Connect with us

NC State Basketball

Kevin Keatts says NC State will play 100% zone defense this year. Is he lying?

Published

on

Fresh off an offseason of roster re-building, Keatts said all the right things in his media day presser. He talked about taking full responsibility, he talked about tweaking his system, he talked about adapting to the new landscape and how it alters coaching.

Oh, he also talked about ditching his signature man-to-man and playing 100% zone this season.

“It was different last year. We had the leading shot blocker in the country that we thought was coming back, so our philosophy on how we tried to guard the ball was a little bit different because, in the past, we could really pressure, and even when we flushed guards to the hole, Manny was back there to clean it up. I think we’re going to play 100 percent zone this year. I’ve been looking at a lot of tape of Syracuse, and if you’re going to play a zone, Coach [Jim] Boeheim’s got a tremendous zone, so I think I’m going to play a lot of zone this year. Write that down. You don’t believe me, but write that down. I’m not saying that our zone is going to be as good as theirs, but…”

Now, Keatts said this with a smile on his face and at first, it seemed like he might be kidding. But his points were valid and to did tell the reporters to write it down…

So is Keatts baiting the media or could we see NC State turn into a zone team? 

Well, note that at the beginning of the question,

Keatts explained that last year’s defensive strategy was based on the fact that they had Manny Bates, one of the nation’s top shot blockers in the middle. This is 100% true and it’s something I’ve said over and over again last season. NC State’s system of ‘charting deflections’ wasn’t great with Manny Bates, but it was awful without him.

Keatts charts deflections and has made it known that it’s a state he pays attention to. And when you think about it, it’s not crazy. If you are looking for a stat that can capture how hard you’re playing, deflections is a good one. You don’t need to end up with the steal, but you need to get your hand on the ball to get a tally in the deflection column.

This works in high school and probably worked at UNCW, but at the ACC level, it hasn’t.

NC State has been very bad when it comes to opponent FG%. Last year they finished dead last, allowing teams to shoot over 47% from the field. It’s the second time in five years that they’ve finished last in that stat. The other time was Keatts’ first season in which they allowed teams to shoot over 46% from the floor.

In fact, since Kevin Keatts arrived, the Pack has finished no better than 11th in ‘Opponent FG %’. Meaning, other teams were pretty much scoring at will the past 5 seasons. However, on the same token, until last season, NC State has finished 5th or better every year in Team FG%, shooting 45% or better each season. 

Basketball is simple math. Score more than your opponent. If NC State wants to improve, it’s got to come on the defensive end. Their offense (aside from last season) has been top 5 in the ACC.

So something needs to change on defense. But what?

NC State is not undermanned. They have tall, long, athletic guards, they play hard, and most of them are pretty physical. It’s not a problem with your roster. It’s a problem with your system. Bates or no Bates, this team has consistently had trouble stopping other teams from scoring. So it’s time Keatts tweaked the system.

Just look at the roster moves. With the addition of DJ Burns and Mohorcic, Keatts making it clear that NC State is not relying on shot-blockers in the paint. If you missed it, I broke it all down right here in early May. Keatts has to make sure his guards stay down in a stance and in front of their man. No more out-of-control close-outs. No more jumping passes or overplaying for the deflection. NC State needs to focus on playing old-school, hand-in-your-face, sound defense.

Or, you could just play zone.

Now, the part about Keatts playing zone 100% of the time. That is a lie. But the more you think about it, the more you realize that zone might be their only option on some nights.

Keatts’s best option in the middle is going to be DJ Burns, and with today’s game, defenses are going to use ball screen to force a switch and get Burns in a mismatch all day long. Same goes for Mahorcic.

So how do you stop teams from take advantage of a group of less athletic centers? You play zone.

Look, we’ll see how it shakes out, because Keatts likes playing with pace, and one reason their offense has been so good during his 5 years is partly because of pace. Going zone will slow things down considerably, but it’s about finding that right balance where you tip the scales just enough to have an advantage.

I don’t know if NC State is going to be a ‘zone team’, but I do know that zone is going to be a real option for them this season and it wouldn’t surprise me if Keatt’s was hinting that out of the gates, the goal is for it to be used a lot more than us NC State fans are used to seeing.

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.

1 Comment
Subscribe
Notify of
1 Comment
newest
oldest most Upvoted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Rev
Rev
1 year ago

Glad to see Keatts is ready to try anything. Defense AND rebounding have been glaring weaknesses. I am hoping the new assistants help Keatts shape this group of players into a successful team. Having several options rather than simply pressing and over playing man coverage seems pretty obvious to me. Choosing and installing a defensive strategy that fits your personnel and stymies the opposition means you gotta have several schemes ready to go.

NC State Basketball

Jersey Numbers for 2024-25 NC State Men’s Basketball Team Revealed

Published

on

The NC State Men’s Basketball team revealed the Jersey Numbers for their 2024-25 team yesterday.

Image

Numbers that are Staying the Same

Michael O’Connell – #12

Ben Middlebrooks – #34

Dennis Parker Jr. – #11

KJ Keatts – #13

Jordan Snell – #22

Numbers that have Changed

Jayden Taylor – #1 –> #8

Breon Pass – #10 –> #4

Numbers of New Players

Mike James – #0 (He wore #0 at Louisville last year)

Brandon Huntley-Hatfield – #1 (He wore #5 at Louisville last year)

Paul McNeil – #2 (He wore #2 in High School last year)

Dontrez Styles – #3 (He wore #0 at Georgetown last year)

Trey Parker – #5 (He wore #5 in High School last year)

Marcus Hill – #10 (He wore #0 at Bowling Green last year)

We don’t know what number Ismael Diouf will be wearing at NC State next year yet. 

 

 

Continue Reading

NC State Basketball

Kareem Richardson Promoted To Associate Head Coach at NC State

Published

on

RALEIGH, N.C. – NC State men’s basketball head coach Kevin Keatts announced Wednesday that assistant coach Kareem Richardson has been promoted to associate head coach effective immediately.

“I’m proud to promote Kareem to associate head coach,” Keatts said. “He is a valuable member of my staff and has really enhanced NC State both in his relationship with our players and staff, but also his ability to teach, scout and game plan. He is a well-rounded coach that has an impact on every facet of our program, and I feel fortunate to have him as part of my staff.”

The upcoming 2024-25 season will be Richardson’s third at NC State. The Pack has earned bids to the NCAA Tournament in both seasons Richardson has been on staff, including last season when NC State won the ACC Championship and advanced to the Final Four.

NC State has had three different guards (DJ Horne, Jarkel Joiner and Terquavion Smith) earn All-ACC honors under Richardson’s tutelage.

Richardson was previously head coach at UMKC for 2013-19 and has been an assistant coach at power conference programs such as Louisville, Xavier and Clemson in his 25-year coaching career.

Continue Reading

NC State Basketball

WATCH: Getting to Know NC State’s Dontrez Styles

Published

on

NC State Men’s Basketball is releasing videos helping fans get to know the new players on the 2024-25 roster.

Below is the video of Georgetown Transfer Forward Dontrez Styles (6’6″/212), with a transcript underneath.

I’m Dontrez Styles, a transfer from Georgetown University. I knew where I wanted to be. At the end of the day, I knew I wanted to come back home and play for a guy like Keatts. That was the main thing for me.

Being back home is amazing. My family can see me play every game now. An hour from Kinston, North Carolina. It’s a small city. I love it. Just growing there. A lot of great guys. A lot of great basketball players. My family is there. It’s my life.

I grew up in the Brandon Ingram era, so I went to every Kinston High School game. Just seeing him play motivated me to get in the gym and keep working. The grind has paid off.

It’s crazy. I would have never imagined this happening. It’s very rare for someone to go to North Carolina and NC State. Me being one of the first guys to do that, I believe it’s different, but I’m enjoying it so far. I can’t wait to get started.

Coach (Levi) Watkins recruited me when he was at Ole Miss. He’s been with me since my Sophomore year, I believe. Just having that relationship with them makes it easier every day.

Just being back, it’s going to be very fun, especially now. The hype is crazy. I can’t wait to be back home and get started, and hopefully win that National Championship.

_______

Styles was the 2nd leading scorer for Georgetown this past season, averaging 12.8 points per game, while grabbing 5.8 boards. He shot 36.8% from three.

Originally, Sytles was a consensus 4-Star prospect in UNC’s 2021 recruiting class. 247Sports ranked him as the #62 overall player nationally, and the #2 player in the state of North Carolina, playing for Kinston High School.

After two seasons with the Tar Heels, Styles entered the Portal, and took an Official Visit to NC State and Georgetown, and ultimately chose the Hoyas.

Styles will be spending his final year of eligibility with NC State.

Continue Reading

NC State Basketball

WATCH: Getting to Know NC State’s Mike James

Published

on

NC State Men’s Basketball is releasing videos helping fans get to know the new players on the 2024-25 roster.

Below is the video of Louisville Transfer Guard Mike James (6’5″/200), with a transcript underneath.

I last played at the University of Louisville. I spent three years there. Played two. Redshirted my first year because of injury. I enjoyed my time there, but all good things got to come to an end, and I’m here at North Carolina State. 

Entering the Portal is just like going through High School recruitment again. You’re getting your phone blown up every other hour, every single day. You’ve got to get on long phone calls. You’re kind of going through the process again, but this time, you kind of know what you want. You’ve been through College Basketball, so you know what questions to ask, what to expect, and you kind of just get straight to the point. I feel like the process was similar, but different this time. It went a lot quicker, and I knew exactly what I wanted. I want to win at the end of the day. Playing time is earned, and all that stuff. You’ve got to come in here and take care of that. 

Winning is very important, and I haven’t done that so far, but that’s the one thing I want to change about my college career. Seeing y’all go on that run was really appealing to me. 

I like to get to the basket. Draw fouls. Finish at the rim. Knock down shots on the perimeter. Defend 1-4 positions on the other end. 

I want to come in and win. I want to be a leader for our team. I’m an older guy now, so I want to be a leader. I want to come in and win another ACC Championship, and make another NCAA Tournament run. 

_______

This past year, James averaged 12.6 points per game (3rd on the team) and 5 rebounds. He’s extremely physical and aggressive, taking 47% of his field goal attempts at the rim (making 46%). As a result, he draws a lot of fouls, ranking 10th in the ACC in Fouls Drawn, and 4th in Free Throw Rate. James made opponents pay this year when they put him on the line, making 81.8% from the charity stripe, which ranked 15th in the ACC.

James shot the ball better as a Redshirt Freshman, than he did this past season. His Effective Field Goal Percentage in 2022-23 was 55.8%, which ranked 19th in the ACC, and his True Shooting Percentage of 59.6% ranked 14th.

News broke about James entering the Transfer Portal back on March 25th, and NC State was quick to reach out. Kevin Keatts and his staff recruited the former 4-star prospect out of high school heavily, but he ultimately chose the Cardinals.

After redshirting his first year in Louisville due to torn achilles, James has been a starter for the Cardinals the past two years.

He does have the ability to knock down a three, making 34.8% for his career.

James has 2 years of eligibility remaining.

Continue Reading