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WATCH: Keatts, Burns, Horne & O’Connell Talk After Elite Eight Win (transcript)

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NC State’s Keven Keatts, DJ Burns, DJ Horne, and Michael O’Connell met with the media after the Wolfpack’s 76-64 win over Duke in the Elite Eight last night. You can watch the Press Conference below, and the transcript is underneath.

Kevin Keatts

First of all, I want to say this, man, God is good. These young men in the locker room from Day 1 have kind of believed in everything that I’ve preached to them and everything that they talked about. At the beginning of the year, we talked about what are your goals, and I think to a man everyone said ‘We want to win the ACC.’ Check. What’s your other goal? It’s obviously go on and compete for a National Championship, and we’re still alive for that opportunity. It means a lot. Our school deserves it. Our players have really worked hard. The fans deserve it. We’ve done a really good job. When I say we, I always say we. I mean, these young men in the locker room through all the adversity that we have we went through, up and downs of winning games and losing games. They never lost their faith and stayed together. It means a lot. It really does. By the way, congratulations to our Women’s team too for making the Final Four. That’s really special.

I’ve had some really good teams. For us, I would say something about all of my teams are really special. These guys are so special. What is it, 9 now? 9 elimination games or you go home. They’re tremendous. You ought to see us every day. They make it easy for me to wake up every morning and come to practice and work hard with them because of who they are as personalities. I would say this, I have learned more basketball from these guys than I learned in my entire career, because they know how to work. They’re great people. They work hard. It’s hard to say if it’s my best. You would have to ask somebody else, but I’m sure having a lot of fun with this group.

I’m sitting here, and I’m blessed to be here. I’ll tell you what we did. We have broken the postseason up into different segments. When we left to go to D.C., we said we wanted to win D.C. We won D.C. Then we went to Pitt. We say we want to win Pitt. Now obviously in Texas, we won Texas. It gets to a point when you are winning games, and I think our guys now are expecting to win. It’s beautiful to watch. Our defense has been tremendous down the stretch. It’s been so great. At halftime, we talked about that it was 27-21. The difference in the game. Neither team was scoring. They had taken 9 free-throws. We had taken 3. We made 2. They made 9. I talked about, ‘Hey, if you can come out and duplicate your defense in the 2nd half, we will find a way to score, and we were great in the 2nd half too. It’s a miracle run, but we’re not surprised. We don’t come into this tournament saying, ‘Hey, let’s just try to be here.’ We came here to win it, and we did. Now we have to move on to our next stage.

I think the biggest blessing is they’ve stayed true to who they are. Obviously, when you go through a season, there are going to be a lot of ups and downs. #1, you have to win every type of game to advance, but there are going to be some emotions. We started off 5-1 in our conference. We lost our last 4 games. There’s going to always be some adversity. These guys have strung together games. They’ve never wavered in their belief. They’ve stuck together. We go by our ARTT. I talk about that all the time. ARTT: accountability, relentless, toughness, and together. When things go bad well, we lean on that. I can’t say enough about them. You ought to see them. These guys are really locked in. They’re really a close-knit bunch. The memories they’re creating is going to last a lifetime, and that is what makes it really special. Those are the blessings that I see.

The focus (how he can tell they expect two win). It’s weird, because having a day in between almost seems like it’s something wrong because we’re so into what we did in the ACC Tournament, winning 5 games in 5 days. They’re locked in. They understand. I think a couple of people asked me that were around the team that hadn’t been around the team, ‘Are you guys always that loose?’, and we are. I’ve learned more new rap songs than I ever thought I could imagine, but as I said the last time, you know, we mix it up now. We play a lot of gospel music too, which they scream just as loud when they do that part, of which I’m glad that they know those songs. It’s a loose bunch. They believe in one another. They trust in one another. We had some adversity in this game, and there were times you thought Duke had the momentum, and we could have folded a little bit, but we absolutely didn’t.

We missed a lot of chippies in the 1st half. We left a lot of things on the rim. I counted myself about 5 missed layups. My assistant coaches were losing it. I was, like, ‘Relax, we’re going to be fine. It’s not like they’re setting the world on fire offensively either.’ We talked about defending. We talked about staying to the scouting report, and the ball will go in in the 2nd half. One of the things, DJ Burns didn’t play a lot because he got his 2nd foul, so we knew we had an advantage throwing the ball inside to him. They decided, which some teams do, not to double-team him, and obviously he shot 13 for 19 and had 29 points.

Typically I play with 2 Forwards, a Ben (Middlebrooks) and a Mo (Diarra) together. When DJ hit the Transfer Portal, I was like, ‘Man, I got to change.’ He changed me. I’ve never thrown the ball inside as much as I have in the last couple of years. Great touch. Great footwork. Last year one of his issues, he could pass the ball, but he didn’t have a great assist-to-turnover ratio, and now he is doing that. It’s changed the way I look at post guys now. There’s probably only 3 of those in the country, and I know we’re going to play a really good one next week at some point. I’m looking for some more guys that I can throw the ball inside to. I’ve now found out that I can have a mix of throwing the ball to a post guy and having guard play. I mean, tremendous personality. I’ve recruited him since basically when he went to Tennessee out of high school. And obviously when he went into the Portal, we looked at everybody in the Portal, and we needed some size. He fits the bill. I’m glad he’s here. I’m glad he’s on my team. I don’t know how you guard him. I’m excited, and I hope nobody figures that out.

Michael O’Connell

I think the biggest thing was sticking together. Obviously, things aren’t always going to go well or things are going to go wrong, but for us to stick together through the tough times and even the great times is going to be huge. Ben made a great play (After the Technical). It shifted momentum quickly, which would have helped for us to keep the lead and keep us going.

I think it’s pretty cool that none of us played together last year. Since the beginning of the season, we’ve been able to build this chemistry and build this bond and friendship, especially off the court. Basketball just brings you together. You all have a common goal, and that’s winning. And you want to figure out a way to do it together. I think as you try and go through that process, you just grow closer together.

Just stick with the process (what he would say to 10-year old self). Obviously, when I was younger, there were times you didn’t want to go workout or play sports. You just wanted to hang out with your friends or whatever. My parents kept on me and made sure I was working out. Obviously, I’m glad I did that. It definitely helped me get here and to where I am at this moment. Yeah, just stick with it and just try to enjoy it. Enjoy it along the way. That’s really the biggest thing.

He’s (Keatts) had confidence in me since Day 1 when he contacted me in the Portal. Just to play for a coach like this who just has faith in you and pushes you to be your best every day. When you make mistakes, he holds you accountable. When you are doing well, he will compliment you and keep pushing you to do better. It means the world to be playing for him. It makes the game so much easier when you are out there.

I think just throughout this journey everyone has made huge plays. Whether in the moment it might not seem big, whether it’s just a deflection or steal, but it changes the trajectory of our run or the game. One play I always go back to his block (DJ Horne) came off the backboard, I thought that was huge. There are plays consistently being made by everyone that might not be covered or might not be in the stat sheet or might not be all over social media, but everyone has been making huge plays down this run, and that’s why I think we’re getting these wins, and it’s been big for us. Obviously he (Burns) is playing unbelievable. Both these dudes are. Mo [Diarra] has been killing it. Casey [Morsell] is. Everyone has been playing and has had such a big impact. When you have a lot of guys coming on the court and contributing right away, you can’t really pick the special moment. They’re all special in their own way.

DJ Burns

I would say in tough situations, you rise to the level of our training, and our coaches well prepared us.

I don’t know. I guess it’s how I was raised (the joy he has). I was raised in a happy environment. I try to take that with me everywhere I go.

Well, honestly, I wouldn’t really say I wasn’t too worried about it (having two fouls). Going into halftime, I just knew that the main thing I was thinking, honestly, was that I missed a few shots towards the end, so they weren’t going to double-team me in the 2nd half. I just decided when I came back in to take advantage.

I would say basketball is a sport that naturally brings people together. All of my life-long friends, I would say about 95 percent of them are basketball players. Man, I still communicate with people I played AAU with in 8th grade. Basketball is just something that just always brings people together. That’s why we love it.

At this point I would tell him (10-year old self), don’t change anything, man. Just continue to be yourself. It’s going to work out.

I would say, man, he (Keattss) kind of changed the trajectory of what I had going on. I was up in Winthrop and didn’t really know how this was going to play out when I put my name in that Portal. Honestly, I didn’t even at first think I was coming here. For this, it’s just an absolute blessing, and I think that man needs a lot more respect still.

DJ Horne

I just kind of rely on my work, trust the game plan, and fall back on my teammates too to help lift me up.

It’s definitely big for our program. Seeing the girls have success definitely motivates us. I would say we worry about our team right now, and just trying to make the best of what we got going right now, and taking each game at a time.

I just think that’s the beauty of basketball. You know you can build these connections, build these memories. I just say personally, I’m just glad to be doing this in my last year of college basketball.

I would just tell my 10-year-old self to just stay down and just understand that everybody has their moment. It comes at different times in different shapes, forms, and fashions.

I will just say Coach gave me an opportunity to come back home and play basketball, and the confidence that he instills in me every day allows me to go out there and do what I do. Just to know that all the ups and downs we had in our season, and when it could have been easy to quit, I felt like he was the main one that kept us all together and kept the outlook on our whole season very positive and gave us a lot of confidence going into that ACC Tournament.

Matthew is Co-Owner of Pack Insider. He writes for all sports, with a focus on football and recruiting, and is in charge of business strategy. He is an NC State alum who majored in business. Matthew is also the lead pastor of The Point Church in Cary, NC.

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NC State Basketball

NC State’s Kevin Keatts Named Clarence “Big House” Gaines Division I College Basketball Coach of the Year

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NC State’s Kevin Keatts has been named the Clarence “Big House” Gaines Division I College Basketball Coach of the Year.

The Clarence “Big House” Gaines College Basketball Coach of the Year Awards are presented to the head coach in NCAA Division I and Division II, who may not earn recognition from mainstream outlets. (Link)

Kevin Keatts, the men’s basketball coach at North Carolina State University, and Alfred Jordan, the men’s basketball coach at Clark Atlanta University, have been named the Clarence “Big House” Gaines College Basketball Coaches of the Year by the National Sports Media Association. The Gaines Awards will be presented during the NSMA’s 64th awards banquet on July 1, 2024 in Greensboro, N.C.

Keatts, the Division I winner of the Gaines Award, took NC State on a magical run through the postseason. After finishing the regular season with a 17-14 record, the Wolfpack swept five games in five days to win the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament in Washington, D.C., the Wolfpack’s first ACC Tournament title since 1987. As the ACC’s automatic qualifier to the NCAA Tournament, NC State then rang up four straight wins to reach the national semifinals, where the Wolfpack lost to eventual runner-up, Purdue University. In seven seasons at NC State, Keatts’ teams are 139-94. His NC State teams have won at least 20 games in five of his seven seasons at NC State. (Link)

Here’s a look at former coaches who have won the award:

 

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NC State Basketball

WATCH: Pack Insider’s DJ Burns 2024 ACC Tournament Highlight Reel

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There would be no ACC Championship if it weren’t for Senior DJ Burns.

Burns averaged 15.2 points per game over the 5 games, shooting an absurd 62.7% from the field, going on to win the 2024 ACC Tournament MVP Award.

Check out Pack Insider’s DJ Burns 2024 ACC Tournament Highlight Reel.





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NC State Basketball

NC State vs. Duke in the Elite Eight was the Most Watched Game of the Men’s NCAA Tournament

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The 2024 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament has come and gone, but it’s still remarkable to note that the Elite Eight matchup between NC State and Duke was the most watched game of the entire tournament.

Elite 8: Duke/NC State: 15.1 million
Finals: UConn/Purdue: 14.8 million
Final 4: UConn/Alabama: 14.1 million
Final 4: NC State/Purdue: 11.45 million
Elite 8: Purdue/Tennessee: 10.39 million

The game between the two ACC crosstown rivals was the most watched Elite Eight game in the past 5 years. The 15.1 million viewers was more than all but 5 college football games last season.

Sunday’s NC State-Duke NCAA men’s basketball tournament regional final averaged a 6.4 rating and 15.14 million viewers on CBS, marking the most-watched Elite Eight game since Michigan State-Duke in 2019 (16.20M) and the most-watched basketball game of any kind, including the Final Four and NBA Finals, since the 2022 national championship (Kansas-North Carolina: 17.05M)

Since the wave of cancellations and postponements that decimated the industry four years ago, the Wolfpack’s win ranks fifth among basketball games behind the aforementioned 2022 title game, North Carolina-Duke in that year’s Final Four (17.66M), the 2021 national championship (Baylor-Gonzaga: 17.08M) and Gonzaga-UCLA in that year’s Final Four (15.39M). (Link)

(The above information was before the Women’s Championship Game between Iowa and South Carolina beat all of those with 18.89 million.)

 

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NC State Basketball

NC State Reaches Out to High Point Transfer Guard Duke Miles

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NC State has reached out to High Point Transfer Guard Duke Miles (6’3″/182).

Miles was 1st Team All-Big South this year, averaging 17.5 points and 3.6 assists, shooting 52.8% from the field and 36.1% from beyond the arc.

Miles spent his first 3 seasons at Troy, before transferring to High Point. He has 2 years of eligibility remaining because of the Covid year and a Medical Redshirt for the 2022-23 season, when he only played 6 games.

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