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Where Will the Men’s Basketball Team Go From Here?

There is a lot to be excited about if you are a N.C. State fan right now. The football program has generated the most excitement that I have seen maybe ever, with the way the team finished the season and what they have been able to do from a recruiting standpoint. There is a lot of optimism about next year. The women's basketball team is 12-0 and ranked third in the country after starting the year unranked, but that didn't last long. Is this team good enough to contend for a national championship? Many people, me included think that they are, and it's going to be fun seeing how it plays out. The men's basketball team is 9-3 and is getting ready to enter the heart of the conference schedule. I want to focus on men's basketball, both from the standpoint of personnel and areas of concern.


I have heard some Wolfpack fans already expressing their frustration with the team this early in the season, and it seems that men's basketball just isn't creating the excitement that it has in the past. I get that we are in the 7th year of the kevin Keatts era, and it's been a struggle at times. It doesn't help that we seem to be a perennial bubble team most years. Having said that however, there are some reasons to be cautiously optimistic this year.


This is by far, the most talented team that keatts has had from top to bottom. It's a very deep team, and he hasn't had that luxury often. There are guys that can have big games, and there are others who are learning what their role is and are playing those roles. Using that depth could be a really big factor the rest of the season, and here is why. I firmly believe that towards the end of the season, you need to have guys who aren't worn down from the rigors of the conference schedule. There are enough talented guys on this team to allow different combinations in the rotation without losing a significant amount of firepower. They play fast and very aggressive, and that takes more of a toll on bodies than a lot of teams. Keatts has to learn to trust his players abilities.


Another reason to be optimistic is because the Wolfpack now has the full roster to work with since Kam Woods is now able to play because of an injunction from a district court judge, and MJ Rice has finally entered the equation the past couple of games. Both of these guys should see meaningful minutes and put some points on the board. It's not easy to manage a deep roster, but it's a luxury that Keatts needs to utilize so the team doesn't fade away at the end of the season. We need guys to be healthy also, so having a deep roster allows guys who are banged up to get healthy. We have already seen this with Mo Diarra.


The Wolfpack also has an opportunity to win a lot of games in conference play, because the league , as a whole is not as strong as it typically is. Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of good teams in the ACC this year, but Duke isn't as formidable this year, and UNC has been inconsistent so far. Virginia is also a good basketball team, but they have weaknesses. Clemson is solid, but I think they are going to come back down to earth after getting off to a great start. I'm not saying that there will be easy wins. Most teams are very competitive this year, with the possible exceptions of Notre Dame and Louisville, but you have to be ready to play every game. I think that the Wolfpack can be in the thick of the race, but they need to beat a Duke or UNC to give them confidence and show them that they can beat good teams.


There are things that are going to have to get better if the Wolfpack wants to be in the top tier of the conference. One of these is Defense. Some of you might disagree, but I think we have been really bad defensively so far. St Louis shot 50% for the game against us. That just can't happen if we expect to be successful in conference play. From my perspective, we are slow at times calling switches. That slight hesitation can cause confusion and free up the ball handler for dribble penetration or an open jumper. They have to communicate better and be more decisive. The pack defense is also giving up way too many layups and 3 pointers at this point. We don't defend the 3 very well, and they have to figure out how to fix that, or it's going to be a long season. As aggressive as they are, they sometimes lose their man when trying to overplay the passing lanes which leads to an easy basket underneath. As good as DJ Burns is, he poses problems at the defensive end. He can't really switch, and he gets beat by quicker bigs. He needs to play less minutes anyway, because he just doesn't need to play 35 minutes a game. I'm not diminishing his value to the team at all, but we have some really good bigs who are good defenders. I also think that when Burns plays too many minutes, it hurts his effectiveness on the offensive end of the floor. This team has a bunch of guys who can score, so when Burns is out of the game, they still have plenty of scoring options.


The pack has to get better at rebounding. Part of the problem is Keatts likes to play small, but it hurts rebounding. Mo Diarra is an excellent rebounder as is Ben Middlebrooks, and those two have to play more minutes. DJ Burns is a decent rebounder, but Diarra can really clean the glass. The guards as a unit are good rebounders, like Casey Morsell and Jaydon Taylor. As a team however, they are giving up too many offensive rebounds, and second chance points can be killers. It often leads to an open shot on the perimeter because the defense isn't set, and the rebounder can find the open man for wide open 3's. If offensive rebounds can be reduced, it takes away those opportunities.


I have said this before, but I'm going to say it again. Keatts player rotation has got to be better and more consistent. It doesn't make sense for a guy to play 19 minutes one game ,and then the next game play 4 minutes. Or, in some cases, someone plays really well and then the next time out, they don't get any minutes. It needs to be way more balanced with less inconsistent substitutions. This team is so deep , and that needs to be used advantageously. It will also give the guys more confidence if they aren't having to always try to figure out what to expect as far as playing time.


I can't tell you how important free throws are. The Wolfpack were 11-22 against St Louis. That is just abysmal. They started out the year shooting really good from the charity stripe, but it has went downhill quickly. The only way that it gets better is just practicing them. Sometimes it's a mechanics issue, and sometimes it's a confidence issue, but in any event, it needs to get fixed. Close games are won or lost at the free throw line.


Finally, the team just has to be more consistent. More consistent with defensive effort, and shooting the ball. For the most part, shot selection has been pretty good. I think part of the reason is the offense that are running. This is by far the most structured offense of the Keatts years. The big difference is off ball screening. They are doing a ton of it this year, and it's resulting in better shot selection. The key is to consistently make those shots. Everyone has a bad game from time to time, but the scorers need to step up every game. If they just build their confidence and play together, they can be a much better team than we have seen so far. I am interested in what other State fans think, so feel free to leave a comment below.

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John Allen
John Allen
1월 05일

A couple of weeks later .... after the Notre Dame game.

I think we've seen some improvement in the areas you, quite reasonably, pointed out.

ND is a pretty big team, but our rebounding was terrific. 2 guys with 4, 2 with 5, 2 with 6, and O'Connell of all people had 7. (cleaning up the missed 3PT) Probably a point of emphasis during the holiday practices.

In the second half of this one, we finally tightened down on the 3PT arc and only allowed one made 3PT shot. Hopefully seeing success will breed more of it. UVA shoots the 3PT well.

And depth, again you hit it. I think the Irish got tired late. They really weren't a deep…

좋아요
답글 상대:

Thank you for your insight and kind words. Thank you for visiting our site! Go Pack!

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I agree with all of these statements. I've been following NC State Basketball since 1974 and this is probably the first time where I am almost apathetic about the team. Don't get me wrong, I still love the team and will watch every second of every game, but the game has changed so much over the years that it's like watching a very different sport. Add in the free agency known as the Transfer Portal and it becomes difficult to feel like you know the players anymore. And, using free throw shooting as an example, it's hard to watch the team be collectively so bad at something that should not be difficult. All that being said, I truly appreciate the…

좋아요
답글 상대:

Thanks for your input and thank you for coming to the site. It's always nice to hear from other fans! The game has changed as you said, and it's hard to feel a connection with the players when they are only here for a year. Let's hope we can put together something special this year. The talent is there I think.

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