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.
NC State’s 2023-23 Men’s Basketball Schedule Has Arrived
NC State’s 2023-24 Men’s Basketball schedule has arrived!
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.