If nothing else, this should beÂ therapeuticÂ for NC State fans after last night’s 75-66 loss to Boston College.
Sidney Lowe finds himself in mid-season at 11-5. Â This isn’t necessarily a terrible record (well… it is sort of) unless you consider that our largest winning streak has been a 5-win streak over teams with mostly RPIs of above 200. Â Actually, as of last night, the average RPI of teams we have defeated has been 240.9. Â Let that soak in for a second. Â Now consider that in the ACC, only one team has an RPI worse than 240.9: Wake Forest. Â Funny how that works out. Â I fully recognize that RPI rankings have poor fidelity until later in the season (please see some of the outstanding work by VaWolf82), but this does give us an indicator of the type of opponent NC State is capable of defeating.
Sidney Lowe, to date, has an overall winning percentage of 0.550. Â In NC State’s history, only one coach has coached worse than Lowe, Les Robinson at 0.443. Note that there is only a 20% difference between Les’ figures compared to Lowe’s. Â Similarly, Sidney Lowe’s ACC winning percentage is 0.318. Â Again, all ACC coaches, besides Les, have risen above this mark. Â Here is a rough table of coaches, their overall winning percentages and ACC winning percentages.
Note that previous to the circumstances surrounding 1990, NC State was always at least 50% or better over ACC foes. Â Since then, NC State as struggled to keep up. Â Sidney Lowe isn’t so much an isolated problem as much as he is a continuation of non-competitiveness against our conference rivals since the departure of Jimmy Valvano.
The problems with Lowe’s squads have been legion, but so far fans have been willing to give Lowe the benefit of the doubt for multiple seasons.
His first season was, all things considered, not too shabby. Â He was a new coach with “decent” players (a few great ones) and managed to finish at 20-16, make the ACC Championship game, and making the NIT Quarter Finals. Â While this was a step down from the previous year, it was expected and to an extent, excusable. Â The one aspect of Lowe’s first season that many did not consider is the easy schedule that was grandfathered in by years of scheduling powder puffs in the 200+ range of the RPI rankings. Â If we had played Year 1 with Year 5’s schedule, I doubt NC State would have found itself with 20 wins, in the NIT, but probably still would have made the ACC championship game (since NC State already had no momentum going into March).
Potential Excuse: It’s his first season. Â He’s never been an NCAA head coach before so you can’t expect him to come in and win a National Championship on day one.
Sidney Lowe managed only 15-16 (4-12) and was eliminated in the first round of the ACC tournament. Â Again, many people excused this due to the personality issues facing the team with a new coach andÂ abrasiveÂ situations between Lowe and Grant. Â The conference record was only 1 win short of the previous season, so again my question would be how much ease of OOC schedule played into Year 1’s favor (as well as coaching carry-over from the previous coach).
Potential Excuse: He’s still learning and having to manage personalities that were recruited by a different coach. Â When there is strife inside the team, it’s always going to be hard to win. Â Lowe is also having to completely change the team from the Sendek-esqe offense to a faster-paced style of ball. Â Give it time.
Widely regarded as a complete Charlie Foxtrot season, Sidney managed only one win better overall (16-14) and finished with his career conference high (6-10). Â Consider that Sendek’s career high record was 11-5 (Thank you Julius Hodge). Â Robinson’s was 8-6, Valvano’s was 10-4, and Norm Sloan, in 2 years, went 12-0. Â This represents one of the statistical categories in which Lowe holds the lead for worst coach in NC State history.
Potential Excuse: Hey, he had a bad season. Â This is his third year of experience as an NCAA coach and he made some mistakes. Â The previous seasons weren’t REALLY his fault, so we should give him this season as a mulligan.
Lowe’s fourth season saw glimmers of hope. Â For the second time, Lowe was able to win 20 games, but finished the regular season one ACC win short of his previous year. Â So what do you take from that? Â NC State “ran off” Sendek because he couldn’t beat ACC opponents above that 50% mark the way all of his pre-1990 predecessors had, so it is difficult to say whether this is a good sign that Lowe was improving to win 20 games a season, or a bad sign that he still couldn’t produce in the ACC. Â What is even more concerning is that after an impressive win over National Champions DUKE, Lowe went on a 1-7 losing spree only managing to defeat an OOC opponent, NC Central. Â Sidney Lowe, in his fourth season with by-in-large “his players” could achieve a 20 win season, but without making any noise in the ACC.
For reference, when Sendek had at least 20 wins or more, he was tacking on around 8.5 conference wins a season (slightly better than 50%). Â Again, we (rightfully) “pushed out” Sendek for not being able to breech a mediocre level of ACC success, compared to his predecessors, and Lowe has yet to even achieve 50% mediocrity.
Luckily, Sid had his 20 win season and a top rated recruiting class coming in. Â With Lee Fowler still in charge and a top-rated recruiting class coming in, Lowe’s job was safe for another year. Â Interestingly enough, many fans said we should keep Sid after his fourth year if for no other reason than ensuring Fowler couldn’t lead another botched head coaching search, similar to the one in 2006 that found Sidney Lowe in the first place.
Potential Excuse: Look, we got 20 wins and are heading in the right direction. Â We have AMAZING talent coming in. Â Plus, do you REALLY want Fowler looking for another coach? Â Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt and give him another year.
You’re living it. Â Let’s not relive the terrible defeats and minor, teasing victories of 2010-2011 in blog form.
The bottom line is not that Sidney Lowe can’t still salvage this season into something respectable, but only to point out that Sidney Lowe has a long, long way to go until he can be called anything close to a respectable coach. Still remaining on NC State’s schedule (last night’s RPI inÂ parenthesis) are 2xFSU (90), 2xDuke (5), Miami (33), 2xClemson (113), 2xUNC (20), VT (62), WFU (255), Maryland (115), GT (175), and UVA (143).
Consider that NC State is 0-5 against teams with RPIs of 50 or better and there are only 9 remaining games against teams with RPIs of more than 50. Â If this is any indication of how the season will go, NC State could still go 20-10 (10-6), finish in the top 4 or 5 in the ACC and maybe even hit the NCAA bubble depending on how the ACC tournament goes. Â That’s not necessarily an unrealistic scenario. Â Optimistic, sure, not in no way unrealistic. Furthermore, Lowe’s previous 20 win seasons include wins gained during the ACC tournament. Â This means Lowe could have a 21 or 22 win season in 2010-2011.
NCAA Or Not, Can Lowe REALLY Recover?
Then again, consider that Sidney Lowe is this deep into a hole ofÂ under-achievement. Â Can Sidney Lowe really recover? Â I’ll bring up our previous coach, Herb Sendek, one more time to make a very valid point that all State Fans should ask themselves. Â Sendek had NC State competing for 3rd in the ACC pretty regularly, winning just under 50% in the ACC on average, and making occasionalÂ foraysÂ into to the top 25. Â NC State was so displeased in Herb’sÂ plateauÂ (inability to punch into being once against a dominating program) that we pushed him away to look for a coach with more potential. Â So here is the question: Is Sidney Lowe’s goal to simply not be the worst coach in NC State history and/or to reach the fanbase’s bare minimums each season, or is it to do what Sendek couldn’t do and make NC State a perennial top 25 program once again? If Lowe is able to reach the realistic goal of making it on the NCAA bubble and getting a low tournament seed, I can very easily see Lowe raising his stats to the point that he regularly competes for 3rd in the ACC and has fairly regular 20-win seasons. Â I believe Lowe can reach Herb’s level of success. Â However, given his inconsistent performance and extremely questionable coaching decisions (why the Hell is Harrow getting yanked out of games when he’s hot?!), do NC State fans, and by extension Debbie Yow, honestly think that Sidney Lowe, 0.550 overall and 0.318 in the ACC, can bring NC State to the top of the national heap again? Even if we manage our way into the NCAAT this season, as most people said was Lowe’s minimum requirement this season, does that necessarily mean Lowe is the coach for NC State, knowing what “a coach for NC State” should be expected to do?
I leave you with some of the insightful words of Julius Hodge after last night’s loss to BC: