can regroup and make adjustments, Keatts is going to be forced to look elsewhere for production.

Breon Pass may be ready to enter the rotation
With Hayes struggling and NC State needing a PG, Keatts has turned to Dereon Seabron. It’s not the perfect solution, but at the time it was the best option. Putting the ball in Seabron’s hands at the top of the key gave the Pack a guy who was dangerous. He could get to the rack, get into the lane and either score or find open shooters. However, the ACC is catching on.

Both Duke and Louisville guarded Seabron with smaller guards, pressuring him out top and making it hard for him to get his full head of steam he likes to get when he starts his drive. They also started to double him off the high ball screen and totally disregard Dowuona. This is working. Seabron shot just 7-17 vs Duke and only had 9 shot attempts vs. Louisville. With Seabron not able to completely dominate the game, State is forced to rely on Smith and Hellems for more production. And while those guys are doing all they can, it’s not enough.

Enter Breon Pass. For the first time this season, Pass played more minutes than Cam Hayes at the point. This allowed Seabron to move back off the ball, and forced Duke to guard him with a bigger defender. If teams are going to continue to use smaller guards on Seabron, and Pass seems ready, it might be time to slot in Pass at the point to get the matchups you want.

Pass played just 10 minutes, but had 5 points, 2 assists, and zero turnovers. Expect to see Pass start to get more minutes moving forward as Keatts continues to try to figure out ways to get Seabron the matchups he can dominate.

Ernest Ross being out didn’t help
Ross was coming off the best game of his career and was poised to start getting some major minutes for NC State. However, an ankle injury popped up and held him out of this one. That was unfortunate for both the budding freshman and for the Wolfapck.

Ross gives NC State a bouncy athlete, who is at least an option on offense. Ross is also a better shot blocker than Dowuona thanks to his timing and his quick-off-the-floor athleticism. Having him not available in a game like this, really hurt.

Time to make room for Casey Morsell
Go rewatch the game. Casey Morsell was locked in defensively when he was on the floor. He is NC State’s best defender, and when he gets back in the flow, is not a bad scorer. Problem is, since his ankle injury, he’s struggled to knock down shots. We understand that this is a team in need of offense, but given some more rope, we think Morsell will provide it. His effort on defense and his understanding of positioning is needed on this basketball team. He only logged 11 minutes in this one, but we think he should be a guy getting at least 20 minutes per game. He’s also, believe it or not, NC State’s 3rd best 3 point shooter at 34.8 %. At this point, what do you have to lose by getting him more burn?

Time to shake things up, and settle on a lineup
We are about 1/3 of the way through conference play and NC State still looks like a team in flux. Keatts is still tinkering with lineups and trying to find the right combination. This isn’t all on Keatts. He lost Manny Bates, he has a bunch of freshmen and a transfer that are acclimating to the league, so it’s a fluid situation. However, we think things have somewhat settled to a point where the rotation can be set movring forward. We’d like to see a starting rotation of…

G- Dereon Seabron
G- Terquavion Smith
G- Casey Morsell
F- Jericole Hellems
F- Ernest Ross

We think that five gives NC State their best chance to win basketball games. It would allow them to play big, it puts their best defensive team on the floor, and it’s their most physical lineup. You are trading a shooter in Thomas Allen for a bigger, stronger defender in Casey Morsell. But we believe Morsell’s offense is starting to come back around.

Keatts has been going with Allen over Morsell, which at the time was warranted. Allen was/is hitting shots, and Morsell was struggling coming off of his injury. However, this was turning NC State into a team reliant on 3s, and as we’ve seen, this roster is more likely to die by the 3, than live by it. Allen certainly has a role, but State needs to transition to a team that is more well-rounded. A team that has shooters on the wings, but also guys who can get to the basket and invite some contact. Morsell can do this, and he can also provide you a defensive stopper and eventually a leader on the floor.  Morsell is also 3 of his last 7 from beyond the arc (Last 3 games), so it’s not like he’s a poor shooter from long range (he’s shooting 35% from 3 this year). Allen is actually shooting a lower percentage from 3 (31.4 %) although over the past 5 games he’s shooting 38% from 3, which is likely why Keatts has gone with him.

As for Ross and Dowuona, they probably should be splitting minutes at this point (once Ross is healthy). Ross is still figuring things out, but has shown enough promise to start earning more minutes. He’s more explosive and gives you an option on the block. he’s also able to contribute on both ends in transition. Dowuona isn’t playing awful, but you’re 7 games into conference play and he’s yet to prove he’s able to really impact the interior against bigger, stronger athletes.

We believe the substitution pattern should be dictated by the situation. If Seabron is being bothered by a smaller guard and you want to move him off the ball, as we noted, Keatts should start looking to Pass to take over the lead guard duties. Moving Seabron to the 3, and Morsell to the bench.

If Seabron is having no troubles getting to the lane, but defenses are collapsing down, then you can go with Allen in spurts over Morsell, or to give Smith a breather.

I know many will question the Morsell move and the Ross move, but you’re 18 games into the season and 7 games into ACC play. Postseason hopes are slipping away game by game, and the longer you wait to adjust, the harder it’s going to be to make a run. There’s nothing to lose now. it’s time to play your youth and stop tinkering, hoping the guys who are struggling will turn it around. You also, have to be realistic and look at next season. You’re going to be relying on Ross big time (with Hellems gone) and if Seabron bolts to the NBA, and Hayes still is struggling, Breon Pass is going to have to be ready.

Again. What do you have to lose?

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3 months ago

Who is the transfer trying to figure out the league? Morsell? He should have done that at UVa don’t ya think? I agree with the notion of looking towards next year by letting Ross and Pass play more. I think you should always be doing that. Freshman should be put in situations as often as possible so they can be more seasoned Sophomores not 2nd year Freshmen. I also predict that Hayes will be transferring next season. He is mentally checked out.

3 months ago

Hayes definitely seems to be struggling. Sophomore slump maybe? I always love his pull up jumper, but he tends to be a liability at this point in other ways. Hope he can get back into working order.

4 months ago

is Gantt ever going to play this season?

4 months ago
Reply to  Biscuit

KK told us last week Gantt is “badly out of shape .” Probably not enough time left in the season to get him in shape, and get him ready to contribute. He’s just too far behind.

4 months ago
Reply to  Papajohn

THANKS. maybe next year….

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