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WATCH: NC State struggles, comes back, falls apart in loss to ND | Condensed Game

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The Notre Dame Fighting Irish won another road conference game with the 69-57 win over NC State in Raleigh. Paul Atkinson Jr. led five Irish players in double digits with 15 points. He added 10 rebounds for the double-double. Dane Goodwin also notched a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds. Blake Wesley scored 14 and Prentiss Hubb 13 in the win. Terquavion Smith led the Wolfpack with 19 points and 5 rebounds. Dereon Seabron scored 14 and grabbed 9 rebounds for NC State.

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NC State Basketball

OUR TAKE | On NC State Basketball’s summer exhibition win in the Bahamas

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NC State basketball is in a strange spot.

They are coming off one of the worst seasons in recent history. They have a coach that half of the fanbase wanted gone at the conclusion of last season. But at the same time, the fanbase is kind of excited and intrigued at the roster rebuild that Kevin Keatts was able to pull off last season.

If you want the real pulse of the program, the fanbase is probably 70-30 in favor of Keatts sticking around and having a chance to prove last year was a fluke. However, that same 70% is probably not going to be so forgiving if they finish in the bottom half of the ACC again this season.

That’s why we’re paying such close attention to this off-season exhbition trip.

As we reported earlier, NC State won game 1 over Bahama Select 92-81.

Obviously these games aren’t televised and the team isn’t even offering a full box score, so it’s up to us to piece together the information we did receieve to find some nuggets that may inform us of what we can expect from this team.

Let’s get started…

  • Terquavion Smith went off. 26 points in 27 minutes. Look, he isn’t going to be one of those guys who comes back and forgets how to play. In fact, we expect Smith to be even MORE confident (if that’s possible) and settle into somewhat of a leadership role with this team. Bahama Select likely doesn’t have the type of guy that is going to shut down Smith, but the fact that he was this productive in his first game back is nothing but good news.
  • Jack Clark notched a double-double. In case you missed it, Jack Clark was a mid-April pickup for Keatts. He’s a 6’8 wing who is expected to slot into the role that Hellems left. Clark, however, is a lot different than Hellems. He’s longer, more athletic and more of a factor off the dribble. The big question is, can he provide the physicality that Hellems brought and will he be able to bring in the rebounds needed at the 4? In this game, Clark scooped up 13 rebounds (5 offensive). Not a bad first outing. Of course, it’s just one game, but the fact that he finished with these numbers tells you that he at least has the motor needed to a decent rebounder in the ACC. No one gets 13 boards, no matter the competition, if you don’t have some kid of knack for getting to the glass.
  • Morsell dropped 18 points. This doesn’t really tell us much by itself. Morsell is a capable scorer, especially when he’s able to out-physical his opponent. He’s not super quick, so he uses strength to create space. You expect good numbers from Morsell against smaller, weaker teams like Bahama Select. However, one thing to note is that he played a team-high 30 minutes. This can give you a hint that Keatts is going to really rely on Morsell at the 3 spot. There were times last season when we felt Keatts wasn’t giving Morsell enough run. The guy is easily the team’s best defender and he’s a capable scorer, especially if his shot is falling. Him, Jarkell Joiner, and Smith will be the core leaders of this team.
  • Breon Pass stuffed the stat sheet. Again, this one game against a sub-par opponent, so make of it what you will. But Breon Pass had 7 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists. All while not turning the ball over once.  This is great to see as we were a little frusterated last season when Pass didn’t get more run down the stretch. He’s a true PG and that is one thing that this team needs to make sure they have on the court at all times. They do have Jarkell Joiner, a PG from Ole Miss who has only one season left, who is going to get a lot of minutes, but Pass is kind of an X-factor in our eyes. If he can produce and mature into what the scouts envisioned he’d become, he’ll be a bulldog of a PG who can score, protect the ball and control the pace.
  • Jarkell Joiner had 14 points and 3 assists. This is kind of an expected line from Joiner, who joined the team a few months ago as a grad-transfer from Ole Miss. This was the team leader over there and he’s got skill. The question is, where does he really fit in? He’s going to play and play a lot, but is he a true PG or is he more of a scoring guard? I don’t think we’ll really get a good idea of his fit until we are a few games into the season. Not to downplay though. he’s a major player on this roster and it’s good to see him putting up 14 points in limited action.
  • Small nuggest of hope from DJ Burns. NC State needs a big man who can score it. Last season, with Bates hurt, they lacked any kind of reliable interior scoring. That should change with the addition of reigning Big South Player of the Year, DJ Burns, transferring in. He’s a 6’8 left with great footwork and nice touch. We didn’t get a final line for Burns, but he assume he split time at the 5 with Dowuona. Greg Gantt and Dusan Mahorcic weren’t available (Gantt is hurt and Mahorcic just got to campus), neither was late addition Mady Traore. So it was Burns and Dowuona. Keatts is likely to really take it slow with his bigs this offseason. He wants no injuries in the middle if he can help it. In this one, we do know that Burns had 6 points in the first quarter on 3-3 shooting (according to GoPack’s twitter post).

Did he anymore later in the game? We don’t know. Did he even get many minutes? We aren’t sure. The only other thing we know is that he had one assist. Here he is dishing it off to Smith for the dunk.

Most people will focus on Smith here, but what you’re seeing is a backdoor cut and a perfect feed from the post. That’s an aspect of the game we just didn’t see last year. Burns has a skillset that just didn’t exist on last year’s roster and we think Pack fans are going to be pretty happy with this kid.

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NC State Basketball

Smith, Clark, Morsell go-off in 92-81 exhibition win in the Bahamas

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NC State men’s basketball took their off-season foreign trip to the Bahamas this year and won their first game 92-81.

These foreign trips are allowed every few years, however, because of COVID, they weren’t really an option. This year, they were and Keatts and Co. took advantage.

With a lot of fresh faces and new transfers in the mix, the trip is serving as an opportunity to create some chemistry, create some bonds, and put last season behind them.

Last night they took their first step, knocking off Bahama Select (part of their national team) 92-81.

Terquavion Smith, who decided to return to Raleigh, despite being a potential first-round NBA selection, was as advertised, dropping 26 points in 27 minutes (also had 5 steals and 3 assists). Casey Morsell added 18 and 5. Transfer PG Jarkell Joiner dropped 14 with 3 assists, and transfer SF Jack Clark notched a double-double with 12 points and 13 boards (5 offensive).

Meanwhile, Breon Pass, who hasn’t been talked about much this off-season, decided to stick it out and come back for his sophomore season (he’s a former 4-star PG). He’s one to watch as he’s added some muscle and is looking to get some big minutes at PG for the Pack. So far, so good. Pass finished with 7 points, 5 boards and 5 assists (with no turnovers).

Stats via GoPack.com

The team didn’t release a full box score, but according to the official Twitter, transfer center, and former Big South Player of the Year, DJ Burns had at least 6 points on the night. He was 3-3 in the first quarter.

Here are a few highlights.

NC State takes on the Puerto Rican national team Tuesday at 3pm.

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NC State Basketball

Terquavion Smith opts out of NBA Draft: HEEEE’S BAAAAACK!!!

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Last year, Terquavion Smith was a record-setting freshman scorer for NC State. He then decided to enter the NBA Draft to get feedback, with the option to pull out by June 1st.

During that time howver, Smith blew up.

Smith excelled at every workout, and soon he was being mentioned as a sure-fire 1st rounder. It started to become more and more likely that Smith would keep his name in the draft.

That was, until today.

Smith shocked everyone when he decided to pull out and spend one more year in college at NC State.

This bucks the trend of NC State losing guys prematurely to the draft. It’s a feather in Keatts cap as well, showing the fanbase that there is belief in his program from his players.

In a showing of extreme confidence, Smith has decided to bet on himself. To come back, improve, bulk up, and become a potential lottery pick next season.

You have to love this move and it’s going to really cement Smith as a fan favorite this coming season. A kid who could have gone first round, that decided to trust Keatts and NC State with helping him improve, up his stock, and likely reach his ceiling at the college level before turning pro.

Did NIL money come into play? We aren’t sure, but likely when a kid makes a move like this, he has some insurance built in. We’ll keep you updated, but suddenly NC State is looking like a contender for next season.

Take a look at this potential lineup.

PG- Jarkell Joiner (transfer from Ole Miss)
SG- Terquavion Smith
SF- Jack Clark (transfer from LaSalle)
PF- Ernest Ross (coming off injury)
C- DJ Burns (Big South MVP and tranfer from Winthrop)

The bench is also pretty stacked..

PG- Breon Pass
SG- LJ Thomas
SF- Casey Morsell
PF- Greg Gantt
C- Dusan Mahorcic/Ebe Duowuona

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NC State Basketball

WOLFERETTI: Kevin Keatts’ off-season moves signal an end to his small-ball dreams

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Kevin Keatts coached 3 years at UNCW. He finished in 1st place every season.

You know the old saying, ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’ So when Keatts was hired at NC State, it was pretty clear that he was going to try to replicate what he did at UNCW with bigger, faster, stronger, and more talented players in the ACC.

How can you blame him?

Kevin Keatts was coming into the ACC as the ‘players era’ was in full swing. Kids wanted to run and gun, and they were choosing schools where suddenly coaches were telling them to ‘go ahead and let it fly’. So here comes a brand new coach to NC State, with no ACC experience, recruiting against the best of the best.

Keatts wasn’t going to get anywhere with some stringent system, and he’d had seen success at the lower levels with a more freelance-type offensive strategy. So, the question really was, how can you give them that run and gun style, while still keeping organization and control as a coach?

Keatts thought he had that answer.

The flaws of the ‘old’ Keatts System

His system had worked at Wilmington. He’d get a bunch of interchangeable guys who could switch every screen. That would simplify the defensive system. He would incentivize players with more minutes if they had more success on the defensive end, and he would measure this by charting ‘deflections’ (a stat that many coaches weren’t paying attention to.)

On offense, he’d run almost all of his action off a high pick and roll. And he’d give most of his guys the green light, making it a high possession track meet. Meanwhile, he would have his team built to thrive in these conditions.

He’d get big guards. That was the priority. Dribbling, shooting? That was secondary to having the size needed to run this interchangeable, ‘switch-everything’ defense. Because, if this theory proved correct, the defense would create the offense, as it generated steals, blocks, and turnovers.

Inside he’d need a shot blocker. By incentivizing deflections and steals to get minutes, players would certainly be gambling out top by reaching for pass fakes and attempting to jump point to point passes.

Get the steal? Great! Gamble and miss? Well, that’s fine too because they’ll be driving right into a shot blocker!

Seems like a strategy that can’t lose, right?

Wrong. This isn’t the Colonial conference. This is the ACC. Those guys attacking the shot blocker? They’re some of the country’s most elite athletes. They’re big, they’re strong, and they can fly. So unless you have one of the nation’s best shot blockers, you’re losing this battle more than you’re winning it.

This is what you’ve been seeing out of Keatts’ teams. Whether you’ve noticed it or not. They are constantly out of position on the perimeter and it’s putting pressure on the bigs, it’s creating havoc on the help side, and it’s just a flat-out mess on defense most of the time.

Last year NC State allowed the most average points per game (75) and allowed the highest opponent FG % (47%).

When you’re basing your entire roster makeup on being able to run a certain type of defense, and that certain type of defense is giving you this type of outcome, then guess what? It doesn’t work.

Keatts bet it all on this system, and this system wasn’t working consistently in the ACC. So it was either time to adjust or go down with the ship. Based on this off-season, Keatts seems to be adjusting.

The birth of the ‘new’ Keatts system

Instead of targeting more shot-blocking bigs whose main role on offense was to be a pick and roll guy (mostly a decoy when you run this in the ACC), he has opted for two very different types of bigs.

DJ Burns, 6’9, who committed yesterday, is an offensive force. He’s a back-to-the-basket big, who has great footwork and soft hands. He’s got a nice midrange game and a ton of crafty moves around the rim. He’s big at 250lbs, and defensively, he hasn’t been a big factor. In fact, he only had 12 blocks over the entire season last year.

Then you have 6’10 Dusan Mahorcic, who committed in early May. He’s another below-the-basket type big man. He’s a more physical presence. A guy who is going to bang, husle, and throw some weight around. He’s also a pretty decent scorer on the block, and actually a pretty good passer as well.

The point is, neither of these guys is in the traditional Keatts mold. They aren’t shot-blockers. They aren’t going to be catching lobs off the pick and roll. They aren’t going to be dominant in running the floor. They are going to be big bodies on the block who bang, take up space, score or get to the foul line when shots aren’t falling from outside.

What does this mean?

It means Keatts is moving away from the system that failed him and starting fresh. He’s still going tall and long on the wings, but he’s more stationary in the middle. NC State will certainly be more physical on the blocks, but without a shot-blocker patrolling the paint, they’ll need to sure up their position defense and get away from gambling so much.

What you’re going to watch is a more generic style of basketball. Slower, less pressing, fewer deflections, maybe a little less guard-oriented. To some, it’ll be boring. To others, it’ll be a breath of fresh air. Perspective on this is likely going to depend on if we’re winning or we’re losing with it.

 

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