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Wolferetti: Ok, nothing is working. Can we finally see what Breon Pass can do?

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NC State is doing everything they can do. But, they just keep on losing.

I’m not going to spend a lot of time trying to pinpoint where the blame needs to land, because there are just too many variables right now. Recruiting, injuries, offense, defense, etc. They can all be explained to some extent, which is why you need to give Keatts another year, at least.

His recruiting has been hampered by the NCAA sanctions that were potentially hanging over his head. Those are gone. He’s had a bunch of injuries that have depleted his roster (Bates, Gant, Ross) that have turned his frontcourt into a ghost town. The play on the floor can be explained by these injuries.

Offensively NC State is a one-dimensional team. Their only real option is to rely on their guards to drive and make plays. There isn’t a big man you can play off of. Dowuona and Gibson are big bodies, but neither can score reliably from the block. Because of this, dumping it down to them doesn’t demand any attention from help side. And even if that help side came, neither are very good passers. But you have to have them on the floor to at least attempt to defend the opposing team’s big men.

So what do you do? Well, you pretty much do what NC State has been doing. Give it to Seabron and let him rip. At least he demands the defense to shift and help when he attacks. You can give it to Smith and see if he can get hot from 3. Aside from that, you don’t have much going for you.

Hellems has had a few good games, but with frontcourt focused on him, he hasn’t had success inside. He also hasn’t been as reliable a shooter as he was a year ago (he’s down 5% from the floor from last season). Morsell has been good, but he’s not a guy who’s going to create off the bounce. He needs teammates setting him up. Meanwhile, Cam Hayes can’t get anything to fall and continues to have momentum busting misses or turnovers.

Defensively, these guys have spent their entire careers at NC State being taught to play tight to the ball, and jump passes. They want to create chaos, but when you go for deflections and steals, you get out of position. This was a risk worth taking when you had the ACC’s best shot blocker waiting in the paint. Without Bates, all of those blowbys end up in baskets.

So last night, Keatts tried something I wanted to see a couple of weeks ago. In fact, I made the point in my postgame piece after the Carolina loss. Here’s what I said…

“The truth is, between ‘switching everything’ and picking up full court, the staff is putting these guys in vulnerable positions very often. Every position depends on guys picking up full court, then switching multiple times, while trying to remain ready to help if need be. That’s asking too much and it’s just not working in the ACC. If NC State was forcing 15 to 20 turnovers per game, then fine, but you’re taxing your kids with the press and the guys are always on their heels defensively, trying to keep up with the switches and help side. This is a defense that needs to not only have the perfect personnel, but it needs a deep bench and a veteran team used to playing with each other. This specific team has NONE of those. It’s time to scrap it. Go zone. Or stay man and hedge and recover on screens like most teams do. I’ve seen enough.”

Keatts finally went zone and you know what? It worked alright. He used a zone press and dropped back into zone for a majority of the game. NC State forced 12 turnovers using that defense. Over the 5 previous games, they averaged 11.6 turnovers forced. So, really you didn’t lose anything by going zone. You completely eliminated Jake LaRavia from the game. Wake’s second-leading scorer who came in averaging over 15 points, only scored 6, and Alonzo Williams, who is leading the ACC in scoring and assists only finished the first half with 2 points. Things unraveled in the second half, but he threw a wrinkle in, and gave State a chance. Problem is, the Pack shot just 32% from the floor and a miserable 13.6% from 3 point range. That said, NC State was tied with 2nd place Wake Forest with 9 minutes to play and was within a single bucket at the 5:13 mark.

Keatts has tried just about everything with this team. He’s moved Seabron to the point. He’s tried going small without a big. And now he’s changed his entire defensive strategy for a game. And while some things have worked at times, nothing is sticking. I’d never think I’d say this, but he’s almost run out of options.

With that being the case, I think it’s time to just hand PG duties over to Breon Pass for a game and see what happens. Go with Pass, Smith, Morsell, Seabron, and Gibson/Dowuona. Bring Hellems off the bench and play for next season.

Speaking of next season, if everyone comes back (Seabron, Smith, Bates) you’ll have a pretty talented core. But you still don’t have a true PG. Seabron has been your best option because he puts the most pressure on the defense, but it’s only because Hayes has gone missing and Pass was just a freshman. Next season, with Ross back, he’ll have the option of keeping Seabron at point. If he can develop a shot, then it’ll probably work out. If not, then NC State is going to be right back where they are this year.

That’s why it’s time to get Breon Pass ready. Hayes needs an offseason to find himself, and you hope he does, but you can’t bet on it. Pass is a true PG (something that Seabron and Hayes are not), was a 4-star recruit, and certainly has some upside. If you continue to play him like you are (1 minute vs. Wake) you’re stunting his growth. And what’s the point in doing that when he’s going to be a piece you’re forced to rely on next season no matter how you slice it.

In ACC play, Pass is shooting 40% from the floor. For the season, of the NC State guards, only Seabron and Terquavion Smith are shooting higher at 51% and 40.7% respectively.  Pass is also shooting 38% from 3 during ACC play. For the season, Casey Morsell is hitting 40% and Hellems is hitting 39%. So if Pass were given real minutes going forward, and the trend continued, he’d be amongst the better shooters on the team. Now couple that with the fact that during conference play he has a team-leading 2:1 assist to turnover ratio, and hey, you might have yourself a decent freshman PG.

This team isn’t making the NCAA tournament unless they go on a historic run and win the ACC Tournament. And I can’t see that happening with the current rotation. Maybe they squeak into the NIT, but even that is a long shot at this point. What isn’t a question, is the fact that Keatts will be on the hot seat next season and he’s going to have to produce.

It’s time to prep for next year, and as hard a pill that is to swallow, it’s beneficial to the returning players and to Keatts himself.

Start Pass at PG and give him 30+ minutes. See how he reacts. See what he can learn. Groom him, because if you don’t you’re betting your job on Seabron’s jumper and Cam Hayes’s confidence, two things that have been missing in action all year long.

A pasta eatin', Wolfpack lovin' loudmouth from Raleigh by way of New Jersey. Jimmy V and Chuck Amato fanboy. All opinions are my own and you're gonna hear'em.

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travelwolf
travelwolf
6 months ago

Keatts needs to sit these guys down and watch the Golden State Warriors play (and obviously go over the plays). They play 4 guards and a big who can’t shoot nor is he a major blocker. It’s all about screening, screening, moving to the basket, and passing. Yes, we can’t shoot the 3’s as well as any of the Warriors, but this would be playing for next year. Get that system down, and with less injuries and a little better shooting, we can win more games. I absolutely love watching the Warriors play – it’s like a ballet. For a… Read more »

Dof87
Dof87
6 months ago

With Hellems and Smith shooting 20%, I don’t see playing a true freshman PG as a solution. I have no issue giving Pass more minutes (which he’s seen over the last few games), but KK also needs Hayes to figure things out. KK gets his freshman ready to play, when they do come in they generally do good, and then you hear the inevitable ‘should have been playing him already’ response. I watched Ross evolve, and I see Pass improving as well. You don’t need a lot of minutes as a freshman to improve significantly, you just need enough to… Read more »

Papajohn
Papajohn
6 months ago
Reply to  Dof87

I think you hit it on the head. The freshmen start getting minutes and doing well, and everyone assumes that Keatts is too dumb to realize they should have been on the floor sooner. When in fact, they finally are earning minutes based on their performance in practice. Everyone assumes they are smarter than the coaches, and everyone assumes they hate losing more than the coaches. In most cases, neither are true. However, the season is a total disaster, so why not give Pass a lot more minutes? Despite the stats (8 minutes a game, and some when the game… Read more »

Antbrown11
Antbrown11
6 months ago

That is one of the main problems I have had with Keatts. He always seems reluctant to even remotely rely on freshmen. He sparingly used Ross when it was apparent to everyone else he should have been playing more than Gibson and Dowuona. He has inexplicably not played Pass in several games missing the opportunity to give the young point guard a chance to experience in game conference situations. That results in second year players who are just as green as they were the year before. He did the same thing with Bates when he was younger and Keatts was… Read more »

Afterglow
Afterglow
6 months ago
Reply to  Antbrown11

I respect that viewpoint if that is your opinion, but Keatts plays players who are ready to play. He has played Gibson and Dowuona out of necessity. A lot of crap went down this year. At this point in the season, I don’t see us going anywhere and as the article (which is solution oriented) suggest, Coach Keatts may as well play for next year, barring a magical run in the ACC Tournament. I’m with Wolferetti on this one, let’s see how he does next season when he has a full lineup, a stocked bench and no cloudy day NCAA… Read more »

Last edited 6 months ago by Afterglow
Hoosierwolf
Hoosierwolf
6 months ago
Reply to  Afterglow

I agree that a lot has went wrong this year. But will we have a stocked bench next year? Or will we have players who aren’t ready for P5 level basketball, or worse, guys who never will be? Gibson will never be ready. Ebe is marginally better, but he isn’t good enough to defend elite post players. I don’t see the 2 freshmen being able to contribute much next year either. And then how many guys will transfer? It’s not a question of if, but who? There will be transfers, and there will be more than one. That leaves only… Read more »

Papajohn
Papajohn
6 months ago
Reply to  Hoosierwolf

Agree that Gibson and Ebe are not going to be starting P5 players, maybe I’m wrong, but I haven’t seen anything to make me think they are ‘just some experience and/or practice away.’ Keatts has had his successes using the portal, Al Freeman, DJ Funderburk, Devon Daniels, CJ Bryce come to mind. But there have been as many misses. Wake Forest is proving this season that you can transform a crap team in one year using the portal, if you get lucky. It’s funny you mentioning not expecting the freshmen to bring much next season (and I agree with you),… Read more »

NC State Basketball

Terquavion Smith and Greg Gantt take over NC State’s Instagram for the Day

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A couple of days ago, Terquavion Smith and Greg Gantt were handed the camera to show State fans just what gameday is like through the player’s eyes. The guys chronicle a day in the Bahamas as they participate in walkthroughs, downtime at the hotel and pregame shootaround.

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NC State Basketball

VIDEO: Inside Look at the workouts of NC State’s new 7 foot wing, Mady Traore

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A few days ago, we went into depth about NC State’s newest addition, 7-foot wing, Mady Traore. As we were doing our research, we came across a couple workout videos that were posted.

Watching his highlights from games is probably a better indicator of what we’ll see on the court come November. bit watching these workouts (which are kind of showcasing his skills without any defenders) give a better glimpse of his potential.

Enjoy!

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NC State Basketball

Sooo, let’s talk about the 7 foot wing who just committed to play for the Pack this season

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While everyone was focused on the upcoming football season, or discussing NC State basketball’s coming trip to the Bahamas, something happened.

NC State landed a commitment from 7-foot stretch forward, Mady Traore. And he’ll be eligible to play THIS season.

Surely, a guy committing this late in the process isn’t going to be a difference maker, right? It’s probably a guy no one has heard of. Someone who has slipped through the cracks.

But what if I told you that Taore, a French native (who has moved around quite a bit in recent years) had offers from Auburn, Kansas, Oregon, LSU, Arizona, Illinois, Florida, and many, many more.

Intrigued?

Well, we are. Especially after watching some of his recent film.

NC State got in on Traore late after seeing him at the NBA camp in early July. But the story is kind of strange because after coming over to America midway through high school, he really jumped around to different schools. Maybe he was trying to find a place where he’d be showcased? But either way, all the moving made it hard to keep track of him. The one connection he does have to the Pack is LJ Thomas. The NC State incoming freshman, Thomas, played for Bull City prep and during all his moving, Traore spent a small amount of time with the AAU team at one point.

Whatever the story is, Traore committed to NC State on July 29th.

Here he is talking to Pro Insights, explaining what Pack fans can expect of him.

Traore wasn’t on campus yet, so he couldn’t make the trip to the Bahamas with the team, but he should be ready to go when the team returns.

What can we expect?

Well, we’re not sure. It’s likely Traore won’t be in the main rotation to start the season, but it wouldn’t surprise me for him to start seeing minutes at some point this season. He is 7 feet tall and can guard almost any position.

So is he a project player? Depends on your definition of that. I think this kid has all the tools necessary to be an eventual NBA talent. The question is, can he put it all together? He needs to bulk up, get more physical and just get more experience at a high level.

He’s got a 7’3 wing span. He can shoot it. He’s athletic, shifty, and has great footwork and coordination for a 7-footer. His handle is a little suspect, but he seems to have a pretty good court IQ. He looks like a coachable kid with a high motor. Pair that with his God-given tools, and well, Keatts and company may have just snatched up an eventual elite level talent under everyone’s nose.

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NC State Basketball

Another double-double for Jack Clark as NC State rolls past PR 81-69

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NC State moves to 2-0 in the Bahamas after using a strong 4th quarter to come back and beat Puerto Rico 81-69.

If you haven’t been following, NC State is in the Bahamas for their summer exhibition trip. They won their first game against Bahama Select 92-81, using big games from Terquavion Smith (26 pts) and a double-double from LaSalle transfer Jack Clark (who had a 12 and 13 double-double).

This was a close one, with NC State losing after 3 quarters, 55-52. However, Clark went off for 8 points and 3 rebounds in the 4th, leading the Pack to the 12-point victory.

This was Clark’s second double-double in two games for NC State as he finished with 24 points and 11 rebounds.

Without any media coverage, other than what the team is providing, we can’t see exactly how Clark is scoring, but from what we can piece together, he’s doing it in a variety of ways. For instance, in this game he knocked down SIX 3s.

It’s got to be a fluke if a guy show shot below 30% from long range last season is suddenly hitting his 3s, right? Well, not necessarily. Clark has great form and a smooth release. He was actually projected to be a very good shooter coming out of high school. During his freshman season he shot 41% from 3 (for context, Scott Wood shot 41% for his career at NC State). Clark then kind of lost his touch during the next two seasons, shooting 28% and 29% respectively. So we were waiting and watching to see which Jack Clark showed up for Kevin Keatts. At this point, it looks like he’s found his form and is back to being a quality shooter.

According to GoPack.com, Ole Miss transfer, Jarkell Joiner, also had his second good game in a row. After notching 14 points and 3 assist in game one, the grad senior followed it up 16 points and 5 assists in this one.

Terquavion Smith added 9 points and 4 steals (while missing a significant chunk of the game with a leg cramp), while Casey Morsell finished with 11 and DJ Burns dropped 12 (8 in the 4th quarter).

NC State shot 56.3 percent in the second half, and 64.2 percent from three-point range.

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