I don’t normally take the time to do something like this, but with the losses really piling up and fans starting to get vocal, I thought this might be a good time to really walk you through what I’m seeing. If you are a student of the game, you are well aware of the problems. If you’re not, then this might help you understand what is going on defensively.
I’m going to highlight each bucket by Syracuse in just the first half (for time’s sake), and explain to you whether Syracuse just simply scored on a solid defensive effort by the Pack, or if there was a defensive breakdown that led to the bucket. (Spoiler Alert: You’re not going to like the outcome.)
Follow along with me. Watch the video above. When Syracuse scores, pause it, come on down and read my thoughts. Here we go…
19:47 Jesse Edwards made Layup. Assisted by Buddy Boeheim.
This was Edwards being too physical for Gibson to gain position and a nice feed from Boeheim. Gibson had decent position seeing as Edwards wasn’t deep at all. The feed was just perfect. Gibson challenged, but Ewards finished. Not much you could have done here.
18:40 Cole Swider made Layup. Assisted by Jesse Edwards.
Lack of communication. This could have been avoided. There was no screen, so no real reason to switch. Morsell made the right play, Seabron switched. Morsell tried to get back to his man, but it was too late. Hellems was too tight on Jimmy Boeheim, and wasn’t able to get into help position in time. Multiple failures on this play.
18:05 Joseph Girard III made Three Point Jumper.
Smith was shading Girard to the right, attempting to keep him away from using the high screen. Girard had been struggling recently, so Smith was making the right move. Girard just took what was given and took a deep, contested 3. Not bad defense.
16:34 Jesse Edwards made Dunk. Assisted by Joseph Girard III.
Terquavion Smith didn’t get back in time. Forcing Gibson to stop Girard and leave his man. Morsell gets caught in no mans land trying to figure out if he should stay with his guy (shooter, Buddy Boeheim) or get in front of Edwards. Morsell tries to bait Girard into thinking he’s going to take Edwards, hoping to force the pass to Boeheim, who he is then trying to close out on. Girard doesn’t take the bait. Easy dunk.
15:48 Cole Swider made Layup. Assisted by Jesse Edwards.
State forced Boeheim into a poor look, and Gibson was boxing out. He had position but was late on going after the board. Edwards got the bounce and the rebound. Seabron wasn’t boxing out, as it looked like Gibson was in good position to get the miss. This left Swider open for the easy layup. Gibson needs to suck up this rebound, and Seabron should be boxing out in a perfect world. You could say that Syracuse just got a good bounce, but honestly, Gibson needs to grab that, and at worst Seabron needs to have made contact on the box with his man before going after the board.
15:08 Jesse Edwards made Layup. Assisted by Buddy Boeheim.
Boeheim goes off of high screen set by Edwards. Gibson should be cutting this off and giving Morsell time to recover while forcing Boeheim backward. He’s late, and then decides to commit to Boeheim. Both Morsell and Gibson are on Boeheim for some reason, leaving Edwards wide open on the roll. Hellems is there, but a second too late. Edwards get the bucket and the foul. This is on Gibson. Morsell and Hellems did a decent job here.
13:10 Jimmy Boeheim made layup.
This was Seabron simply getting out of his stance, going for a deflection. He reaches on the ball fake and is out of his defensive stance for a second. This allows Boeheim to beat him to the paint. Gibson figures Seabron will recover, so he doesn’t show himself enough to stop the drive. Seabron never recovers.
12:37 Buddy Boeheim made Jumper. Assisted by Joseph Girard III.
This is an easy jumper off an inbounds play First off, this is an illegal screen. But the refs miss it. Gibson needs to see this and hedge out and deny for a brief second while Smith recovers, but not enough where Edwards is able to slip to the block. Gibson stays home, Smith gets caught on the screen. Easy 2 for Syracuse.
10:35 Jimmy Boeheim made Layup. Assisted by Symir Torrence.
Dear lord. This one is just laziness. Here is another simple exchange, botched by NC State. Cam Hayes and Thomas Allen do not communicate, however, this isn’t a true screen, so Hayes shouldn’t be switching. They both end up on Swider, leaving Torrence wide open on the cut. Then Girard passes into the high post, and both Hayes and Allen turn their head, leaving Swider wide open to cut as well. 2 guys on the cut, wide open while Allen and Hayes are lost out top. Breon Pass is in good help position, but it’s too late and he’s too small. Torrence finds Boeheim for an easy 2.
7:23 Jimmy Boeheim made Layup. Assisted by Symir Torrence.
Freshman mistake by Smith. Boeheim is guarded by NC State’s best on-ball defender (Morsell), however Smith sinks down to help on the drive. Morsell wasn’t really out of position here, so Smith should stay home. Girard relocates and gets a wide-open 3. Meanwhile, Cam Hayes gets completely lost. He becomes a spectator. On the drive, he turns his head, loses his man and just starts walking into the middle of the lane. His guy gets great position for the rebound. For whatever reason, Thomas Allen does the exact same thing, losing his man. Both Hayes’ guy and Allen’s guy are sitting left unattended for the offensive board and putback. Geeze.
6:15 Buddy Boeheim made Three Point Jumper. Assisted by Joseph Girard III.
Cam Hayes, again, is not seeing man and ball. he is watching the ball handler and cheating into help position in the middle. Because of that, what he doesn’t see is his man setting a back screen on Morsell. There is no one to pick up Boeheim as he fades to the corner. Leaving him wide open. At the same time, all of this could have been avoided if Seabron was playing position defense on Girard. Instead, Seabron reaches, gets out of position, allows Girard to get in the lane, and all hell breaks loose.
5:49 Jimmy Boeheim made Layup. Assisted by Benny Williams
This was a fast break created by a Casey Morsell turnover. Defensively, there wasn’t much that NC State could do here. They were a man down, trying to get back.
2:13 Buddy Boeheim made Jumper.
Not much wrong here. Smith is mostly in position against Boeheim, but he just hits a contested fall-away jumper.
1:31 Cole Swider made Three Point Jumper
Another miscommunication. You have Swider (being guarded by Pass), coming on a wheel to receive the ball. He passes, Boeheim and Smith. Pass wants to switch off as soon as he can because he shouldn’t be guarding the 6’9 Swider. He figures Smith with simply exchange with him, but Smith is on Boeheim and doesn’t want to leave him. This leaves Sider open for 3. Pass tries to recover fast, but it is too late. He attempts to jump and contest the shot, but Swider pump fakes him, takes a single dribble and hits a 3.
0:58 Joseph Girard III made Three Point Jumper.
Once again, Boeheim drives on Morsell. He does have a half step on him, but Casey. Morsell is NC State’s best defender, and should be trusted to handle this drive. Instead, Cam Hayes sells out to help and go for the steal. Leaving Girard, who has been hot all game, wide open. He tries to recover, but instead of closing out with a hand up, he jumps for the contest. Girard pumps, one dribble, bang.
So there you have it. Of the 15 first-half FGs by Syracuse, I believe 11 of those were avoidable and were directly caused by either miscommunication, wrong reads, or plain laziness.
This is what I’ve been highlighting.
NC State doesn’t have a bad offense. In fact, they are 5th in the conference in PPG. It’s really their defense that is killing them and most of the time it’s not a lack of effort, it’s a lack of focus or discipline.
Obviously, it’s easy to sit here, rewatch the game and call out mistakes. But the truth is, if you want to be a great team, you need to cut down on these mistakes, and to do that you need to understand that these seemingly small, split-second decisions are costing you ball games.
Keatts isn’t going to scrap his defensive philosophy. That seems to be clear. He wants his guys switching, going for deflections and picking up full court. That’s fine, but if you’re going to do that, you can’t have your guys constantly miscommunicating on exchanges, switches and help side.
These guys need to be well aware of the scouts. Who they can help off of and who they can’t. They need to always see man and ball using peripheral vision, instead of turning their heads and watching the play. They need to ALWAYS be talking and communicating about switches on screens or exchanges.
This is a tough ask, especially for a young team, and without Bates in the middle to clean up these mistakes, they are on full display.
The good news is, as this team gets more mature, these mistakes will hopefully start going away. However, in today’s college basketball, you are constantly bringing in new guys and losing guys to transfer or pro contracts. So, is this style of defense really sustainable? Who knows, but Keatts looks like he’s all-in to find out.
I don’t disagree with the theory or the strategy. Heck, if you can play this type of defense well, without mistakes. You’ll be one of the toughest teams in the nation to go up against. But to get to that point, you need buy-in, communication, and a team that OBSESSESSES OVER THE SMALL THINGS.
Because it’s those small things that are the difference between NC State being where they are, and them being in the mix to be an at-large team this season.
NC State to Honor David Thompson with Statue Outside Reynolds Coliseum
RALEIGH – NC State University will pay tribute to three-time All-American David Thompson with a statue sculpted in his honor that will be placed outside of Reynolds Coliseum.
The unveiling will take place at 11:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 6, the day of the Wolfpack men’s basketball team’s annual Heritage Game at Reynolds Coliseum, and will be open to the public.
“This is such a deserved honor for the greatest basketball player to ever wear an NC State jersey,” NC State Director of Athletics Boo Corrigan said. “He is one of the most iconic players to ever play in the ACC and our hope is that this statue will ensure that generations of NC State students and fans will always remember the legacy and contributions of David Thompson.”
Thompson is widely recognized as one of the greatest players in college basketball history. A 2008 ESPN story ranked him as one of the ten best college basketball players of all-time, and he is regarded as one of greatest athletes in Atlantic Coast Conference history.
The Boiling Spring, N.C., native played three seasons at NC State from 1972-75 and was a unanimous first-team All-American at the conclusion of all three seasons. He was also named the ACC Player of the Year all three seasons.
He was named the Associated Press National Player of the Year in 1974 and 1975 and remains one of just five players in college basketball history to win multiple AP National Player of the Year honors.
Thompson immediately made his mark on the Pack, helping lead NC State to an undefeated season (27-0) in 1973. The Pack dominated the 1972-73 season and was at the top or near the top of the polls all season as Thompson averaged 24.7 points and 8.1 rebounds per game.
Thompson returned in the 1973-74 season and led the Wolfpack to a 30-1 record and the school’s first NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball National Title.
In the Final Four, Thompson and the Wolfpack met up with UCLA, the seven-time reigning National Champions and the only team to have defeated NC State that season. The Pack trailed 74-67 in the second overtime when Thompson’s heroics helped lead NC State back. Thompson pulled down a defensive rebound and made the go-ahead basket with under one minute remaining and then made two free throws with 38 seconds to go to give the Pack a 78-75 double overtime win in a game that is still considered one of the greatest Final Four games ever played.
Thompson finished the game with 28 points and 10 rebounds in the win over Bill Walton and the Bruins.
Two nights later, the Pack won the National Title over Marquette, 76-64, behind 21 points from Thompson. Thompson was named the Most Outstanding Player of the tournament.
To make it into the NCAA Tournament, the Pack defeated fourth-ranked Maryland, 103-100, in overtime in the 1974 ACC Championship, in a game that is routinely considered one of the best games in college basketball history.
As a senior, Thompson averaged 29.9 points, still the highest single season average in NC State history. He scored an NC State and ACC record 57 points in an early season win over Buffalo State. The Pack started the season ranked No. 1 in the nation and never fell out of the top-10, but lost in the ACC Championship game to end its season. The Pack finished the season ranked seventh in the nation but because the NCAA Tournament at that time only allowed the conference champion into the tournament its season was over.
Thompson closed his career with 2,309 points in 86 career games. He led the ACC in scoring all three seasons and was NC State and the ACC’s career scoring leader when he graduated.
Former NC State Basketball Player Torin Dorn Joins Coaching Staff of G-League SLC Stars
Former NC State basketball player Torin Dorn has joined the staff of the Salt Lake City Stars, the G-League team for the Utah Jazz. Dorn’s title is Player Development Associate/Assistant Coach.
After playing 3 seasons at NC State, Dorn went on to play professionally overseas in Poland and Czech Republic, before joining the Wolfpack coaching staff last season as a Graduate Manager.
Dorn will be working under newly appointed head coach Steve Wojciechowski (former Duke PG), who was the head coach at Marquette the past 7 seasons.
NC State Guard MJ Rice Will Be Returning Soon After Stepping Away for a Period of Time
NC State Guard MJ Rice (6’5″/215) announced yesterday that due to personal reasons, he had to step away from the basketball program, but was excited to be back with his teammates soon. He was clear that his commitment to NC State hasn’t wavered.
Life is much bigger than sports. These young men are human beings first and foremost, and as we all know, this life is never simple and easy.
Rice transferred to NC State this offseason from Kansas with three years of eligibility remaining. The former High School McDonald’s All-American didn’t get a lot of playing time in his Freshman season at Kansas, averaging 7.6 minutes per game in only 23 games played.
Coming out of Prolific Prep in California, Rice averaged 20.1 points and 5.3 rebounds per game as a Senior. Rivals ranked him as a 5-star prospect, ON3 ranked him 24th nationally, and ESPN ranked him as the #1 player in the state of North Carolina.
Whatever Rice is working through, we value him as a person more than we do a player.
NC State Announces Hiring of Larry Dixon as NC State Assistant Men’s Basketball Coach
RALEIGH – NC State men’s basketball head coach Kevin Keatts announced Wednesday that Larry Dixon has joined his staff as an assistant coach.
Dixon comes to NC State after spending the last five seasons as an assistant coach at South Florida.
The NCAA Division I Board of Directors voted in January to allow two more assistant coaches on men’s basketball staffs. Dixon, will serve as one of the Pack’s two new assistant coaches that can engage in coaching activities but may not recruit off campus.
“I think Larry is a great addition to our staff,” Keatts said. “He’s a North Carolina native that has dedicated himself to a coaching career since graduating from college. He started at the high school level in North Carolina and eventually moved up to college and now has been a Division I assistant coach for almost 20 years. I think his experience is going to be a great asset for me and our coaching staff, as well as the young men in our program as we develop them on and off the court.”
Larry Dixon joined the USF coaching staff as assistant coach on May 12, 2018.
In just his second season with the team in 2018-19, Dixon helped USF to the top win turnaround in the NCAA during the 2018-19 season, as the Bulls won 14 more games than the previous season. In addition, USF turned in a 24-14 overall record to set a new single-season school record for wins. The Bulls would go on to win the College Basketball Invitational (CBI) championship and claim the program’s first postseason title since 1990.
Dixon also played an instrumental role in the development of 2019 American Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year Laquincy Rideau and 2019 American Athletic Conference Freshman of the Year Alexis Yetna.
Dixon helped USF become one of the top defensive teams in the NCAA during the 2019-20 season, finishing the year ranked 20th in scoring defense by allowing only 62.7 points per game. The Bulls limited eight teams to fewer than 60 points during the season and held 27 of their 31 opponents under their scoring average at the time of play. The Bulls also ranked 44th in the nation in turnovers forced with 15.6 per game, and stood 65th in the NCAA in steals with 7.5 thefts per game.
In 2021-22, Dixon helped develop Russel Tchewa and Corey Walker Jr. into one of the best frontcourt tandems in the league. The Bulls were again among the top defensive teams in the country, ranking 45th in the NCAA in scoring defense (64.9 ppg).
Dixon came to Tampa after five seasons as an assistant at Georgia Southern under head coach Mark Byington. Prior to his stint with the Eagles, Dixon had collegiate assistant coaching jobs at Winthrop (2007-12), East Carolina (2005-07), South Carolina State (2003-05) and St. Andrews College (2002-03).
In his final season at Georgia Southern, Dixon helped lead the Eagles to a 21-12 record, including an 11-7 mark in the Sun Belt. In 2016-17, he helped Georgia Southern reach the postseason for the first time since 2006, playing in the College Basketball Invitational.
Prior to arriving at Georgia Southern, Dixon spent the 2012-13 season as head coach at York Comprehensive High School in York, S.C.
During his five seasons (2007-12) on the coaching staff at Winthrop under head coach Randy Peele, Dixon was recognized as the top assistant coach in the Big South by Fox Sports.
Before entering the college game, Dixon served as the head coach at Garinger High School in Charlotte, N.C. for three seasons. In 2001, he led Garinger to a North Carolina High School sectional championship and earned Mecklenburg County Coach of the Year honors from the Charlotte Observer. Dixon also spent one season as an assistant at Carver High School in Winston-Salem, N.C. and one season at South Rowan High School in his hometown of Salisbury, N.C.
Dixon graduated from Johnson C. Smith University (Charlotte, N.C) in 1996, where he was a four-year letterman as a player. He was named the team’s most improved player following his junior season and the top defensive player after his senior season. He helped the Golden Bulls to a pair of CIAA Southern Division titles and a championship game appearance as a sophomore.
A native of Salisbury, N.C., Dixon has two children, Devin and Leah.