The Sporting News‘ Mike DeCourcy submitted an entry in his blog on Thursday that focused on the NC State Basketball program that was quite optimistic about the Wolfpack’s season despite the loss of Julius Hodge.
After touting Hodge’s impact in Raleigh, DeCourcy focused on the Wolfpack’s depth of talent and versatility, highlighting Andrew Brackman and Cedric Simmons in addition to mentioning Ilian Evitmov and Gavin Grant. The following are some selected comments from DeCourcy:
No player dominated any program during the previous four years as obviously as Hodge did NC State. He led the Wolfpack in scoring three times, in rebounding twice and assists twice. The Pack made the NCAA Tournament in every one of his four seasons — after enduring an 11-year absence from the event.
This program would prefer not to spend another decade on the outside. Hodge’s departure does not make that inevitable.
Few programs have as many players who can catch, handle, pass and shoot. It’s what Herb Sendek’s version of the Princeton offense demands — and rewards.
There are a few teams stranded outside TSN’s top 25 that could — to stretch the point a bit — embarrass us. NC State will compete with such teams as Indiana, LSU, Charlotte, George Washington and Kansas to be ranked at the top of that list.
In addition to Julius Hodge, there is another significant piece of the Wolfpack’s basketball program that no longer resides in Raleigh after four years of positive impact — that piece is named Larry Hunter. If you have the ACCAreaSportsJournal’s premium subscription, you can view their take on Hunter’s departure by clicking here.
The ACCASJ believes that Hunter’s departure will “test” Herb Sendek significantly more than many people seem to realize. For starters, the ACCASJ says “Do the math”; something that a certain subset of the Wolfpack’s fan base has never been able to do when the name Herb Sendek is involved.
“Sendek was 86-74 in his first five seasons at State, and he was coming off a 13-16 campaign when Hunter – fired by Ohio University after a 19-11 effort in 2000-01 – came aboard. Sendek went 83-48 over the next four years, with four straight invitations to the NCAA Tournament, including a Sweet 16 trip this season.
Hunter wasn’t the only reason for that, of course. A guy named Julius Hodge also arrived on the scene in 2001 and had something to do with it, as did Marcus Melvin, Ilian Evtimov and others. But the contrast in numbers with and without Hunter on the bench is startling, and it is not merely a coincidence.
The 86-74 pre-Hunter record computes to a winning percentage of .537. The 83-48 with Hunter computes to .633. In basketball land, that’s the leap from bad to good.
Hunter was the calm, collected voice of experience and a voice of reason on the bench alongside Sendek. One of Hunter’s biggest assets was game-planning and his ability to make adjustments during games.
Some State insiders point to the Wolfpack’s loss to Wisconsin in the 2005 NCAA Regional semifinals as an example of how valuable a role Hunter played as a strategist. The coach became ill at the team’s pregame meal. The game plan was set and the preparation had been done by that point, of course, and it was solid. State dominated the first half and jumped to a 30-21 halftime lead.
At halftime, when Hunter normally would be making adjustments, he was too ill to be helpful. Wisconsin roared back, outscored State 44-26 in the second half and won 65-56. Again, there were many other factors, including Hodge’s four-of-16 shooting, but you get the picture.
So, what do you think? How much will the significant talent that remains in the Wolfpack’s stable be able to compensate for the loss of Julius Hodge & Larry Hunter? Our comments function is turned on and we’d love to hear what you think.