On Sunday afternoon, NC State lost 67-66 at the University of Miami, and in the process provided the Hurricanes with their program’s first Atlantic Coast Conference win (in their very first attempt). Tonight, the Wolfpack plays host to the Duke Blue Devils in a pivotal game for the Pack.
If programs’ recent histories provide any kind of harbinger for performance, then the Wolfpack could be in for a tough night tonight against the Blue Devils. Consider that Duke easily holds the title as the Greatest College Basketball Program of the last 20 years. Then consider that Miami has only been playing Division One basketball for 20 years!! (The Hurricane program dropped from Div One in 1971 and re-initiated in the 1984-1985 season). Ouch!
Fortunately for State, individual games are not played against “recent history”. Unfortunately for the folks that run the NC State Basketball Program, overall performance of programs is usually judged using a consolidation of all results.
For Head Coach, Herb Sendek, to lose to a first yearcoach, Frank Haith after having NINE YEARS to establish a prominent program in Raleigh is nothing short of unacceptable and embarrassing. Any direct comparison with the (now 2-0) Haith is only made more painful by Sendek’s 0-8 start in the ACC before garnering his first victory. (Of course, Sendek did not have the luxury of competing against schools that allowed their program to idle for as long as Todd Turner/Les Robinson/Lee Fowler have allowed our program to stall).
To be fair, individual bumps along any road like the loss to Miami are to be expected and should be assessed in context. Unfortunately for Sendek, his unacceptable bumps continue to grow at pace much greater than the pace and performance of his peers no matter what he seems to try.
Miami entered their inaugural ACC season picked last in the conference,…even behind Virginia Tech. The Canes entered Sunday’s game with the Wolfpack ranked #109 in the Ratings Percentage Index. That is actually pretty decent for the Hurricanes who finished #171 and #188 over the last two seasons before firing Coach, Perry Clark and hiring Frank Haith.
Good move for the Canes! Prior to moving to Coral Gables, Haith already had compiled strong recruiting resume…and now, despite playing with a roster that was compiled by recruiting to a 7,000 seat arena and no basketball heritage of which to speak…Haith has already knocked off a program that has had nine years and huge resources (like 19,722 state of the art, sold out basketball arena) to get established.
I don’t need to give you a lesson on Duke’s recent basketball heritage. It is way too painful of an exercise to conduct…especially for anyone over the age of 30 that realizes that a legitimate case could be made that the Wolfpack program was the second most decorated program in the ACC as recently as 1989. Let’s just leave the contrast between Duke and State’s overall programs alone to save the pain.
But the contrast between the way the two programs are dealing with adversity this season speaks volumes about the toughness of the programs.
If you were to venture through the daily webrun and recent of posts from Pack Pride, you will note the constant and incessant mention of some of the “injuries” and sickness that the Wolfpack has battled during its recent slide of losses to St. John’s, West Virginia, and Miami. By what I had been reading, I came to believe that:
(1) Tony Bethel (battling Colitis) is the second coming of David Thompson and I just didn’t know it, and
(2) no other teams in the country battle injuries during the season.
I choose to look into these two issues and I learned a lot of interesting things:
(1) Tony Bethel is NOT the second coming of David Thompson. Additionally…I wonder if we actually “miss” Bethel at all?!
First, I learned some very interesting about basketball – in the absence of any player (like Bethel NC State) the team is still allowed to put a 5th player on the court as opposed to competing with only four.
Secondly, Bethel was shooting a pitiful 35% from the floor, 29% from the 3-point arc, and 69% from the free throw line to average just 7 points a game (to go along with that shooting percentage) prior to his illness. In Sunday’s loss at Miami, NC State shot 50% from three-point range. Since NC State plays a “positionless offense”, Bethel’s presence would taken minutes away from players like Engin Atsur, Andrew Brackman & Ilian Evitmov. Would his 29% 3-point shooting have really “helped” the Pack on Sunday?
Lastly, Tony Bethel didn’t suit up for NC State last year. This is important because the every Wolfpacker who refers to Bethel’s absence as impactful also cites, “last year’s performance” as the reason why this year’s team will ultimately “be fine”. How can Bethel have any basis as an excuse for the optimistic crowd if Bethel never participated in the success upon which they base their optimism?
(2) Other teams actually do also deal with injuries – like Duke. The Blue Devils are currently ranked in the nations Top Five with an undefeated record. Amazingly, they have been able to continue their winning with only one legit post player, Shelden Williams. As the Duke Basketball Report stated today:
Duke is crippled and thin…. After losing Shavlik Randolph to mono and Reggie Love to a foot injury, they’ve largely adapted. DeMarcus Nelson early hand injury is just about history, and he’s regaining his shooting touch to go with his high level of athleticism and his astonishing rebounding. When Randolph comes back, and Love later, Duke will really benefit from the experience gained by these young players
Take away the Pete Gaudet year, and this may be one of Duke’s weakest teams in 15 years. And, they are currently undefeated. Scary.
With Shavlik Randolph and Reggie Love out…the Pack’s thin front court and “positionless offense” matches-up acceptably well with the Devils.
Therefore, the Pack can keep it close and pull the upset if:
(1) we play much better defense than we have seen at any point this year,
(2) Shelden Williams gets in foul trouble and the Devils are forced to rely solely on outside shooting
(3) we get fair officiating
If we get typical Duke officiating, the Devils win by 11 (or more if the Pack quits as has been the case in past Sendek-seasons)
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