Regression to the Mean

The more I think about the last five years of the Sendek era, the more a pattern seems to develop. No matter how the season starts, you can expect things to ultimately level out at a “B minus” overall.

Decent regular season? You get the respectable NCAA run (including heartbreaking loss to a power like UConn) of 2002.

Start to have what looks like a very good regular season? You get the late season swoon of 2004, followed by a semi-recovery, then historic collapses in both the ACC (Maryland) and NCAA (Vanderbilt) tournaments.

How about downright mediocre regular seasons, like 2003 and 2005? You get a great ACC tournament run in 2003, with Josh Powell et al being turned loose and Powell in particular playing like a man possessed. But, since it’s written in stone never to get over the hump, State blows a huge second half lead and loses to Duke in the ACC final, then plays tight again and goes down to a pedestrian Cal squad in the 1st round of the NCAAs.

Or 2005, having an all-around crappy year, doing just enough to get a bid (ACCT win over Wake sans Chris Paul), then coming out of nowhere to upset mighty UConn and make the Sweet Sixteen. Followed, of course, by a clunker against a very beatable Wisconsin team.

What do all of these have in common? When you grade it all out, it’s neither good nor bad. It’s a B-minus. Every year. Of course, it would have been my rear end had I come home with consistent B-minuses, but my parents had higher expectations than Lee Fowler.

So, tell me again why anyone was surpised that the “historic” 10-3 start to the ACC season was followed by a collapse down the stretch? And why history predicts “inconclusive” performances in both the ACC and NCAA tourneys? Consistently neither good nor bad. Regardless of player mix, conference strength, etc. – consistent pretty goodness. We all know what the constant (or limiting reagent, depending on your worldview) in this mix is.

About BJD95

1995 NC State graduate, sufferer of Les and MOC during my entire student tenure. An equal-opportunity objective critic and analyst of Wolfpack sports.

General NCS Basketball

34 Responses to Regression to the Mean

  1. Nick 03/08/2006 at 11:28 AM #

    I think this year was NC State’s best team since the 1989 team which was NC State’s best team since the 1985 team which was NC State’s best team since NC State’s miracle 1983 National Championship. I think this team had a chance to go to the ACC Tournament Final and maybe the Final 8 or even Final Four in the NCAAs. However, as banged up as we are, physically and mentally, I don’t have much hope left for that this year.

    That said, I think Coach Sendak has done a good job rebuilding the program. I think it is in comparable shape now to what it was in the Valvano years. The only thing he hasn’t done is beat Carolina and Duke. I thought this might be the year. But no.

  2. VaWolf82 03/08/2006 at 11:33 AM #

    I think this year was NC State’s best team since the 1989 team

    I think that the 2004 team was Herb’s best. But if State makes the S-16 this year, then I won’t argue with you.

    The only thing [Herb] hasn’t done is beat Carolina and Duke.

    Stretching things just a little bit aren’t you?

  3. BJD95 03/08/2006 at 11:44 AM #

    For the record, I’m not asking for straight As. But I would gladly take a few Cs (or worse) in exchange for the periodic B+/A- and the occasional solid A.

  4. topOtheorder 03/08/2006 at 12:57 PM #


    I’m with you to a certain degree…V always kept me coming back with years like 1983 and 1987, no matter what happened vs the Murray State’s of the world…

    It seems like it would be so much easier if I were simply a Walmart Bandwagon Evil Empire fan like Duke, UNC, The Yankees, etc. and just sat back and watched excellence year-in and year-out like a merry go-round…

    But, I chose my heartbreak teams long ago, and I am loyal…

    And I wouldn’t trade the feelings I had being at the 1983 miracle when the Pack’s slipper fit or staying up every night until 2am watching the 2004 overcome the Yankees and then going to the World Series for anything in the world…

    I can handle the roller coaster if it involves championships. Unfortunately, the roller coaster we are on right now only goes from semi-good to semi-bad…There is no fun in that…

  5. WolfInVolCountry 03/08/2006 at 8:18 PM #

    Mine was the “progess” comment, and I will agree with the revision to “performance”. Regular appearance at the top of the ACC reg. season standings and playing in the ACCT championship game every couple of years is not an unreasonable expectation. Except for Fowler, Sendek and geezer-members of the Wolfpack Club.

  6. Sammy Kent 03/08/2006 at 8:59 PM #

    B minus? Way too generous.

  7. lonchaney87 03/08/2006 at 10:10 PM #

    Interesting commentary from both sides of the fence. I’m sure you’ll guess which side of the fence I fall on based on my thoughts on a few prior comments:

    TVP: “So Herb already beat the odds once to make the jump from bad to pretty good. Can he make an even tougher jump to an elite status?” — I’m not so sure that Herb beat the odds so much as Lee Fowler took away the odds and gave him a free pass. But I can admit there has been glacial improvement in recruits, seasons, postseasons, etc. over the period of a decade. But just like years 1-5 were pretty similar, years 6-10 have been pretty similar. These five year increments are ridiculous for moving forward and calling it “progress.” We’ll all look like the Cryptkeeper by the time we take the next step.

    MattE: “I find it funny that a fan base that admires Jimmy V so much often forgets his most memorable phrase. Until the seasons over I’ll be optimistic thanks, life is more enjoyable that way. Plus Lucy is bound to leave the ball there one time.” — In about 30 years of the Peanuts comic, I’ve yet to see Charlie Brown connect. I don’t have 30 years to wait for Herb to connect, although if LF has his way, I will. As far as the “don’t ever give up” phrase, I think there’s an implication there to do everything you can in the terms of effort and motivation to try to win. Call me blind, but I see no such emotion, adjustments in-game, or any concern on Herb’s part about the end results. So Herb has the appearance of one already waving the white flag. Why should we continue beating our heads on the wall, like hoping the sun won’t come up tomorrow? We haven’t given up on the Pack, just on Herb and Lee. Herb’s been coaching for 20 freaking percent of the existence of the ACC!!! If that doesn’t set your mind spinning….

    Nick: “That said, I think Coach Sendak has done a good job rebuilding the program. I think it is in comparable shape now to what it was in the Valvano years. The only thing he hasn’t done is beat Carolina and Duke. I thought this might be the year. ” – I can’t see in any way, shape or form that we are comparable to the Valvano years. All he hasn’t done is beat Carolina or Duke?! Or win two ACC titles, one ACC regular season, one NCAA title, reach two other final 8’s, play OOC teams like UK, Louisville, UNLV, get more than one player to the NBA, etc. Other than that, Herb is right there with Jimmy V! Eyes rolling – how low can we set the bar?!

  8. Jeff 03/09/2006 at 9:30 AM #

    No matter how you slice it, only one coach in the history of NC State Basketball has been LESS SUCCESSFUL than Herb Sendek.

    People show an awful lot of historical ignorance when they say things like “herb has beaten the odds” and “who could we get who could do better”.

    The fact of the matter is that everyone (except Less) that we have ever had has done better. And, in the world of the NC State Excuse Club, doesn’t Less have a million reasons to explain & rationalize his failure?

  9. Ohio Wolfpacker 03/10/2006 at 4:06 PM #

    Herb needs to go. I went to the VA Tech /NCSU game in Blacksburg. I stayed in the same hotel as the team. They almost blew that game after being up by 20 points. After their morning meeting, the whole team came out, I wished them good luck. I told Archie I hadn’t seen the Pack play live in 7 years. He said “We’ll try to give you a good one, but if we don’t….”

    What kind of confidence is that, especially when they are about to play the Hokies. Herb looked a little dejected that morning too. Consequently, that was the last game they won this season. It may possibly be the last game of Herb’s coaching career at NC State. I hope so.

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