I hate to say it, and it makes me mad as hell to do so. But 2007-08 must be written off as a “learning year” for Sidney Lowe. Despite being an ACC school with all the institutional infrastructure needed to win, NC State is employing yet another head coach who has to learn on the job. After last night, there’s really no room for debate.
Go back to our post from a few weeks back, where we made clear that the offseason was handled very poorly:
It is time to call it as we see it — I honestly believe that the members of this program could not have done less in the offseason to prepare for the 2007-2008 Basketball season and everyone involved in NC State Basketball from Lee Fowler to the student manager owes Wolfpack Nation a huge apology.
I said it multiple times in the early season and I don’t understand how so many people in the media and on the internet don’t grasp it as they continue to wait for a big change &/or predict a turnaround. Our problems are fundamentally systemic. There is NO SWITCH to flip here to get things fixed. Players don’t just have epiphanies and start playing exponentially better when your problems include significant breakdowns of fundamentals like not playing defense, not boxing out/rebounding, not being able to shoot, not having a point guard or an offensive system that flows. We SUCK at the basic things that a team must do to compete in COLLEGE basketball.
More specifically, we told you:
At the start of this season I spoke with a few folks who are historically close to our program and two specifc comments in struck a chord with me at the time.
The first comment was related to conditioning (or the lack thereof). One gentleman shared that he “hadn’t seen bodies this out of shape on an NC State team since his relationship started with Coach Robinson almost 20 years ago.”
I knew what he meant the moment the team stepped on the court against William & Mary in November and it has manifested itself during the season. I have rarely seen a college team look more lethargic, slow, and disengaged than what we are witnessing this year.
…A poster on Pack Pride’s message boards astutely commented today “If you look at the muscle definition on the UNC and Clemson players and then look at our guys, you will see the difference. Other teams pay the price in the weight room. We clearly do not. Our guys, with the exception of Hickson and Tracy, physically look like a pick up squad of off-work bankers.”
Last week, I laid out a scenario to get to 8-8. Presently, one section is particularly relevant – it addresses the 50/50 road games left on our schedule. All 3 games are against inferior teams on a talent basis, that don’t present bad matchups. Here’s what I said:
Getting 2 out of 3 here would be huge, and probably necessary. Let me clarify what I mean by inferior – on a neutral court, I would expect NC State to be favored against all 3. Of course, if we play poorly (like we did in the home matchup against Wake), all bets are off. But I like our roster better than each opponent’s, and there are no bad matchups for us (no great outside shooting or multiple, dynamic guards).
If Fells can shut down or at least suppress Rice, Singletary, and Teague – then State is better at the other positions. I also expect momentum and motive to work in NC State’s favor – Boston College is in freefall, and Virginia is showing signs of weariness (due to their coach being a raving lunatic in the mold of his asshole mentor, Jim Calhoun). These two also have a somewhat lackluster home-court advantage. BC is worse than their record indicates, and UVA is better (3 of their ACC losses have come in overtime).
I haven’t changed my mind about BC – they are worse than their record indicates. I still think they only have one good player. But note my caveat – if Fells can shut down or at least supress Rice.
In what can only be described as a bizarre decision, Lowe decided to task his undersized, true freshman PG with guarding Rice. By the second TV timeout, Rice had eleven points. I suppose Fells guarded whichever stiff the Eagles had on the court at SG. There was no rational reason to expect this to work. And anyone could see, that it wasn’t working. But aside from a handful of first half minutes when Grant guarded him, Lowe stubbornly left Javi and MJ to deal with Rice. Naturally, he went on to tie his career high of 32 points, accounting for 39% of BC’s scoring (not counting assists related to shaking off Javi and forcing the defense to rotate). Even if Fells was destined to play in a haze, Rice at least couldn’t have shot over him at will.
Last night was a microcosm of the many problems within the program. Guys take plays, or even whole games off. Sid shakes his head in frustration (Note to Sid – that won’t accomplish squat) – he doesn’t seem to know what to do. I don’t know if it’s a question of preparation, motivation, or both. But it is Sid’s job to fix it. And it sucks to waste an entire (once promising) season because our coach isn’t ready and is learning on the job.
But our situation is what it is. There’s no way anyone should remotely consider tossing Sid (or any coach) overboard in their first two years of a rebuilding situation. It would be unfair, expensive, and definitely make our program look bad. We hired a guy who has to learn – so let’s see if he can do it. That does not mean SFN is handing out free passes. Writing off one year for “learning” is all that I’m willing to do. We need to see evidence of maturation in three categories next year. The mileposts are difficult, but necessary.
1) Significant Objective Improvement Next Year, Despite Losing Our Two Best Players. Yes, this is a tall order – but that’s just too bad. Another bad season means defining NC State as a losing program. An NCAAT bid would meet this criteria, maybe less than that if we earn an A+ for item #2 below.
2) Consistent Effort on Both Ends of the Floor. That likely requires more sticks and fewer carrots. This isn’t the NBA, where the players make more than you and have to be handled with velvet gloves. Guys that don’t want to play hard for 40 minutes should sit on the bench, then be forced out of the program. Despite what I’ve written above, I’m not trying to micromanage here – whatever motivational strategy Sid wants to use is fine with me. As long as it works. He has to figure that out starting with the 2008-09 season.
3) Sign Top Ten Class for 2009. This class must include a superstar, ready from Day One PG (likely Wall, other targets may exist) and another dominant player, such as Favors or Brown. The talent level on the roster is Les Robinson-caliber without a stud class for 2009. More role players aren’t going to cut it. You need multiple stars and a top-notch PG to have any shot to win in the ACC.
That’s pretty much it. Let us know your thoughts.