Finishing Strong

Among the many things that I see on NC State message boards after ugly “preseason” losses are statements like:

- State often lays a few eggs early in the year.
- State starts slow but always finishes the year strong.

So I decided to see if these statements are grounded in reality or wishful thinking:

BAD LOSSES
There are at least two ways to define a bad loss. For my purposes here, I have listed the losses to bad teams (the definition that I prefer) and also included those games where the final deficit was 10+ points.

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Losses to Teams Ranked in RPI 50+

2002

Sat
Dec 1

(107)
UMass
69, North Carolina St.
62

Wed
Feb 20

(82)
Georgia Tech 65, North Carolina
St. 59

2003

Thu
Jan 2

(209)
UMass
68, North Carolina St.
56

Sat
Jan 11

(76)
Georgia Tech 85, North Carolina
St. 61

Sun
Feb 9

(80)
Virginia
61, North Carolina St.
58

Sat
Feb 15

(88)
Temple 76,
w:st=”on”>North Carolina St.
54

2004

Tue
Dec 2

(55)
Michigan
68, North Carolina St.
61

Wed
Feb 18

(90)
Clemson 60, North Carolina St.
55

2005

Thu
Dec 30

(165)
St. John’s
63, North Carolina St.
45

Sun
Jan 9

(69)
Miami FL
67, North Carolina St.
66

Wed
Jan 19

(112)
Virginia Tech 72,
North Carolina St.
71

Wed
Jan 26

(135)
Florida St.
70, North Carolina St.
64

Sat
Feb 5

(80)
Virginia
64, North Carolina St.
62

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Losses by 10 Points or More

2002

Tue
Nov 27

(23) Ohio St. 64,
w:st=”on”>North Carolina St. 50

Sun
Jan 13

(4)
Duke 76, North Carolina St.
57

Sun
Feb 3

(2)
Maryland
89, North Carolina St.
73

Thu
Feb 14

(4)
Duke 108, North Carolina St.
71

Sat
Mar 2

(24)
Wake Forest 83,
w:st=”on”>North Carolina St. 71

Sun
Mar 10

(4)
Duke 91, North Carolina St.
61

2003

Thu
Jan 2

(209)
UMass
68, North Carolina St.
56

Sat
Jan 11

(76)
Georgia Tech 85, North Carolina
St. 61

Thu
Jan 16

(49)
Boston College 93,
w:st=”on”>North Carolina St. 81

Thu
Jan 30

(37)
Maryland
75, North Carolina St.
60

Thu
Feb 6

(7)
Wake Forest 73,
w:st=”on”>North Carolina St. 58

Sat
Feb 15

(88)
Temple 76,
w:st=”on”>North Carolina St.
54

Sat
Feb 22

(12)
Duke 79, North Carolina St.
68

2004

Thu
Jan 15

(1)
Duke 76, North Carolina St.
57

2005

Thu
Dec 30

(165)
St. John’s
63, North Carolina St.
45

Sun
Jan 2

(34)
West Virginia
82, North Carolina St.
69

Thu
Jan 13

(4)
Duke 86, North Carolina St.
74

Thu
Feb 3

(6)
North Carolina
95, North Carolina St.
71

Thu
Feb 10

(7)
Wake Forest 86,
w:st=”on”>North Carolina St. 75

Tue
Feb 22

(6)
North Carolina
81, North Carolina St.
71

Observations
1) The bad losses (by whichever definition you prefer) are spread throughout the season. There is no basis for claiming that the “eggs�? are only laid in the early part of the season. (This pretty much already proves that State doesn’t always finish strong.)

2) IMO, the Great Herb Debate (GHD) raged hotter during 2003 and 2005. While the GHD certainly existed in 2002 and 2004 (and even earlier), the unexpected wins in those two years cooled the flames somewhat. My purpose in mentioning the GHD was not to fuel the debate, but to point out that the loudest complaining appears directly tied to bad losses ….Imagine that!

3) Over this four year stretch, the most losses to bad teams (both RPI 50+ and RPI 100+) occurred in 2005. Yet another inconvenient fact that flies in the face of those who love to cry about steady improvement.

4) I am not really interested in debating the margin of victory/defeat statistics. This number can be misleading in too many cases. I was just curious to know what the data would look like, so I included the table here for anyone who is interested.

FINISHING STRONG
I have compiled the results thru the last 10 games of the regular season, thru the ACC tourney, and thru any post-season tourney that State played in. If State usually finishes strong, then there should be some evidence of this trend in the won/loss records.

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Record Over The Last 10 Games Thru

Year

Reg Season

ACCT

NCAAT

NIT

1997

5-5

7-3

7-3

1998

4-6

4-6

5-5

1999

5-5

5-5

4-6

2000

3-7

2-8

5-5

2001

3-7

3-7

2002

5-5

6-4

5-5

2003

4-6

5-5

5-5

2004

7-3

6-4

5-5

2005

5-5

6-4

6-4

Years with Significant Trends

1997
Herb’s first year looked a lot like the Les years until just before the end of the regular season. After winning 4 of 5 to end the regular season, State beat Georgia Tech, Duke, and Maryland in the ACC tournament before falling to Carolina in the Finals. I think that this stretch of basketball is arguably Herb’s finest at State. I can’t think of another example where a coach has done more with less.

2000
At the half-way point of the ACC season, State was sitting pretty at 15-4 overall and 5-3 in the conference. History suggested that three more ACC wins would secure State a position in the NCAA tourney for the first time since Les’s first year. State then proceeded to go on a seven-game conference losing streak to limp into the NIT once again.

Three wins in the NIT did little to ease the disappointment of the losing streak and missing the NCAA tourney. IMO (humble but accurate), the seeds of the GHD were sown during this losing streak. Those seeds blossomed ugly and loud during the disaster that was the 2001 season when State didn’t even qualify for the NIT.

2004
A five-game winning streak in February was topped off with a win against Duke. The streak stopped several days later at Clemson of all places. Starting with the Clemson loss, State played .500 ball for the remainder of the year. The ACC tourney ended with a record-breaking collapse against Maryland and the NCAA tourney ended even more abruptly against Vanderbilt.

2005
After a 3-9 stretch of horrible basketball that stretched out over six weeks, State’s chances of making the NCAA tourney were grim (to say the least). Then a really bizarre trend began. Starting with a nail-biting win against Georgia Tech, State ended the year by winning two games and then losing one…and then repeating this pattern three more times. While the records over the last 10 games don’t really show a hot streak, State did finish the year strong by winning 8 of the last 12 games.

CONCLUSION
I think that the myth of finishing strong started when State upset the #1 seed in the ACC tourney two years in a row (2002 & 2003). However it takes a lot more than just two big victories in two years to actually qualify as consistently finishing strong. (Just as a side note, those two ACCT wins were two of the four wins against teams that made the NCAA tourney during the 2002 and 2003 seasons.) So, let’s put an end to the myth of finishing strong. It sure is nice when it happens, but it hasn’t happened often enough to start depending on it…or talking about it incessantly.

About VaWolf82

Engineer living in Central Va. and senior curmudgeon amongst SFN authors One wife, two kids, one dog, four vehicles on insurance, and four phones on cell plan...looking forward to empty nest status. Graduated 1982

General NCS Basketball

57 Responses to Finishing Strong

  1. PACDADDY 12/18/2005 at 3:57 AM #

    I’m not sure where the “bad losses” fall into the context of the point you’re trying to make, but whatever…Those were bad losses…8 of those 13 were in conference and I won’t go into the reason many of them occured.
    Just to be an a$#@!..I’ll point out GW had 11 “bad Losses” during this same period. Per Greenfield RPI

    Anyhoo…to the point of your post…finishing strong…don’t you have to look at what happened prior to the last ten games and judge the competition before your can come to a conclusion? Or are you suggesting that simply looking at our record is indication enough. You make it sound like, all the other upper level wins finish with 8-1 records.

    2005…2-4 first 6 ACC games…5-5 last ten
    2004…4-2 first 6 ACC games…7-3 last ten
    2003…5-3 first 8 ACC games… Lost to Temple and finished 4-4 and ACC Championship game should indicate a strong finish.
    2002…5-2 first 7 games… Beat Temple and went 4-5 in ACC and ACC tourney Championship game should indidcate strong finish.

    My conclusion would be we finished strong in last 10 games. ACC tourney runs indicate strong finishes. I’ve dicussed this so much it’s not even funny. Have you ever done the research to see how many times UVA, FSU, CLEM, MARY, GT and WF have actually been to the ACC Championship game in the last 20 years? That would be an interesting post. Just how hard is it just to make the final game? Guess how many times Clemson has made it the the ACC final. How about WF? I give Cremins props for what he did.

    Anyway…we can talk about how we have no banners and thats all that matters, but just getting to the game in an accomplishment…but no banners

    NCAA tourney…OK…we lost to Vandy in a cluster F– ending…we lost to Cal in OT(if I remember right)…we lost to UConn on a final shot…and we fell apart against Wisconsin in second half after looking brilliant in 1st…it happens. That’s why it’s called March Madness.

    The 2000 season was awful…Thorton was killing it, then hurt his hand and was never the same. That was the main reason for our downfall. He was leading the ACC in FG % until the injury. I think that happened in the Maryland comeback.

    Your entry was excellent VA…I agree with your main point. We can’t depend on strong finishes…we need to take care of business throughout the year. I’m just giving you a hard time…peace

  2. VaWolf82 12/18/2005 at 8:30 AM #

    As a general note to all, when you type something like %$#!, don’t include the ampersand symbol. This gets put into the post as if it were an e-mail address.

  3. VaWolf82 12/18/2005 at 8:41 AM #

    The bad losses were intended to address one of the two statements often said in Nov-Jan….State starts slow and lays a few eggs early in the season. State’s “eggs” are not limited to the early part of the year. Therefore, State fans shouldn’t keep repeating the same inaccurate crap over and over again.

    don’t you have to look at what happened prior to the last ten games and judge the competition before your can come to a conclusion?

    Not when you play in the ACC and are headed to the NCAAT. If you finish strong in the ACC, then that has real meaning. After the first round of the NCAAT, you generally won’t find any patsies left to play. You need to be playing well and beating good teams before starting on the NCAA tourney.

    State has headed into the NCAAT playing roughly .500 ball three times. State’s record was 2-3 in the NCAAT over those three years. The only time State entered the NCAAT after finishing “strong”, they made the S-16. It looks to me like my definition of finishing strong has some meaning.

  4. VaWolf82 12/18/2005 at 8:42 AM #

    Oh and my main point was to get State fans to quit repeating the same myths over and over again.

  5. PACDADDY 12/18/2005 at 12:24 PM #

    The other side says we were a bubble team until the end(even you)…Should you quit suggesting we weren’t a bubble team until our mini run’s at the end of season? How did we scrape into the NCAA if the perception of us from the committee wasn’t us finishing strong? Personally, I think the committee is smart enough to see how difficult it actually is to make ACC championship game.

    Can I assume you’ll come up with an entry that will trash the myth that we didn’t have to scramble at end of year to make the tourney? Which is it?

    Slightly better than 50% in the ACC is finishing strong in most years…ask V.

  6. Jeff 12/18/2005 at 1:24 PM #

    ^ Don’t fall for it, guys!! Don’t fall for it.

    Of course, there are multiple, incorrect, ridiculous, and unrelated presumptions, assumptions, conclusions, and myths included in there. Leave it alone. It will become groundhog day, again. Discuss the information from the entry. NOT all of the wacko conclusions that the entry may take some to.

    I, personally, appreciated the work of the entry.

    I think that the myth of State “finishing strong” was built in Sendek’s first 4 or 5 years. IMHO, it grew out of the ‘proportional improvement’ that we had in the second part of the season from the first part. What people failed to acknowledge was that the reason that the 2nd part of the season looked like such an improvement was because the first part of the season was SO BAD.

    In one of Herb’s first years, I remember being something like 0-8 in the first part of the ACC and then 4-4 in the 2nd half. Add that to the first year ACC Tournament run and you get a recipe for a myth that lasts a long time.

    (See how EASY it was to stay on topic of the actual entry and not end up discussing an author’s agenda, Jimmy V, a made up comparison to Gary Williams, etc, etc, etc?)

  7. VaWolf82 12/18/2005 at 1:28 PM #

    Slightly better than 50% in the ACC is finishing strong in most years…ask V.

    Herb is no V. V never said that finishing at .500 was his goal or that it constituted finishing strong. His oft-stated goal was to finish .500 in the regular season and then win the ACC tournament. With 2 ACC tournaments, 2 Final Eights, and a national championship. V delivered on his post-season goals. For those that have lost count, Herb has 1 S-16.

  8. VaWolf82 12/18/2005 at 1:45 PM #

    The other side says we were a bubble team until the end(even you)…Should you quit suggesting we weren’t a bubble team until our mini run’s at the end of season?

    This one you can’t blame on me. State has been on every talking head’s bubble list since 2002….with the exception of 2004. As someone else said, you can put lipstick on a pig, but……

  9. PACDADDY 12/18/2005 at 3:12 PM #

    Everything I wrote in response to this “myth” is simple logic. If we’re a bubble team as you always say(and it’s true), then don’t we have to finish strong(percieved) to be selected as a NCAA team?

    I guess we should define “finishing strong”, while we’re rewriting websters dictionary. We’ll include “competitive”…”expect”…etc.

    THe V comment was the truth…look it up! I understand the success V had in post season and in his carreer…my only point was a 50% record in the ACC doesn’t mean you’re not successful.

  10. Jeff 12/18/2005 at 3:18 PM #

    V also never had the value of Florida State’s presence in the conference (or Miami or Virginia Tech).

    Herb Sendek’s regular season ACC record = 62-82 (43%)

    Herb Sendek’s regular season ACC record (without FSU) = 50-77 (39%)

    Looks to me like being .500 should be Sendek’s goal, too!!

    Damn you!!! There I go….

  11. VaWolf82 12/18/2005 at 3:38 PM #

    VA …who wrote this?
    Don’t worry about it, that post was deleted (site admin?) and I just deleted our responses to it. Sorry that it looked like you had written it.

    Everything I wrote in response to this “myth� is simple logic. If we’re a bubble team as you always say(and it’s true), then don’t we have to finish strong(percieved) to be selected as a NCAA team?

    “Finishing Strong” is the opposite of “Stumbling Down the Stretch”. Then there is the great in-between. (Amazing how often we find Herb and State there.) I would submit that State’s “finish” was neither a help nor a hindrence most years….and a keynote win in the ACC tourney (WF twice and MD once) tipped the scales in State’s favor.

    Last year State had two things in their favor….a strong finish and a key-note win in the ACCT. With a 7-9 conference record and a bad OOC schedule, it may have well taken both.

    To fall on the right side of the bubble depends on two things….. How your team does and how all of the other bubble teams do. There is no set performance standard…..what’s set is the number of teams. I would submit that there are too many variables to conclude that the Selection Committee thought that State finished strong in ’02 and ’03.

  12. rick 12/18/2005 at 4:08 PM #

    “Anyhoo…to the point of your post…finishing strong…don’t you have to look at what happened prior to the last ten games and judge the competition before your can come to a conclusion?”

    This is the main problem I have with the supporters. They know that Herb’s numbers are bad. They are what they are. So in orde to support him they have to throw in qualifiers. They have to make excuses for why he cannot accomplish what he is being paid to accomplish.

  13. PACDADDY 12/18/2005 at 8:59 PM #

    Fair enough VA….I buy that

    Rick…no..no..no..you see..all the numbers I care about at this point is top 25 finishes, competing for ACC championships and NCAA. The rest will take care of itself.

    I don’t have to come up with all these creative entires to make the program look good. All I have to do is say look at what is happening.

    “V also never had the value of Florida State’s presence in the conference (or Miami or Virginia Tech). “.

    I don’t buy the ACC was stronger in 80′s argument…There’s be highs and lows in both decades. The 90′s had a higher winning % against major conferences than the 80′s(60% to 56%)

  14. Jeff 12/18/2005 at 10:23 PM #

    ^ Hell, that difference in winning percentage can be attributed just to Herb Sendek’s weak OOC for the whole conference. :-)

  15. packbackers 12/18/2005 at 11:01 PM #

    Rick, you say Herb Sendek is not doing what he is being paid to accomplish. Can you define exactly what he is being paid to accomplish?

  16. DRO 12/19/2005 at 9:18 AM #

    ^I will answer this one with a quote of my own from a previous post:

    “Herb makes a lot of money, more than me and more than most people that post here probably. Why is he paid this money? Is it to be a great guy and make the world a better place? Heck no. His #1 job, and don’t be so naive as to not believe this, is to make money for the University. He is an investment for NC State, and his returns are based on wins/losses, national prominence in basketball, tournaments, ticket sales, memorabilia sales, and alumni support.”

    I do not doubt that the NC State basketball team makes the University money. I also know the problem is not with ticket sales or alumni support. However I think that national prominence in bball, tournament success, memorabilia sales (which relies on the other two), and sometimes win/losses are the items that need improvement.

  17. Rick 12/19/2005 at 10:18 AM #

    “Rick, you say Herb Sendek is not doing what he is being paid to accomplish. Can you define exactly what he is being paid to accomplish?”
    Maybe I mispoke. He IS being paid (by Fowler) to keep his nose clean. He SHOULD be paid to win championships.

  18. Class of '74 12/19/2005 at 10:22 AM #

    He should be paid to hang meaningful banners. Maybe this will be the year he hangs one finally and we can all be happy.

  19. Jeff 12/19/2005 at 12:36 PM #

    “Can you define exactly what he is being paid to accomplish?”

    We’ve ALL been asking Lee Fowler to do that for five years. That’s the f’ing problem…nobody DEFINES what we are trying to achieve. Then, when they start to dabble in setting expectations, the expectations are (1) too low, (2) far too subjective, and (3) change each year with need for convenient excuses.

    Heck, just look at your own “expectations”

    “all the numbers I care about at this point is top 25 finishes, competing for ACC championships and NCAA.”

    Top 25 finishes in SUBJECTIVE POLLS (since we have only finished in the Top 25 of the computer ONCE in NINE YEARS).

    And “competing” for ACC Championships and NCAA. Oh brother. Subjectively defined “competing” is the goal and the standard? So sad.

  20. Rick 12/19/2005 at 2:36 PM #

    It is the only way they can find a way to justify keeping Herb. Low and ambiguous standards.

  21. PACDADDY 12/19/2005 at 11:01 PM #

    Jeff…come on…The “subjective ” polls are far more valid than the RPI at the end of the year. Most voters probably look at the RPI when placing their votes, then look at the intangibles that affect a season. Many factors are not included in the RPI. BTW..Greensfield had us at 27th last season, 11th 2 seasons ago and 25th 4 years ago.

    Injuries during the season can greatly affect the RPI. Home Team A plays and beats Team B without key player. Team B gets players back towards middle of season and wins many games. It artifically brings teams A rating up when they may have not beaten team B with injured player. It also doesn’t consider the the player Team B lost douring the games he didn’t play. Now…I understand that the polls usually don’t consider injuries and these factors during a course of the season, but the human element comes into play when injuried player returns, and team performs at hogh level at end of year. The opposite can accure if the last gets injuried at end of season and they lose games down stretch. Even the NCAA consider this when they seed the teams. Does your RPI consider NCAA runs at end of season? Does it consider home and away calculations? Some do…some don’t. I know many different RPI’s contain different varibles in it’s calculations…that’s why the rankings vary…doesn’t that make them “subjective” in a sense, because these formula are based on what the person actually puts a priority on within the formula. I haven’t studied this at all…so if you can clear these issues up to me, my mind is open…believe it or not.

    Ignoring the FACTS that 1)… 4 programs(NCSU, UNC, GT, DUKE) in ACC have “competed” in the ACC tourney Championship game more than twice in 20 years, is a complete disregard of the difficulty of making the final game. Herb did it within a 7 year span, and should have been a 4th.

    Consider in the last 40 frickin years…WF 3 times(Duncan/2)…UVA has been there 6 times(Sampson/2 and Wally Walker/2)…Clemson 0…Maryland 8(3 years straight in 70′s…No Championship during period)..FSU 0…that significant and not subjective.

    Ignoring facts Jeff doesn’t make them less significant. In fact…this would be a good topic for this blog.

    FACT…if it’s such a no-brainer as to how insignificant a ACC championship game is….why so few teams have competed in it? You’d think Barnes could have made it once…it took him how long to win the tourney in the Big 12???? FIRST YEAR WASN’T IT?

  22. Class of '74 12/20/2005 at 6:30 AM #

    ^your “facts” are wrong again. UVA has been in the championship game 2 times since 1990. Both 1990 and 1994. Through the years many lesser teams have made the final game which I do not see as meaningful. Winning the tournament IS meaningful.

  23. Rick 12/20/2005 at 9:24 AM #

    Thank you for making my point.
    It is impossible to make Herb’s accomplishments look like anything. So we celebrate the 2nd place finishes.

  24. VaWolf82 12/20/2005 at 9:31 AM #

    Ignoring the FACTS that 1)… 4 programs(NCSU, UNC, GT, DUKE) in ACC have “competed� in the ACC tourney Championship game more than twice in 20 years, is a complete disregard of the difficulty of making the final game. Herb did it within a 7 year span, and should have been a 4th.

    No one is ignoring the facts….there is just disagreement over the significance of the facts. Everyone knows how people talk about the Minnesota Vikings, Buffalo Bills, Denver Broncos (until Elway’s last two years), and the Atlanta Braves……can’t win the big one. That’s just the way sports is…..there is not much recognition for second place.

    Over the last 10-15 years, there has been a subtle shift in the way that the Final Four is talked about. There is alot more “attention” given to these teams and to coaches who make the Final Four multiple times. However most of the time, second place is just the last loser.

    Here’s a fact for you PD, every NC State coach since the formation of the ACC was won the ACC tournament within their first three years in the conference….except for two. In fact, these two coaches have never won the ACC tournament. Care to guess which two?

    In 2002 and 2003, State beat the #1 seed in the ACC tournament. Last year, State beat the #2 seed. These are a big wins….but one big win in the ACCT can certainly not be considered “finishing strong.”

  25. PACDADDY 12/20/2005 at 11:29 AM #

    74…I said more than twice..last time I checked 2 times, isn’t more than 2.

    Rick…bottom line…you got to play in the ACC final in order to compete for it. You people can pick your numbers and hold on to them..I don’t care…but minimizing the accomplishments of the coach of the program you’re suppose to support is down right foolish.

    I love it when people bring up the Vikings and Bills into these discussions…VA…this discussion is about accomplishment and competing. SImply by making a Superbowl is an accomplishment. ANd it’s competing at highest level.

    You’re comparing Herb’s situation to the other NCSU coaches VA?..you talk about no motives in your analysis and you bring that in to the equation.

    I simply said top 25 finishes, competing for ACC championship(WHICH PLAYING IN THE FRICKIN GAME IS COMPETEING FOR CHAMPIONSHIP), and NCAA is all I care about at this time…the rest will take care of itself.

    You guys….and your great wisdom. First you critize the frickin Final poll as being subjective, claim final game is insignificant(regardless of facts), and then have the nerve to bring up how long it took V and others to win an ACC CC…what a joke

    Ever heard of the Les Robinson invitational? Or did you forget about that?

    This is a lost cause…you guys are clearly confused as to where your loyalities should lie.

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