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

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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.

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Rev
Rev
1 month 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

Kevin Keatts’ Postgame Press Conference After Butler Win: BULLETED

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Head Coach Kevin Keatts met with the media for his postgame press conference after NC State’s 76-61 win over Butler last night. You can watch it here, or check out a BULLETED breakdown below.

  • First of all, let’s talk about Butler a little bit.
    • Thad [Matta] has done a really good job everywhere he’s been.
    • We beat a good Butler team. They’re going to continue to grow. They’re going to continue to get better.
  • We played extremely hard, and I only say that because that’s part of our culture, but we were able to do that on Day 3, and that says a lot about this team.
  • Our young guys came in, played well, and gave us great minutes in Breon Pass, LJ Thomas, and Ernest Ross, and then I thought our veterans put us over the hump.
    • Dusan Mahorcic and Jack Clark were really, really good.
  • We’ve been led all weekend, really all year, by Terquavion Smith and Jarkel Joiner, and when they didn’t have a huge scoring night, they found other ways to affect the game.
    • When you look at Terquavion, he had 5 assists and 1 turnover, and they all played on the defensive end.
  • I’m proud of my team. It’s a great tournament. It always has been.
    • You’re fortunate if you can get out of here with one win. Two is great, and then three is over the top.
    • I’m excited about our team as we continue to grow, and we’ll continue to get better.
  • I love our team. I try not to look too far head. We’re just going to continue to work.
    • My job with these guys is to get them locked into the next game.
    • I’ve learned just to lock in, be positive, and take it one game at a time, and that’s what we’ll do.
  • Well, everybody’s dangerous. What sparked me was that I watched Dayton and BYU, and it was a 23-point lead, and the lead was erased.
    • We’re all playing on tired legs, and if you can find a way to get through this, one of the blessings, even though we didn’t want to lose to Kansas, one of the good things about it was that we were able to play a 10 o’clock game tonight.
    • We got a little rest. It’s a great tournament because it prepares you for ACC, and it prepares you for the conference tournament, but it’s tough because you’ve got to play 3 great teams back-to-back-to-back.
  • I’m proud of Manny [Bates]. Manny’s a tremendous kid.
    • Obviously at NC State, he had some unfortunate injuries that slowed him down a little bit, but he’s a great kid and a really good basketball player.
  • I love the team that we put together. We hit it really good with the transfer portal, and we got good people that have connected off the court.
    • One of the things that helped us was taking a trip to the Bahamas in August. We were able to grow as a team.
    • Every coach’s challenge when you have so many transfers is trying to figure out how to develop chemistry early.
    • We’re a little ahead of the curve. We still have a long way to go in a lot of areas, but we’ve grown over the last 2 weeks.
  • You play Kansas, the defending National Champions, tough enough to win, and you don’t win the game, will there be a letdown over the next couple of days?
    • I don’t think we did. I thought we bounced back and beat 2 good teams, 2 good programs, by double-digits.
    • I learned a lot about my guys in how we respond.
    • Sometimes, it’s better to learn a lesson through a win. We learned a couple of lessons through the loss to Kansas, and we built on it.
  • We also have 2 very efficient post guys.
    • When you look up their stats, they can score the ball. D.J. Burns has had a good 2 days where he was unstoppable in the post. I thought he did some really good things.
    • Late in games, I wanted to play through our post guys. We talked about getting more paint touches instead of settling for 3’s.
    • When you look at tonight, we typically take anywhere from 25 to 35 three-pointers, and we only took 15, and a lot of that was because we wanted to establish our post guys.
    • Our post guys tonight took 21 shots.
  • I’m grateful he [Jack Clark] made the shot [big 3 to end scoring drought].
    • I thought the willingness to make the pass is the biggest one, because the tendency during scoring droughts is to step up and make the big shot.
    • The pass was just as good as the shot, but it was very important at the time.
    • I wouldn’t say we got tight, but we relied on our defense a little bit.
    • We got a little reckless with the basketball, but once we got our composure, we were able to make some plays.
  • We conducted ourselves as professionals.
    • We can make the argument that we played hard for 3 straight nights, and that’s hard to do.
    • I love what our guys are building. They’re starting to coach each other. They’re starting to reward each other. I think that’s big.
      • It’s going to help because you know you’re capable of doing it.
    • We used our bench a little bit more tonight than we did in the 1st couple of games, and I thought those guys really came in and made a positive impact for us.
  • We can have balanced scoring. I think everyone knows that we’ve got a really good set of guards, and I include Casey Morsell in that, that have led us in scoring all year long, but we’ve got some bigs that can really score the ball.
    • Our guys are really starting to understand that and get them in positions. It took a while for us to realize that, even though we love to run a lot of ball screens, we’ve got to roll this guys into the post and make sure we play off of them.
    • Also, the bigs are willing passers. You look at DJ, he made a couple of backdoor passes.
    • Dusan was very effective.
    • It’s really, really balanced when you have guard scoring and your post guys can score also.

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NC State Basketball

NC State 76 Butler 61: ACCDN Highlight Reel

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NC State’s Men’s Basketball team wrapped up an impressive showing down in the Bahamas last night, defeating Butler 76-61. You can check out the Box Score here. The ACC Digital Network’s Highlight Reel is below.

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NC State Basketball

Men’s Basketball: NC State 76 Butler 61: BOX SCORE

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The NC State Men’s Basketball team defeated Butler 76-61 tonight in the Bahamas, improving to 6-1. Below is the BOX SCORE.

The Wolfpack had 5 players score in double figures.

Once again, Point Guard Jarkel Joiner led the Pack in scoring, with 15 (4-11 FG).

Big fella DJ Burns was the player of the game for the Wolfpack, with 14 points, on 6 of 11 shooting from the field.

NC State’s other big man, Dusan Mahorcic, had 13 points (6-10 FG) and 6 rebounds.

What’s impressive about what Burns and Mahorcic did, is the fact they put up that kind of production against former Wolfpack Center Manny Bates.

Jack Clark chipped in 10 points (4-9 FG/2-4 3PT), and led the team with 8 rebounds and 3 steals.

Terquavion Smith had 10 points on yet another poor shooting night (4-14 FG), but he did lead the team with 5 assists (1 TO), and also snagged 5 rebounds.

The betting line was EVEN on this game, so it’s extremely impressive that NC State took the game by 15 points.

NC State out-rebounded Butler by 1, out shot the Bulldogs (44.6%/41.9%), had more assists (13/10), and scored 21 points off 14 Butler turnovers.

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NC State Basketball

NC State Players Celebrate By Planting Their Flag on UNC Logo and Saying: ‘UNC…What Happened???’

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The NC State Football Players had fun after beating their archrival UNC today, the Wolfpack took to the field with their flag in Chapel Hill.

Ben Finley, the 4th string Quarterback through much of the season, planted that bad boy in Kenan.

Safety Cyrus Fagan, as fiery as ever, was running the field with the flag.

Derrek Pitts, Jordan Houston and Devin Carter planted that flag right on the UNC logo at midfield.

You’ve got to love the sass of Nose Tackle Corey Durden taking a lap around the field waving bye to all the UNC fans.

Then the boys in the locker room trolled the Heels with this…UNC…WHAT HAPPENED?

 

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