Different Programs; Different Results Tonight?

On Sunday afternoon, NC State lost 67-66 at the University of Miami, and in the process provided the Hurricanes with their program’s first Atlantic Coast Conference win (in their very first attempt). Tonight, the Wolfpack plays host to the Duke Blue Devils in a pivotal game for the Pack.

If programs’ recent histories provide any kind of harbinger for performance, then the Wolfpack could be in for a tough night tonight against the Blue Devils. Consider that Duke easily holds the title as the Greatest College Basketball Program of the last 20 years. Then consider that Miami has only been playing Division One basketball for 20 years!! (The Hurricane program dropped from Div One in 1971 and re-initiated in the 1984-1985 season). Ouch!

Fortunately for State, individual games are not played against “recent history”. Unfortunately for the folks that run the NC State Basketball Program, overall performance of programs is usually judged using a consolidation of all results.

For Head Coach, Herb Sendek, to lose to a first yearcoach, Frank Haith after having NINE YEARS to establish a prominent program in Raleigh is nothing short of unacceptable and embarrassing. Any direct comparison with the (now 2-0) Haith is only made more painful by Sendek’s 0-8 start in the ACC before garnering his first victory. (Of course, Sendek did not have the luxury of competing against schools that allowed their program to idle for as long as Todd Turner/Les Robinson/Lee Fowler have allowed our program to stall).

To be fair, individual bumps along any road like the loss to Miami are to be expected and should be assessed in context. Unfortunately for Sendek, his unacceptable bumps continue to grow at pace much greater than the pace and performance of his peers no matter what he seems to try.

Miami entered their inaugural ACC season picked last in the conference,…even behind Virginia Tech. The Canes entered Sunday’s game with the Wolfpack ranked #109 in the Ratings Percentage Index. That is actually pretty decent for the Hurricanes who finished #171 and #188 over the last two seasons before firing Coach, Perry Clark and hiring Frank Haith.

Good move for the Canes! Prior to moving to Coral Gables, Haith already had compiled strong recruiting resume…and now, despite playing with a roster that was compiled by recruiting to a 7,000 seat arena and no basketball heritage of which to speak…Haith has already knocked off a program that has had nine years and huge resources (like 19,722 state of the art, sold out basketball arena) to get established.

I don’t need to give you a lesson on Duke’s recent basketball heritage. It is way too painful of an exercise to conduct…especially for anyone over the age of 30 that realizes that a legitimate case could be made that the Wolfpack program was the second most decorated program in the ACC as recently as 1989. Let’s just leave the contrast between Duke and State’s overall programs alone to save the pain.

But the contrast between the way the two programs are dealing with adversity this season speaks volumes about the toughness of the programs.

If you were to venture through the daily webrun and recent of posts from Pack Pride, you will note the constant and incessant mention of some of the “injuries” and sickness that the Wolfpack has battled during its recent slide of losses to St. John’s, West Virginia, and Miami. By what I had been reading, I came to believe that:
(1) Tony Bethel (battling Colitis) is the second coming of David Thompson and I just didn’t know it, and
(2) no other teams in the country battle injuries during the season.

I choose to look into these two issues and I learned a lot of interesting things:
(1) Tony Bethel is NOT the second coming of David Thompson. Additionally…I wonder if we actually “miss” Bethel at all?!

First, I learned some very interesting about basketball – in the absence of any player (like Bethel NC State) the team is still allowed to put a 5th player on the court as opposed to competing with only four.

Secondly, Bethel was shooting a pitiful 35% from the floor, 29% from the 3-point arc, and 69% from the free throw line to average just 7 points a game (to go along with that shooting percentage) prior to his illness. In Sunday’s loss at Miami, NC State shot 50% from three-point range. Since NC State plays a “positionless offense”, Bethel’s presence would taken minutes away from players like Engin Atsur, Andrew Brackman & Ilian Evitmov. Would his 29% 3-point shooting have really “helped” the Pack on Sunday?

Lastly, Tony Bethel didn’t suit up for NC State last year. This is important because the every Wolfpacker who refers to Bethel’s absence as impactful also cites, “last year’s performance” as the reason why this year’s team will ultimately “be fine”. How can Bethel have any basis as an excuse for the optimistic crowd if Bethel never participated in the success upon which they base their optimism?

(2) Other teams actually do also deal with injuries – like Duke. The Blue Devils are currently ranked in the nations Top Five with an undefeated record. Amazingly, they have been able to continue their winning with only one legit post player, Shelden Williams. As the Duke Basketball Report stated today:

Duke is crippled and thin…. After losing Shavlik Randolph to mono and Reggie Love to a foot injury, they’ve largely adapted. DeMarcus Nelson early hand injury is just about history, and he’s regaining his shooting touch to go with his high level of athleticism and his astonishing rebounding. When Randolph comes back, and Love later, Duke will really benefit from the experience gained by these young players

Take away the Pete Gaudet year, and this may be one of Duke’s weakest teams in 15 years. And, they are currently undefeated. Scary.

With Shavlik Randolph and Reggie Love out…the Pack’s thin front court and “positionless offense” matches-up acceptably well with the Devils.

Therefore, the Pack can keep it close and pull the upset if:
(1) we play much better defense than we have seen at any point this year,
(2) Shelden Williams gets in foul trouble and the Devils are forced to rely solely on outside shooting
(3) we get fair officiating

If we get typical Duke officiating, the Devils win by 11 (or more if the Pack quits as has been the case in past Sendek-seasons)

Note: Check the “Comments” URL below this article for more conversation.

General NCS Basketball

4 Responses to Different Programs; Different Results Tonight?

  1. JB34 01/13/2005 at 2:10 PM #

    Not accepting excuses doesn’t seem to end when you leave Durham.

    Check out the article highlighting the injuries and problems that Tommy Amaker is encountering at Michigan —

    Wednesday, January 12, 2005
    Under Amaker, U-M overcomes obstacles and doesn’t complain
    By Rob Parker / The Detroit News

    ANN ARBOR–Michigan basketball coach Tommy Amaker easily could have cried uncle already, and it would have been hard for anyone to blame him.

    After all, he not only lost three starters — Lester Abram, Daniel Horton and Graham Brown — at the start of the season, he also lost to Boston University at Crisler Arena.

    Yes, BU. U-M’s performance was more like PU.

    How embarrassing. It could have been season over, see ya next year.

    That wasn’t the case, though.

    Michigan is again on the NCAA basketball map. Make no mistake. The once-dead program, riddled with scandal, lives again.

    U-M’s upset victory at No. 14 Iowa last Wednesday made many take notice. But there have been other signs along the way that the Wolverines matter.

    In December, they shocked No. 20 Notre Dame.

    In a Preseason NIT semifinal, they lost to Arizona by a point.

    For the most part, Michigan (10-5, 1-0 Big Ten) has been competitive all season. The lone misstep came against No. 4 Georgia Tech. The Wolverines simply got their butts kicked. It happens.

    “Hey, we’re holding on a little bit and I’m proud of my team,” said Amaker, who coaches U-M against visiting Northwestern in a conference home opener tonight. “We’ve had a really tough schedule and then we’ve had some unforeseen, unfortunate situations with some injuries.

    “It kind of fragmented our team. I’m not sure if that’s the best word to use. But it’s a part of it. Everybody goes through it at some point.”

    The wheels of the renaissance began to turn last season when Michigan won the NIT. Sure, most would have preferred that the Wolverines had been invited to the NCAA Tournament and lost there. But they did the next best thing — not just by going to a postseason tournament, but also by winning it.

    “We certainly wanted to use that,” Amaker said. “We tried our darndest to have that propel us, springboard us, if you will.

    “In a lot of ways, having a chance to win a championship is significant. Again, it wasn’t the NCAA championship. But when you’re trying to build a program, you want to raise banners.”

    If the Wolverines are to have any chance at an NCAA banner this spring, Horton, who returned for the last two games after being out a month because of a sprained left ankle, must be a big part of it.

    Although it’s not fair to hang all of Michigan’s fortunes on Horton, he is a difference maker. It showed in Michigan’s look-at-me victory at Iowa.

    “He hadn’t practiced much and hadn’t played at all for a month,” Amaker said. “Then he comes back and plays as well as anyone on the floor that night. It changes things for us. We have a couple different players that can add a lot to our team when they play at a high level. Certainly, he’s at the top of the list.”

    Without Horton, Amaker showed he is a fine coach, mixing and matching players to get the right combinations. It will only help long-term.

    “That would be great if it awakens some people of our fan base,” Amaker said of the victory over Iowa. “Again, it’s going to take more than one game for us to solidify ourselves in a lot of ways. And we know that. I think that’s fair. But you have to start it at some point, some time.”

    The Wolverines have started. Best of all, they have done it without whining.

  2. Dave 01/13/2005 at 2:49 PM #

    You did a good job of putting forth a “no excuses” argument until the “Duke refs” line. That’s a loser attitude as well. In the 80’s, they were “Carolina refs” and in the mid-seventies they were probably “State refs.”

    It’s just the way of basketball – the quicker, stronger, smarter, better teams seem to get more calls. It’s because slower, weaker, not-quiet-as-smart players are more likely to foul. Also, when a team is behind, as Duke’s opponents usually are, they get desperate.

    If you lose to Duke (or Carolina, GT or Wake), it’s not because of the refs. It’s because their players are better.

    I should know, I’ve been watching Virginia lose to them all for years now.

  3. JB34 01/13/2005 at 3:25 PM #


    That’s a very fair, and popular perspective to have regarding the officiating…and one that I can’t debate too much on its “generalities.”

    However, when you carve away those generalities and then start to look at individual, game-by-game events, it isn’t as easily defendable. A team shouldn’t get calls because they have talent, coaches, strength, speed, or any other attribute. A team should get calls based only on the plays that they actually make….and that are actually made against them.

    In a micro-environment…it never ceases to amaze me how games that I watch and judge to be “pretty well officiated” (be it Duke vs anyone, not just State) always seem to be much closer in score than the games where there are so many easily identifiable bad calls. What a coincidence?

    My “problem” with the advantage that Rick Hartzell and his buddies provide Coach K and Duke isn’t even one based on competitive jealousy. In fact, I pretty much (have always) pulled for Duke when they play anyone but State and I think my comments help paint a picture of the Upmost respect for Duke.

    My comments actually are based in an opinion that the advantage that Duke gets from ACC Officials utlimately provides the Blue Devils a disservice every year in the NCAA Tournament. Duke ‘s players gets so accustomed to having touch fouls called on their opponents while they are allowed to swarm on defense with the luxury of physical play that no other team is afforded, that they don’t know how to adjust when they encounter officials outside of the ACC in the NCAA Tournament. (See either of their last two match-ups with UConn in the Dance as an example of struggling when the calls, and ‘no-calls’, are divided more evenly.)

  4. Dave 01/13/2005 at 4:16 PM #

    Just to be clear, I meant that they SEEM to get more calls their way. I don’t think they really do get calls (much) that other teams don’t get.

    I think the DBR looked at this myth some a while back and found that Duke has just about as many or more total calls against them than their opponents. They did a pretty good breakdown here – http://www.dukebasketballreport.com/ourcall/350.html

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