Enter the Gottfather: Instant Gratification

My favorite scene in “The Godfather” is the opening scene when an old friend of Vito Corleone is begging the Don for revenge over a few college thugs that tried to rape his daughter.  Vito’s response is epic:

What have I ever done to make you treat me so disrespectfully?  Had you come to me in friendship, then this scum that ruined your daughter would be suffering this very day.  And that by chance if an honest man such as yourself should make enemies, then they would become my enemies… and they would fear you.

And thus is the aura surrounding NC State these days.  With the incoming of an apparently talented coach and recruiter, it’s hard to avoid getting wrapped up in the feeling that NC State might return to something not just “respectable”, but competitive and maybe even a little feared.

We have asked the Gottfather for help and now our enemies have become his enemies.  Question remains: will we be feared or will we flop?


On the week of December 17th, NC State finds itself in a strangely familiar situation.  Much like last year, the Wolfpack have faced several respectable teams with RPIs above 50, and have a record of 6-3.  At this time last year, NC State was lined up to play Arizona, a game that would perhaps be the death-nail on the coffin that was the last remaining hopes in a Sidney Lowe revival.  Gottfried similarly finds himself with the same record and looking forward to a game against Syracuse.  Syracuse is currently ranked #1 in the nation as well as #3 in the RPI ratings.  The only thing that makes the two situations different from a scheduling perspective is that ‘Zona had lost to two teams last year prior to meeting the Pack while Syracuse is currently 9-0.

How we ‘arrove’ at our 6-3 record was very different last year, however, than it is this year.  Last year, we averaged only 63 PPG against teams with top 50 RPI ratings, 9 games into the season.  Similarly, we were losing, on average, by 12 points to those top 50 teams.  This year we have cut that average loss margin down to 8 against top opponents and are beating our opponents in the top 150 (last season at this point, we were losing to an average top 150 RPI opponent by more than 6 points).

At this point in the season, RPI ratings are very immature and subject to change, but it’s worth noting that last season we had 3 opponents with ratings around 300 (USC-Upstate, Youngstown St, and Fairleigh Dickinson, whatever the Hell that is… ).  This season, NCCU has been the “worst” team we’ve played with a current RPI of 270.  The average RPI rating of our opponents that this point is approximately 117 compared to last seasons 131.

The bottom line is that while the Wolfpack find themselves in a similar situation as last season at this particular date, in terms of scheduling and their current record, it’s obvious that we are posting far more points and playing a tougher schedule than we did last year prior to going into the ‘Zona game.  Good thing, too, since we will be facing a much tougher opponent on Saturday.

The bad news is that we are also allowing more points.  This was probably expected due to Gottfried’s style of gameplay… which is offense, offense, and more offense.  That’s not to say NC State hasn’t seen massive defensive improvement on a player-by-player level, but when more shots are physically getting fired, the other team will score more points.  Note the difference between last year’s scores compared to this year’s scores in the graphics below (expressed in relationship to opponent’s RPI).

Last year, we did a better job taking care of the scrub teams on our schedule (average margin of victory was 15 points in 2010-2011 and only 12 points in 2011-2012 for teams with RPI ratings above 150), but Wolfpack fans seem to be content… for now… not posting 40 points against NCCU if it means we are beating teams like Texas…

…especially only one season after finishing in a 4-way tie for 8th place in the ACC.


One major criticism of the last coaching regime was the lack of player development.  Basic concepts like ball handling and passing were woefully horrible under Sidney Lowe.  I thought it would be interesting to see how our players have improved in the short OOC season the Wolfpack has played thus far.

(Before I get into this, I should note that many of these averages may change, and perhaps radically.  Still, the numbers show a significant improvement over what we saw last year, at least 9 games into the season.)

 For the sake of not belaboring the point more than it needs to be, we will focus on points per game (PPG), assists per game (APG), and steals & blocks which we will look at together to make a generic defensive point.  We’ve already talked about the ability of this squad to score more than previous years.  The data supports it.

What is interesting is the improvement in our seniors, which is essentially just CJ Williams and to a much lesser extent Kendall Smith, as well as the increased improvement in our juniors.  You can expect a group of players to improve as their experience increases, but in the case of our juniors, it appears that Coach Gottfried has increased these kid’s ability to produce points.  Ironic since our shooting percentages have been…. less than inspiring.  When we take a closer look at our scoring juniors, Painter, Howell, and Wood, we can see this increased rate of improvement.

I left Vandenberg off this graphic because he is a much, much lower scorer than the rest of the Pack, but I should note his scoring has improved from 1PPG his freshmen year to 1.6PPG last year to 2.0PPG this year.

Our boys are also moving the ball around the court much, much better than normal. 

It wasn’t that long ago that many of us on this site and elsewhere were making jokes that “CJ Leslie never sees a bad shot he doesn’t like”.  Well, that has completely changed and it shows that we owe Calvin a bit of an apology.  Gottfried’s ability to move the ball around the court has resulted in a much higher paced and higher scoring offense.

But offense isn’t everything.  Defensively, the Pack has improved considerably as well.  Divided by class, we get…

With the exception of our junior class’s “steals” stat, we see marked improvement.  Again, much of the improvement in the senior class is due to CJ Williams really stepping up to the plate to become a contributor.

CONCLUSIONS (if you need one…)

We’re better than we were last year.  If it doesn’t sound like anything to get excited over, consider that we have a brand new coach implementing a completely different program (from the offensive style to the training regimen).  Also consider that last year in the games we lost, we averaged under 60 points per game.  This year, against our “tough” opponents, we are still managing to hang up 75 PPG and Gottfried continues coaching down to the last few seconds, believing there is still a chance to turn it around.

There are a lot of reasons to be excited.  Does this mean we’ll win the ACC Championship this year?  Reality check: we are still the same team that tied for 8th in the conference last season.  If anyone thinks we’re not going to lose some games, they’re crazy.  HOWEVER, there is a chance, more than a good one perhaps, that we can really shock some people.  If we play our cards right, we can probably make some good enemies together with the Gottfather at the head of the family.

About NCStatePride

***ABOUT THE AUTHOR: NCStatePride has been writing for StateFansNation.com since 2010 and is a 2009 graduate of the College of Engineering.

10-11 Basketball 11-12 Basketball ACC & Other Mark Gottfried NCS Basketball

51 Responses to Enter the Gottfather: Instant Gratification

  1. coach13 12/14/2011 at 9:03 AM #

    Now he just needs to make Amile Jefferson “an offer he can’t refuse”.

  2. ZZ 12/14/2011 at 9:25 AM #

    Great breakdown! Personally I needed this becuase the usually dependable 99.9FM, who usually does more than a fair bit of NC State talk, has seemingly been lacking of late (see Hurricanes and NFL).
    What really caught my eye was the the loss to wisconsin last year….was the final REALLY 48-87?? That’s pathetic…. Much love to the Gottfather, because with him we won’t give up…won’t ever give up.
    And yes, while a very tight win over a school like NCCU was a bit shocking, I am OK with that. The difference between this year and last year more than success/failure is the attitude, the hustle (thank God finally) and just an overall feeling in general. I’m pretty sure everyone else “feels” the difference in addition to seeing it. Best way to describe it is the week of Christmas as a kid vs. every other week of the year…it just feels different…and I love it!!

  3. ZZ 12/14/2011 at 9:39 AM #

    Also, glad that the pre-pubescent Harrow is gone, as it has opened the door for ZO to shine, he handles the ball well best PG we have had in YEARS and YEARS..also like the Sr transfer Alex Johnson, I just wish he would get a little more PT especially near the end of a game when we need to close it out. It would be great to utilize his experience in that type of situation.

  4. Tau837 12/14/2011 at 10:26 AM #

    “The bottom line is that… it’s obvious that we are… playing a tougher schedule than we did last year prior to going into the ‘Zona game.”

    Technically, this is true, but IMO it is also a bit misleading.

    1. Last year, we had played 4 top 25 RPI teams by this point (with a 1-3 record in those games). This year, we have played just 1 game against a top 25 RPI team (and we lost that game).

    2. Last year, we had played 5 top 100 RPI teams by this point (with a 2-3 record in those games). This year, we have played just 3 games against top 100 RPI teams (with a 0-3 record in those games).

    3. The average RPI in our 6 wins to this point last year was 207; compared to the average RPI in our 6 wins this year is 183. Technically, that means our performance against our schedule to date is more impressive this year, but how much difference is there really between RPI 183 and 207 teams? Not much IMO.

    4. Also, last year if I recall correctly, our best player, Tracey Smith, missed all of the losses to this point. This year, Wood missed the Vanderbilt loss, but that’s it.

    5. Last year, we already had a more impressive win at this point than any win this year so far. On the other hand, we also had a much worse loss than any loss this year (the Wisconsin beatdown).

    I’m not sure there are any real conclusions to be drawn from this comparison, but I think fans have been overestimating the quality of our schedule this year so far.

    Of course, as is pointed out here, RPIs will change a lot over the course of the season. Hopefully, it will turn out that the RPIs of the teams we have played so far will improve as the season progresses.

  5. PackMan97 12/14/2011 at 10:41 AM #

    Q: Are the 2010-11 RPIs end of season RPIs are year to date RPIs? Just wondering as it might make a difference.

    NCStatePride: End of season. The logic is that end-of-season RPIs are the most accurate. We don’t have an end-of-season RPI for 2011-2012 teams, but we do for 2011-2012. It’s basically comparing one “fuzzy” RPI to a solid RPI. If I used a year-to-date RPI for last year and this year, it would have been comparing two “fuzzy” values which wouldn’t have meant much.

    Again, the purpose is to drive home that so far, this is how things look. Are they going to change? Of course they are, but THIS is what we have before us 9-games into the season.


    As for whether this season is different than last season, it most certainly is…if for no other reason we have hope and change. Hope that we can win any game and a change in the coaching staff and entire attitude of the program.

  6. NCStatePride 12/14/2011 at 10:52 AM #

    The problem with breaking down the RPIs too much (we’ve only beat so-and-so) is that you’ve only played 9 games. That would kind of be like looking at the top 5 teams that all have 1 loss during a football season and saying “who is better?” Well, that’s part of the debate… if all of them have 4 or 5 wins, is team #3 better than team #4? It’s completely subjective on an person-by-person basis which is why rankings are formulated via voting and not by computation.

    The only conclusion you can draw is that the season, as a whole, has been tougher and our winning margins have gotten better. That’s it. Anything beyond that (top 25 opponents, et al) is completely irrelevant this early in the season with regards to RPI.


    Just a point of clarification: I drew the lines of comparison at 50 and 150 intentionally. If you try making a point about “top 100” teams, that stat is worthless. The “top 100 teams” that we played last season included ECU at #96. The addition of that one school, when you are only averaging 3-4 numbers together, means a lot.

  7. Codebrown 12/14/2011 at 11:02 AM #

    Nice. This is a lot of beautiful charts and that Stats/wizardry thing I went to class 8 times in college to learn.

    But in the words of the now very mortal Al Davis:

    Just win baby!

  8. tuckerdorm1983 12/14/2011 at 11:34 AM #

    if we can win Saturday, then just chunk all these numbers out the window.

  9. rtpack24 12/14/2011 at 12:03 PM #

    Good job on the stats and graphs. However when you look at the big picture, I think this year is very different from last year. We are playing the #1 team in the country and a new member of our conference. They also are one of the premier programs in the country. I hope we have standing room only Sat night and take advantage of this tremendous opportunity. Go Pack!

  10. johnwolfpack2003 12/14/2011 at 12:08 PM #

    Is it so hard to type “arrived” ?

  11. Dr. BadgerPack 12/14/2011 at 12:38 PM #

    NCStatePride- Nice work. I wish I had the time to go through the numbers, but I don’t- so I’ll throw out that your assertion that due to the offense, points allowed should be higher is obviously correct. I would guess that a tangible defensive improvement would be observed if the metric used was points allowed per possession. Oddly enough, we may see that our offensive improvement isn’t as great as we thought if we evaluated offense in the same manner.

  12. TheCOWDOG 12/14/2011 at 12:55 PM #

    ” Oddly enough, we may see that our offensive improvement isn’t as great as we thought if we evaluated offense in the same manner. ”

    This a point that I’ve belabored repeatedly. 46 turnovers in the span of the last three games.

    Nice construction, ‘Pride. Welcome back DBP. Feared you’d become lost in the jungle.

  13. wufpup76 12/14/2011 at 1:01 PM #

    Good work and thanks for putting this together.

    It’s too early to draw conclusions about anything – but the main point of contention I’m looking for change in is culture change. The early numbers and “eye test” suggest that we are on the right path here though.

    It’s important to note though that until our guys believe they can win (read: close out games against quality opponents) it’s tough to turn that culture around and get past the inertia. Still mentally fragile and lacking in mental toughness? Two unfortunately big checks there, but I’m encouraged and hopeful about the future.

    One big reason why is because we are clearly a much more aggressive team than seasons past. We attack on the offensive end (outside of the Central game) AND we create / force a lot more turnovers and blocked shots than we have in a long time. Still a long way to go on both ends, obviously – but if you’re aggressive long enough it becomes second nature to you. Keep that aggression level up and figure out how to win and we could be on to something.

    Go Pack

  14. Texpack 12/14/2011 at 1:12 PM #

    This team is different from last year’s team in a lot of ways but they have yet to demonstrate that they are better than last year’s team. The biggest area that we haven’t improved in is shooting. We may in fact be a worse shooting team due to the loss of Tracy Smith. We look to be a better rebounding team, but those numbers could just be a reflection of the faster tempo we are playing. Unless Johnson, Brown, Williams, or De Thaey starts to hit threes on a consistent (35+%) basis we will be a middle of the pack team in the ACC at best. Our improved effort can get us to that point but not much farther.

  15. wufpup76 12/14/2011 at 1:16 PM #

    ^I think there’s potential for De Thaey, but I’m unsure about this season for him. He has a loooong way to go in all facets.

    Williams, Johnson, and Brown have to hit 3-balls when open.

  16. Dr. BadgerPack 12/14/2011 at 1:39 PM #

    Cowdog- just lost in 18 hour workdays. Fortunately the spring semester is lighter… maybe I planned it that way because of that one particular sport we enjoy.

  17. ryebread 12/14/2011 at 2:14 PM #

    Very timely analysis. I was thinking of doing something very similar right before our first ACC game. I think that’s effectively one third of the season (where the ACC regular season is 1/3rd and the ACC and post season tournaments are the final third).

    It’s a little too early for what I was looking to do, but I see some of the same points above. Some additional thoughts:
    – Up until this point, we’re 1-3 against name teams from other conferences. Last year, we were the same 1-3 (because I felt that last year’s Mason squad was a good team). On the surface, that’s not a lot of difference.
    – The difference though is that we got shellacked last year by Wisconsin on the road on national TV. That loss was almost worth two. This season we had real working leads late in the game against IU and Stanford. We didn’t have that last year. I’m not trying to tout moral victories, but this year’s team has shown the ability to not get blown out, and to actually build a lead on a good team.
    – We’re still mentally fragile. We’ve got to learn to finish.
    – We’re still weak at guard. I love Lo and appreciate all he’s doing, but a PG he is not. For all the jabs at Harrow, the team would be much better if he were here this season.
    – Our front court is much better this year, particularly with rebounding. I was a huge TS advocate, but I’d take this year’s CJL, Howell and Painter over a front court of last year’s TS, CJL and Howell.
    – Our conditioning and effort is much, much better.
    – We are settling in on an 8 man rotation, so we’re managing roles much better.
    – Our defense is about where it was last year. The pace was slower last year on offense which deflated some opposition numbers, but we’re still lacking here.
    – There’s clear player development on the skills side. A lot of that goes to the players, not just the coaches, but it is happening.
    – Most importantly, our players appear to be playing more naturally. They’re not looking over their shoulders on every play and awaiting the whistle. They’re being taught a college system and then are being turned loose within that system to execute. It isn’t perfect, but we actually do look more like a basketball team (well, other than that egg against NCCU).

    Rome wasn’t built in a day, and things on the surface aren’t marginally better than last year record wise. I’d argue that we look far better though, and are doing it with less talent (sorry, but Harris, TDT, Raymond and Johnson aren’t as good as TS, Javi and Harrow). I’d also argue that this year’s NC State squad would beat last year’s NC State squad by 15 points.

  18. baxter 12/14/2011 at 2:15 PM #

    Not sure what Tau meant by we had a more impressive win against a team at this point last year than we did this year… I see George Mason and that’s it. I think Texas and Princeton are both better. Maybe that’s just me.

    I think for a transition year, this has been pretty good and up to my expectations. I also am not holding the Central game during exam week as much of an indication. I think this team has been prepping though, for two weeks for Syracuse. So I’m very glad we got a chance to see how NOT to play the 2-3.

  19. Tau837 12/14/2011 at 2:53 PM #

    [In response to Baxter…]
    Yes, we had beaten George Mason, which ended up #24 in season ending RPI, according to the information presented here. Maybe it will turn out that Texas and/or Princeton will end up at #24 or better in this season’s final RPI, but I seriously doubt it. Right now, they are #121 and #231, respectively. Those numbers will certainly change, but they would both have to be considered long shots to finish this season in the top 25.

    [In response to NCStatePride…]
    Regardless, I made 5 points in my post. If you don’t think the one about top 100 RPI teams is valid, that’s fine. It doesn’t change the other points.

    [In response to ryebread…]
    IMO the team has three main issues right now, in no particular order:

    1. Lack of good outside shooting other than Wood.
    2. Turnovers.
    3. Defense.

    If Harrow were here, we most likely would not have Johnson, Harrow would be starting at PG, Brown would be starting at SG, and Williams would be getting much more limited minutes off the bench. Would that change improve our three point shooting? I don’t think so. Would it improve our defense? I don’t think so. Would it reduce turnovers? Maybe. More generally, would we be running the offense better? Maybe, but I don’t think that is a given.

    Curious to hear more thoughts on this.

    NCStatePride: Stop flooding the blog.

  20. 61Packer 12/14/2011 at 3:10 PM #

    The same Wolfpack cast from last season is playing much better, thanks to the coaching staff. Finally there’s hope.

    Two things, however, continue to worry me, and they involve Scott Wood and CJ Leslie.

    Concerning #15, the other players on the floor need to understand that the team’s road to the next level depends mainly upon getting Scott Wood open and then quickly getting the ball to him, and not just from behind the arc either. When Wood scores a lot, we win a lot.

    Concerning #5, he needs to understand that there’s been only one big man in basketball who was a success when he stepped back before shooting, and that was Larry Bird. And he needs to adopt Oscar Robertson’s philsophy, which was to get as close to the basket as he could before shooting.

  21. legacyman 12/14/2011 at 3:23 PM #

    Last year against Arizona, we played without Tracy Smith who was our offense and we played pretty well.

  22. wolfie91 12/14/2011 at 3:25 PM #

    I read on one of the other sites that we have 3 top 100 players on our team. I looked it up and sure enough, we have 3 or 4 depending on what site you use (I only looked at 2). Not trying to knock the team, just stating a fact. I like what I see so far, and think only time will tell how far the new coaching staff can take us.

    And I have no complaints about CJL. He is so much better this year than last. Does his game need work? Sure, as does everyone else on the team. But he’s come so far already.

  23. JohnGalt78 12/14/2011 at 3:39 PM #

    Did Calvin step back on shots in HS? Doubt it. He didn’t have to. Perhaps he’s not feeling quite as tall now.

  24. baxter 12/14/2011 at 3:44 PM #

    I don’t think Smith was ever really a factor last season.

    I agree, we need to get Wood the ball more, but that’s also Scott’s issue. He’s reluctant to dribble in from the perimeter and cause the defense to react. His 3% is up which is awesome, but I’m disappointed with him not pushing the ball to the rim. Also, his defensive fouling has been atrocious.

    CJL has been cleared to take shots, and to me, I don’t mind it, a lot more of them have been on target this year and a little confidence wouldn’t hurt. That said, he should keep attacking the basket, but his ball handling is definitely leading to turnovers. That’s okay though.

    If you asked me, Wood needs to be jacking the ball up at least 15 times a game. I don’t care if he is guarded, he needs to take shots and let the bigs clean the glass. Painter, Howell and Leslie are a rebounding nightmare for different reasons. Need to push that.

  25. tractor57 12/14/2011 at 3:51 PM #

    Using the eye test I see improvement over last year. One can argue pro or con with the stats but I’ll give ‘Pride his props for making a very good stab at the concept. I see both some positives and some negatives to date. Positives I see are much better ball handling, a better understanding of proper spacing on offense, better rebounding and not waiting for the play call from the bench at all times. The negatives are still less than ideal perimeter defense, poor overall outside shooting and problems finishing games. As the season continues I’m expecting improvement rather that stagnation like in previous years. The team is very much a WIP. At this point last year I was hopeful, this year I’m a bit more confident. The game against the Orange is a big test. Get blown out and we are back toward last year, lose but play well we have made some positive steps but I will still be disappointed. A win is a big deal as far as tourney chances.

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