Kevin Keatts has been late too often this season and it’s costing NC State.
You know I hate to write this.
I’m a Keatts guy. I’ve written article after article defending him. I believe in the culture he’s building. I believe he’s a great motivator and that guys will run through walls for him. I believe, now that the fear of NCAA sanctions is gone, you’re finally going to see that he’s an elite recruiter. I believe he’s eventually going to make NC State into an ACC contender.
But sometimes you just gotta call it like it is.
I know, I know. Manny Bates is hurt. Ross is hurt. Morsell was down for a while. Cam Hayes is struggling, etc. The guy has excuses he can pull, but he doesn’t want to use those (respect that!), and neither should you.
NC State has 10 losses. 5 of those have been by 6 points or less. I’ll say it another way. 5 of their losses have been 2 possession games. Another one, against the best team in the country at the time, was tied at the end of regulation (or just a one-possession game).
That’s 6 games that came down to just a couple possessions. 6 very winnable games. And winnable games should be won.
This is why I’m pointing the finger at Kevin Keatts. It’s time for him to be accountable. I’ve sat back and watched this team and they are not a bad team. In fact, you have to first credit Keatts for getting this team to play so hungry and with so much ‘want-to’ before you can criticize him for his in-game mistakes.
I’m just going to be blunt. Keatts is coaching reactively and that alone is costing NC State a few points here and there, which this season, is the difference between a 9-10 team and a 14-5 team.
Let me give you some examples.
Late on moving Seabron to primary ball handler
I told you that to get this team to its full potential they needed to move Seabron to the point. Cam Hayes has struggled all year, the offense was stagnant and it was costing this team games. I didn’t want to write that article. You never want to write an article that recommends sitting a kid down. You never want to dig into the stats that show why that recommendation holds merit. These kids are 18 years old. I had the stats. I saw that it was necessary, and it’s likely a lot of you did too. But nothing was changing. State was dropping games. So I wrote the piece. The next game, Seabron was at point. And it’s not because of any article, it’s because it was becoming all too obvious.
But why did it take that long?
I started to note that maybe Cam needed a role change after the Nebraska game. We hinted at it again after the Louisville game. I noted it again after the Purdue loss. Finally, after the Miami game, I had seen enough. I put out a clear and concise argument for moving Hayes off the ball and moving Seabron to the point.
Look, hindsight is 20/20, but I’m going out of my way and putting my a#* on the line in these columns. If Hayes turns it around or Seabron falls apart as the PG, I look like an idiot. People lose trust in this site. This site makes less money. And the guys that run the site fire me. That’s why you don’t see many sportswriters write these types of articles. You can’t be wrong if you don’t have a strong opinion!
But why live like that? No one wants to read the same old regurgitated synopsis. They want to know how to fix a problem. Is there something there that the staff is missing? Is there a way that a few decisions or adjustments could fix our team?
Usually, the answer is no. Usually, the answer is you just don’t have the talent.
However, in this case, during this season, I think the answer is yes. And that, folks, is why I’m writing THIS article.
Late on increasing minutes for Ernest Ross
Let’s move on to the Ernest Ross example, which at this point is moot, but worth noting.
The kid is done for the year with an ankle fracture, just as he was about to break out.. But Ernest Ross had been showing signs of being ready to contribute. All while Dowuona and Gibson were building a track record of struggling against bigger, more athletic bigs. There was a noticeable difference in Ross during the Miami loss. I noted that and suggested it was time he start to see more playing time in my post-game recap.
However, he then didn’t see a single minute vs. Florida State, a 2 point loss in which Dowuona and Gibson combined for 39 minutes, zero points, 5 rebounds, and 2 blocks. Would it have made a difference? We’ll never know.
Then came the first Virginia Tech game where Ross played 15 minutes, had 4 points and 3 rebounds. I again hinted that it was time to start getting Ross more minutes and figured the staff was seeing the same thing. But again was dumbfounded as he only saw 4 minutes vs. Clemson (a game NC State lost by 5.) In that one, Dowuona and Gibson combined for 35 minutes, 2 points, 2 rebounds, and one block, all while allowing PJ Hall to drop 20 points, almost all from the paint.
What was going on? Why, while Ross was showing promise in his small amount of minutes, was he seeing games where he barely got off the bench? Was I seeing things? The stats were showing that Ross was being more productive, but they really weren’t convincing enough to come out and really question anything publically.
Then came the Louisville game. NC State won on the road in blowout fashion. I analyzed the game from a number of different perspectives and the most obvious difference was the impact Ross had on the game. He played a season-high 18 minutes, had 4 points, 5 rebounds, and 2 blocks. But the stats didn’t tell the whole story. The game was different when Ross was in. He was altering shots inside and this was forcing the Louisville guards to play a little more hesitant on their drives. It changed the game. I went back and manually tracked his minutes.
When Ernest Ross was on the floor (18 minutes). NC State won 47-21.
When Ernest Ross was not on the floor (22 minutes). NC State lost 32-42.
This tracked with what we had started to see vs. Miami and what we saw in the Virginia Tech game. Just his presence was creating a net positive for NC State. This seemed clear 4 games prior, but you still had the 2 games in there where he barely played. What gives?
That’s why I put out the “The numbers don’t lie. It’s time to hand Ernest Ross the starting role.” Again, I didn’t want to write that piece and a lot of you criticized me calling for him as a starter. It seems risky to sit down your starting big and bench your other big for a freshman that was just emerging, but it had become too clear. The numbers were telling the story and low and behold, Keatts, in last night’s press conference said “If Ernest Ross was going to playing this one, he was going to fight for starter minutes.”
Keatts is making the right moves, he’s just making them too late. Your current bigs provided a clear and large data set. They weren’t producing. Ross was trending in the right direction, and you were losing games where he wasn’t seeing significant time.
Now, would major minutes for Ross have changed anything against Duke or Virginia Tech? We’ll never know since Ross was lost to an ankle injury right after that piece. But that question should have been answered during the FSU-VT-Clemson-Louisville stretch.
Now, NC State has lost two in a row. And I’m back to pointing out another trend.
Late on moving Casey Morsell back into the starting role
Casey Morsell is a guy I’ve loved since Keatts landed him as a transfer from UVA. After watching his high school highlights and his games at Virginia, it was clear to me that Morsell would be the team’s best defender and would likely become a pretty good scoring option in this offense. He started strong. Keatts was starting him and he was averaging 12 ppg, then he went down with an ankle injury.
I thought Keatts did a good job at trying to get him back in the mix, but he just didn’t look the same. He wasn’t defending at the same level and he couldn’t buy a shot. He wasn’t right, which eventually led Keatts to turn to Thomas Allen.
This worked out well as Allen went through a stretch of being red-hot. He had a great game vs. Miami, a good game vs FSU, an ok game vs. VT and then a good game against Clemson. He was helping NC State on offense, but they lost 3 of those 4 games and their defense was struggling.
During that Clemson game, Casey Morsell logged 22 minutes and seemed to look like his old self. He was defending well, and 2 of his 4 3s fell. I expected Morsell to start carving out his role again, but one game wasn’t enough to provide real confidence. The next game vs. Louisville Morsell only logged 12 minutes and didn’t score. Smith was hitting everything so he wasn’t coming out and Allen was 4-10 and had 4 assists with no turnovers. I get it, but Hayes was 1-7 and got 19 minutes (although he did have 4 assist). Morsell is your best defender and looked like he was starting to get things back on track, why wasn’t Keatts getting him more run? Still, NC State won and the offense was buzzing, so it glossed over any problems that were lingering under the surface.
The Duke game is where it became clear for me. Morsell logged just 11 minutes and only hit 1 of 4 shots (another 3), but he had 2 steals and a rebound in his time. But it was how he looked in that game that made things obvious. Morsell was locked in defensively. He was moving so well, badgering the Duke guards, and was the only guy keeping his man out of the paint. He was playing physical, and never gave up, barking at his team to play harder, even as the game had surely slipped away.
Meanwhile, Allen played 18 minutes, scored 5 points and had 3 assists. Hayes played 8 minutes, had 4 points, but turned it over 3 times. And Breon Pass got some run, logging 10 quality offensive minutes, scored 5 points, 2 assists, but was overmatched on defense (fouling 4 times in those 10 mins).
Morsell was obviously back to 100% physically and was easily the best on-ball defender that NC State had against Duke. He was also starting to hit some shots. So I wondered why he wasn’t beating these other guys out for minutes? He can provide the same amount of offense, he gives you good size, more physicality and he’s easily a huge upgrade on defense. In fact, when I looked, sure enough, Morsell was NC State’s 3rd best 3-point shooter on the season. It was time that Keatts stopped playing around and started committing more to Morsell. Why wasn’t it in the process of happening?
Well, I gave him benefit of the doubt. He was probably going to commit to him against Virginia Tech. I was so sure that Morsell was going to break out that it was one of the keys to the game I wrote up in my pregame piece…
Fast forward to last night’s game and what do you know. Morsell gets 26 minutes, scores 11 on 4-7 shooting, hits 3-4 3s, grabs 4 rebounds, and nets 3 steals (should have been 4 steals and 13 points but the refs called him for a phantom reach on his pick-pocket at half court).
Morsell broke out. It wasn’t a lucky guess. It was trending data and observations. It was clear Morsell was about to do this. So again, why did Kevin Keatts keep him out of the starting lineup? Did he not see this? Did his staff not present this?
What’s the big deal, you might ask? Morsell did get 26 minutes to Allen and Hayes’ combined 19.
Well, remember, NC State lost this game by 2 points. 5 of their 10 losses have been 2 possession games. Morsell didn’t get into this game until it was 13-0. When your season is riding on such a thin margin, you can’t keep missing like this. Every minute counts. Every substitution matters. You can’t keep being reactive. You need to see these trends and make changes before the situation forces you to.
NC State lost this Virginia Tech game by 2 points.
When Casey Morsell was on the floor (26 minutes). NC State won by 13.
When Casey Morsell was not on the floor (14 minutes). NC State lost by 15.
Would starting Morsell have won this game for you? Based on the trends and stats of this game, yeah, probably.
This isn’t just me saying these. Log onto Twitter. Look on Facebook. There are a handful of real basketball heads who are analyzing what we’re seeing and are pointing out these adjustments. Sure they’re small. A few minutes more for this guy, a few minutes less for that guy. But when you’re margins are this razor thin, they matter.
Look, I’m a Keatts guy. I believe in what he’s doing here. I want him here. I don’t think there should even be conversations about replacing him at any point in the near future… but for this issue, I gotta call it like it is. The players are responsible for their play, but the coaches are responsible for having the right guys on the court to make those plays. Keatts has made adjustments, he’s just simply been too slow to make them in a season where the difference between an NCAA Tournament appearance and going home after the ACC Tourny is just a possession or two per game.
That, folks, is another visible trend. One that, this time, we hope is dealt with proactively instead of reactively.
NC State Basketball
Wolferetti: NC State Basketball Off-Season Predictions
NC State’s season is over, but you don’t have to wait until November to get excited about basketball again. With the new NIL rules and the transfer portal open, college basketball’s off-season is a season all in itself. Let’s just right in and talk about what I see NC State focusing on this offseason (Note that Jarkell Joiner is definitely gone, having used up all his eligability.
DJ Burns: I predict the big man comes back. He’s hinted at wanting to come back, I’m sure the NIL money is going to be nice, and he’s likely going to be NC State’s go-to guy on offense. If Burns wants to play in the NBA one day he needs to come into next season below 300 lbs. I think that’s important because he’s got a skill set that can make him some money to play professionally, but he needs to expand his range and get a little more nimble in his face-up game. He’s quick and has good footwork, but he’s lugging around 30 extra pounds with every move he makes. If Burns can shed fat and build some serious muscle this offseason, he’ll have the opportunity to be an ACC POY candidate.
Dusan Mahorcic: The big man missed most of this season (over 70%) with a knee injury, which means he’s very likely going to be awarded a medical waiver to play another season. I’m hearing that Mahorcic is interested in playing another season at NC State, but his knee has yet to bounce back to playing shape. I think this is something to monitor this off-season. If he’s healthy, it seems like he’ll be back, logging some minutes with or behind Burns. If he’s not 100% by season time then I’m not sure how the staff will play it. I think it’s safe to say that Mahorcic’s best bet is trying to play next year at NC State, and if he can get back to full strength, I think that happens one way or another.
Casey Morsell: Morsell has another season and I’m hearing different things about Morsell. Most expect him to return, get a nice NIL payout and try to have a successful season where he’s a little more involved offensively. That said, he wants to showcase that he can be a much more capable scorer and with Smith and Joiner dominating the shots this year, he only got a small taste of that. I think Morsell comes back, however, I think before he makes his final decision he wants to see how the roster plays out. Say Terquavion Smith comes back and Keatts adds another ball-dominant PG. There’s a chance Morsell stays, but I’d actually guess that he looks elsewhere, be it transfer or pro ball. I don’t think Morsell wants to come back and be the 3rd option again. I think he wants to come back and be option 2A or 2B and I think he can. Morsell is a key piece to this team’s success. An elite defender who can shoot 40%+ from long range is very, very hard to find and it would be smart for Keatts to focus on bringing in a PG who is more interested in getting his teammates involved. That said, I am nearly certain Morsell will stay another season.
Terquavion Smith: I’m 85% sure Smith is gone. The way he ended the season is fresh in the minds of NBA scouts. He showcased what he’s capable of and in a class with pretty weak guard play, Smith is one of the best all-around 2 guards out there. Now, sure, there is a chance that scouts drop him down to 2nd round status because of his lower shooting percentages this year, and it might make Smith question whether coming back and improving on those gets him the big bonus of the first round picks, but I’m not going to hold my breath. Smith escaped having his career ended with that foul against UNC, and he improved on almost all his numbers outside of shooting percentage. I think his shooting and scoring is the least of scout’s worries, so I think he’ll be a late 1st rounder and I think he’ll be gone. If I was him, I’d be cashing in while I could for sure.
Jack Clark: I’d assume Jack Clark comes back, but you never know. He’s got a lot to prove and with the injuries this season, he never really got into a rhythm. I also think one more year to hone his 3 would be good for him. He’s got the skill set to really be a factor in a Keatts offense, and I think he’d play a key role if he returned. That said, I’ve heard that of some teams (one in particular) that Clark might leave for. I’m taking that with a grain of salt because Clark has a secure starting role next season. But crazier things have happened, that said, when all is said and done, I’d expect Clark back.
Greg Gantt: Gantt was a quality add by Keatts and this year we finally got to see how important he was. He was the muscle at the 4. Clark, while I really like him, can get soft at times. Gantt was a great matchup for opposing 4s who were more physical. In the ACC you need both of these guys. Sometimes you get a versatile 4 and sometimes you get a beefy, strong 4. Gantt allowed NC State to at least compete with the beefy 4s. However, I’m not so sure Keatts won’t go out and get a big, strong 4 with a little more offense than Gantt. With Gantt’s injury past and coming off a knee injury, I don’t think the staff will leave it up to chance. I’m not sure what happens to Gantt. I think he’ll probably return, get healthy, and try to work his way into minutes next season regardless of who Keatts brings in.
Ernest Ross: I think Ross’ future depends mostly on who Keatts brings in with the portal. If he does go out and bring in another 4 man and Clark stays, then I’d assume the logjam entices Ross or Gantt or Ross and Gantt to look around at other options. However, if Keatts feels secure with the frontcourt and focuses more on guards (or if Clark or Gantt were to leave) then I’d bet on Ross staying. Ross has an upside that we haven’t seen yet. You saw it in spurts this year. When his confidence gets going, he becomes a real factor. Is that sustainable for him? I don’t know, I hope. But I’d say Ross is inclined to stay, but I’ll have to see what plays out at the log jammed 4 spot.
Breon Pass / LJ Thomas: There is no doubt that Keatts is going to be looking for guards in the portal this season. Pass provided some good minutes late, and honestly, LJ Thomas impressed nearly every time he was on the floor. But Pass hasn’t really shown that he can be a lead guard at the ACC level just yet and I’m afraid that if Keatts brings in a seasoned veteran at the point, Pass won’t be all that interested in playing backup during his junior year. As for Thomas, it’s interesting to me that Keatts didn’t give him more opportunities. He showed the ability to score it and was a pretty physical defender. I’m really hoping Thomas sticks around for another season, as I can see him being a factor at this level with more minutes under his belt. Thomas is a sophomore, so I think he’ll be more apt to play a role coming off the bench for Keatts, so if Keatts brings in a seasoned 2 guard, I’m going to bet Thomas sticks it out and plays behind him, pushing him and potentially breaking in to get more minutes as the season progresses.
Ebe Dowuona: As you’ve likely heard, Dowuona is leaving. He entered the portal, meaning that it was likely Burns and Mahorcic are coming back and Dowuona would be 3rd string yet again. As much as I liked Ebe’s passion and energy, I think NC State can find an upgrade in the portal if they want to get some depth behind Burns and Mahrocic. In fact, this is why I think they’ll be focusing on a 4/5 guy. What I mean by that is, a guy who can play both the 4 or the 5. A more versatile center with some meat on his bones. Someone physical, but also able to stretch the defense to the perimeter at times. This gives you that guy who can bang with bigger teams, and it also gives you depth at the center if the unthinkable happens.
Isaiah Miranda: The 7-foot forward joined the Wolfpack mid-season and some believed he would immediately get playing time seeing as he was a potential to jump straight to the NBA. Turns out, he had a lot of work to do. He needed to mature physically and he needed to get used to a lot more contact in the college game. He never saw the floor this year, so I’m not sure what to expect next season. Will he be ready? If the answer is yes, then State will be super deep at the 4 spot. If not, then I’m not sure what the move is going to be. In today’s game you can’t just wait around for guys to get it. Heck if you do, they might leave when they finally are ready, and you need every spot you can get for depth purposes. I don’t know how to look at this situation with Miranda. I’m guessing he’ll be here next season, but that is pure speculation.
What will State look to add: If Smith is gone (which I think he is), and Ebe is gone (he is), they’ll be super focused on bringing in both a PG, a volume-scoring SG and a 4/5 guytrue. The guard positions are actually 2 positions that I don’t think they’ll have trouble filling with Keatts’s style of play. All these guys would have to look at is how Joiner or Smith was used and the fact that they have an elite big man and a really great spot-up shooter on the wing, and what more could you want? Plus you’re in the ACC playing for a team coming off an NCAA Tourny bid.
The question is, if you have a good group to choose from, what do you prioritize? I think you go out and find the best scoring guard you can find that can play on or off the ball. That’s your replacement for Terquavion Smith. However, I think at the PG spot you need to be a bit pickier. Joiner was great, but he and Smith’s games were just too similar. If you’re going to have a volume shooting 2 guard, then you need a PG who is a willing distributor. Joiner wasn’t really great at that. In fact, I think Markell Johnson would have been the perfect fit for this past years’ team. Keatts almost had to force Markell to become a scorer, He was a guy who could score when he needed to but was more comfortable finding an open man and making a play for his teammates. Thats the kind of player I think would fit best with this team and I think that’s a skill set that will be out there to be had.
If I’m Keatts I’m targeting a PG with a high 3pt %, someone who can read the pick and roll and make plays off of it, not necessarily be the #1 scoring option off of it. I think a kid that is more of a disrupter on offense would fit great in this offense. A one-dimensional scoring PG, IMO, isn’t ideal and is really what makes the offense so stagnant at times.
So my thought is that you get a volume-scoring SG with range who can give you 12-15 ppg, a PG who can average 8-1o ppg and 4-5 assists per game, and a big, physical 4 man who can give you 7 ppg and 5 rebounds per game.
Who is out there?
This is a good question and one we’ll be updating here shortly. We’ll start focusing in on guys who fit this mold and have some sort of NC State connection. Obviously, those would be the first calls since there are prior relationships, but there’s also a possibility to bring in guys who have no connection and simply see NC State as their best opportunity…which is something that is easier to envision this year than it was last year.
What about the incoming freshmen?
NC State has 2 incoming freshmen in Trey Parker (SG) and Dennis Parker Jr (SF). Trey is a kid who I can see coming in and playing a role for NC State. The guy really is an elite athlete who can score at all 3 levels. He reminds me a lot of Terquavion Smith. He’s not a shy shooter and can get red hot from long-range. He’s had some HS games this season where he hit 5 or 6 3s and he’s also had a few where he went 2-9 or 0-5. So yeah, think Terquavion Smith. Now he’s not as slippery as Smith on the drive, but he’s more physical and is probably the best dunker in HS basketball. He’ll play next season and may even force his way into getting major minutes if he acclimates to ACC play fast enough.
As for Dennis Parker, he’s a guy who is super versatile. He’s a tweener at 6-6 but he’s a guy who can slot in at the 3, play a little 2 if needed but also the 4 in a pinch. He’s a kid that plays with no fear. He’s a good shooter, but he’s even better at driving to the rim. He’s physical, invites contact, and is a pretty nasty dunker as well. He’s a great defender and he’s super smart. He’s kind of like Casey Morsell, except that I’d say Morsell is more of a guard as a 3 man and Parker would be more of forward at the 3 position. Dennis Parker Jr may have more competition for minutes, but I expect him to get some playing time this season as well.
At the end of the day, a lot of this is going to be fluid. Maybe more guys leave than expected, maybe less. Those decisions will dictate what the roster needs and what Keatts prioritizes. We’ll be keep tabs on the portal over the next few weeks/months and will keep you updated.
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
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.
NC State Basketball
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.
Interesting take. Not sure I agree with it as a whole, but I do agree change is good. Seabron – When asked about moving Seabron to primary ballhandler Keatts said that Seabron had been playing some PG since the beginning of the season, but Seabron had not been involving other players – as a PG should. He coached him up, and now Seabron is leading the team in assists and minutes at PG. Ross – Ross is a forward, not a center. So he has to learn a new position. Early in the season, Ross was terrible at defense. Even… Read more »
Here is another, very difficult item that needs to be addressed. Keatts is a young coach. He prides himself in his relationship with his players. He wants to be loved. Afterglow was headed in the right direction when alluded to personnel issues at work. YOU CANT BE BUDDIES WITH YOUR PLAYERS (or employees). To now paraphrase what Joey is saying, “You shouldn’t hesitate so long before making decisions that look contrary to your loyalty to your players.”
I think Kevin is also developing as a coach, just like the players. I think we need to remain patient as he checks most of the other boxes. I would like to see him demonstrate that he can sign some top ranked players consistently. This helps with winning because you don’t have guys not showing up from game to game.
I like this idea, especially in the proactive approach to games instead of a reactive approach. I work at a job where being proactive is the difference between dealing with choir boys or a reenactment of Lord of the Flies. Every little move throughout the day dictates how well things will go. And developing that Spidey sense is possible. But I wonder if as a coach, to develop that, Keatts needs to hire some guys that can see the forest for the trees for him, whether it’s a stat guy (doubtful), or assistant coaching changes, like an offensive and defensive… Read more »