I think yesterday’s Wolfpack effort against the Miami Hurricanes was hilariously (and sadly accurately) summed up by the @Lee_Folwer Twitter account:
well, state could have saved us all a bunch of trouble today by just going ahead and buying a postage stamp.
— Coach L Folwer (@Lee_Folwer) March 1, 2014
In hindsight, yesterday’s home loss to Miami was a microcosm of a set of consistent weaknesses that have plagued the first three years of Mark Gottfried’s tenure in Raleigh. Please note, this isn’t meant to be a critical entry or referendum on Gottfried; this is simply honest and accurate analysis of what we are seeing and have seen on the court. I fully recognize that we have to take the good with the bad in everyone and am not proposing that the bad outweighs the good with Gottfried. I also recognize that the 2013-2014 Wolfpack is very young and the future of the program appears very bright when you couple this squad with the new pieces that will be eligible next season (Lacy, Abu and the Martin twins). However, this basketball program is going to have a problem hitting up against a ceiling that is lower than we all wish if we can’t get some habitual problems extricated from our culture and practices.
The following three deficiencies proved themselves as major factors in yesterday’s embarrassing 15 point home loss to 5-10 Miami and have also consistently lacked over the last three years:
(1) DEFENSE – coming into yesterday’s game Miami had the 347th ranked scoring offenses in the country. Folks, there are only 351 teams who play Division One Basketball. How many times have we (sadly) had to make the observation that “someone is always having record games against us?” Unfortunately, that observation usually has some truth to it, and yesterday’s loss was a perfect example. The N&O shared the following specifics, “The Canes bested their season average (60.9) by 25 points. They scored 48 in the second half alone, which is more than they had in a home loss (67-46) to Duke on Jan. 22. Led by Brown and freshman guard Manu Lecomte (15 points), the Canes shot a blistering 68.2 percent in the second half and 58.7 for the game. They came in last in the ACC and 321st in the country in FG percentage (40.9).”
(2) MENTAL toughness and focus – Go figure, a let down after a fantastic effort? Have we seen that movie in the last three years? Heck have seen that movie in the last two WEEKS with Syracuse followed by Clemson? How about a win at Notre Dame followed by a 30+ loss AT HOME to Virginia? I recognize that this is a young team…but, yesterday’s game was AT HOME.
(3) Late game COLLAPSES – You probably could put this in the bucket of ‘mental toughness and focus’, but the particularly painful way that NC State lets leads slip away and folds at the end of games deserves its own category. Whether it is poor free throw shooting in the clutch, untimely turnovers, inappropriate use of timeouts or other errors in execution (some, admittedly, led by having to unfairly overcome poor officiating) , this trend couldn’t be more painful; and in many cases more controllable. How many times would NC State have won close games if someone had just hit one more free throw? In just the last three months losses to North Carolina Central, Missouri, at Wake Forest, at Syracuse and vs UNC-CH were literally pissed away in an instant with inexplicable collapses. Heck, that doesn’t even include the 17(?) point lead we held on Pittsburgh to only be outscored by almost THIRTY POINTS in just about thirty minutes of play AT HOME.
Today is actually a weird day for Coach Gottfried and for NC State fans. When you think about it – today literally marks the very first day since Gottfried was announced as head coach at NC State that the Wolfpack didn’t have a legitimate chance of participating in the next NCAA Tournament with performance that is/was realistically within our reach. To reach the Big Dance in 2014 it looks like the Pack will need win at Pitt and at Boston College and then probably win three games in the ACC Tournament (depending on how other bubble team’s perform). One thing is for sure, without better defense, mental toughness and execution late in games we will be having more days like this in the future.
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