I decided to hold my thoughts on State’s ACC tourney performance until it was all over (and since I had stuff going on last night, I waited until today). So here goes:
1) State’s half-court defense against Clemson and Florida State was as good as I’ve seen us play in many, many years. Even against Georgia Tech, it was pretty good (although the Bees shot themselves in the foot on offense frequently, as did the Pack). This is both good and bad. It’s good because solid defensive work is the foundation for sustainable success. Good defensive teams don’t go, say, 2-10 during any stretch of conference play anywhere. And I firmly believe that pretty much any D-1 player can be at least an adequate defender with effort, coaching, and proper positioning (which is in reality a combo of effort and coaching). So, that does give me some semblance of hope. But here’s the flip side – why the hell did it take so long to start playing this kind of defense? And can we reasonably expect a strong, consistent defensive effort next year, or will 2010-11 be similarly frustrating?
2) Basketball IQ remains a significant problem for NC State. It didn’t show up so much in rounds 1 and 2 (at least not fatally so), but it sure as hell did in the semifinals. The only player that shows consistent game and situational awareness is Tracy Smith. I don’t mind losing to a team that plays a really good game, but I do hate losing one to a team playing as badly and sloppily as GT yesterday. State’s heart was in the right place, but its collective mind was not. And that’s a significant problem that can’t be swept under the rug just because we are happy with the improved play over the last 3 weeks.
3) On any given night, anything can happen with teams 2-12 in this year’s ACC. Gary Williams made lots of chicken salad out of chicken shit in 2009-2010. But his Terps also lost to Bill & Mary at home, and lost their ACCT opener despite Georgia Tech predictably doing everything in its power to try and give the game away. As I’ve said all year, this year’s ACC is the land of the blind, and Duke is the one-eyed king. Speaking of those Devils, they’ve looked awful all weekend, struggling to get past UVA sans Landesberg and Miami sans Collins. I fully expect them to massacre GT today, but Duke fans should be very alarmed. Without a much better performance next week (admittedly, the Devils are capable of much better play), Duke will be a first weekend casualty. Count on it.
4) It’s counter-intuitive to say this about a team playing for the ACC title today, but I really don’t feel good about my program if I’m a GT fan. They have raw talent galore. But this is, frankly, as stupid a team as I’ve watched play in a long, long time. And the semifinal game against NC State has to be among the most poorly played tournament semifinals of all time (it reminded me of the Wake/State NIT semifinal during the Sendek era). But fortunately for the Jackets, somebody had to win Saturday’s game. But I sure as hell don’t expect much out of them come NCAAT time. And I don’t expect anything to change as long as Paul Hewitt remains at the helm.
5) Conference tournament play is just fun, damn it. Even though the level of play Saturday wasn’t good, it was still exciting to watch and I enjoyed having State being a part of things for 3 consecutive days. Thanks for the entertainment, guys.
6) Anyone who believes the NCAAT field should expand to 96 is certifiably insane. There aren’t 8 “wrong side of the bubble” teams that have any legitimate argument for inclusion, let alone 32. Even in a good year, there are seldom more than 2 or 3 legitimate “snubs.” Don’t fix what isn’t broken, and the gambling-friendly 64-team bracket (after play-in game) qualifies. Teams on the outside looking in always have a late-season shot at redemption – it’s called the conference tournament. Win it like San Diego State, or take your best shot and come up a bit short like Miami, Illinois, or NC State. Each team has a fair shot, and each team’s post-season fate is equitable.