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What hints did Kevin Keatts give about this year’s basketball lineups in his presser?

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If you haven’t read the Kevin Keatts media day press conference, then go ahead and do that.

There were a number of interesting tid-bits in there, one being that he said he’d play 100% zone this season (we reported on that), and another was a bunch of little nuggets about where he sees guys fitting into the lineup.

Today we’re going to focus on those statements, and dissect them a bit.

KEATTS: Jack Clark did a great job in the Bahamas. It’s the new breed of forward. Jack will play some Small Forward for us, but I guess you could say “small ball,” but he’s not really small because he’s 6’8″. We will play him some at Power Forward. I like him as a Torin Dorn type of guy, but a little bit better shooter. Torin Dorn was really special for us my 1st year because he could drive it, he could shoot it, and he could guard multiple positions. We’ll use Jack in that way.

Keatts is kind of saying two things here. He is saying we could see Clark as a 3-man (SF) and a 4-man (PF). Now, Clark is a pretty versatile kid, he’s 6’8 and can shoot, attack the basket, and really showed himself to be strong on the boards in the Bahamas. But where will we see him more? The answer to that will likely inform us on what Keatts starting line up will look like. And learning that will tell us a lot about what style of play he’s going with this season.

I think the key here is that he mentions using Clark as a Torin Dorn type. If you remember, Dorn mostly played the undersized 4 for NC State. My guess is that is his initial inclination. Which means a starting lineup might look like Joiner, Smith, Morsell, Clark and Burns.

Now, before you get mad about going right back into what wasn’t working with the undersized 4, I’d advise you to wait a second and see what you think of Clark. So far he’s been NC State’s biggest surprise (in our eyes). He was a rebounding machine in the Bahamas and he shot it really well from 3pt range. This seems like it’s not Keatts being forced into playing an undersized 4, but more like a true stretch forward emerging and being put into a slot where he’s going to be able to create matchup problems on offense but hold his own on the boards on the defensive side.

KEATTS: Yeah, you’ll see Casey Morsell play some Shooting Guard and Small Forward. I think you’ll see Breon as a Point at times and off the ball at times. I look at Casey as a guy that could possibly be one of the top defenders in our league. He’s strong. He’s physical. He’s also shooting the ball very well. We saw a little bit of what Breon Pass could do last year, and I think you’ll see more of him, because he’ll have opportunities. You’ll see, at times, with Terquavion and times with Jarkel on the floor, even with Casey.

Ok, so this one I’m not buying too much. Morsell a the 2 at times and Breon Pass at the 2 at times? If this is happening then you’re either playing a REALLY small team, or your season is shot (because it means Terquavion Smith isn’t getting minutes at the 2). Smith is going to be State’s top scorer and he’s going to need to be on the court nearly at all times, almost all of which will be at the 2.

The truth is, Morsell needs to be on the court unless State is forced to go big with a Burns and Mahorcic combo or a Burns/Mahorcic/Dowuona and Gantt/Ross combo. That would move Clark to the 3 and Morsell would need to either slot in at the 2 or head to the bench. If Smith is healthy, he’ll be at the 2.

Now, Keatts wants to play Clark at the 4 and cause matchup problems, but if they really do go zone more often, then he’ll have the option to go big down low. Keatts mentioned Syracuse as a zone defense he’d like to mimic, and that means height and length everywhere (NC State has the horses to do that). So even in a big lineup with zone, you likely see Clark at the 3.

What I’m saying here is that Morsell will spend most of the season at the 3, no matter what Keatts says. And if Morsell is having trouble finding time at the 2, Breon Pass will be in the same boat. Pass is a PG and Keatts want to keep him around because he’s going to be good. However, Keatts needs to win now and he needs a veteran leader at the point. That’s why they brought in Jarkell Joiner from Ole Miss.

Joiner will be playing PG most of the time this season. The staff loves him, but they are also seeing a lot of improvement from Breon Pass who has put on some muscle and seems ready to contribute. However, with Joiner at the 1 and Smith at the 2, where will he slot in? My guess is that he’s the main backup for Joiner, and Morsell is the main backup for Smith and the 2 (which would bring Clark to the 3). But there is the scenario where Smith needs a breather and Keatts wants to stay small for matchup reasons. You could have Joiner at the 1, Pass at the 2, Morsell at the 3, and Clark at the 4. That’s going to be rare though.

That said, what you’re seeing here is that Keatts has some pretty versatile pieces this season and can do a lot with his lineup. This is really the first time he’s had a frontcourt that allows him to matchup with almost anyone. Up against a big and strong frontcourt, go Burns and Mahorcic. Need a shot blocker in there, go with Dowuona. Need athleticism, Dowuona and Ross. Want offense on the block, go with Burns. All of that creates the ability for Clark to play a little more of the 3, and gives the guards a versatile rotation as well.

KEATTS: Both are full-fledged going. Both are full-fledged practicing. Both are healthy right now. Both guys are doing great. I wouldn’t say that they’re in great shape right now, but both guys have been in practice full-time, and both are doing good jobs.

Ross and Gantt are healthy. That means NC State has two versatile 4-men capable of giving the team real minutes. Ross started coming into his own last season and showed us a lot. This is a bouncy kid who can run the floor, finish on the break and has great timing on his shot blocking. With Gantt you have a very fundamental big body that isnt quite as athletic, but is a great defender and could become a decent scorer if he taps back into what he showed in HS.

However, you see the log jam happening. If Ross forces his way into the lineup at the 4, Clark moves to the 3, then where is Morsell going? Not a bad problem to have, but something to consider.

KEATTS: I told (DJ Burns), if he gets in great shape, he’ll play 40 minutes a game. He should be excited about that. No, he’s working extremely hard. I don’t have the stats in front of me, but he may have been the most efficient post player, maybe even overall player, in college basketball last year.

Ok, interesting. This tells you that Keatts loves what Burns brings to the offensive end and may be willing to deal with his lack of athleticism on defense and give him the full-time gig. This also might be why Keatts is talking about zone, he may love Burns that much.

But Burns came in a little heavier than the staff was anticipating and they are working to get him into shape. Obviously, he’s not going to play 40 minutes, but Keatts saying this is telling. Burns seems to be the guy at center for NC State, and rightfully so, he’s an offensive weapon. I guess it will depend how long of stretches he can play, and how good NC State fares in the zone. If they are getting shot out of it and have to go man, then it’s likely Burns starts being forced to give up minutes to someone a little more versatile who can switch on high screens.

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Rev
Rev
1 year ago

Based on infinitesimal knowledge, looks like the Big Three (four?) scorers project to be Smith, Clark, and Burns, with Joyner being a more conventional point guard than Seabron was. I think Pass will come off the bench for five min per half unless Joyner gets in foul trouble. Morsell will play but we are running out of playing time. Finding minutes for five players all 6’8” to 6’11” tall means Clark needs to play the three as much as possible. So Morsell may start, but he will need to produce at both ends to stay on the floor. I sure… Read more »

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