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. sundropdrinker13 12/14/2011 at 3:52 PM #

    The team with the highest RPI that Texas has played so far is…. State, at 62. They have played 2 teams with an RPI in the 300s, 3 teams with an RPI in the 200s, and 4 teams with an RPI in the 100s. That is why their RPI is as low as it is. They play Temple(RPI 51) Saturday, then UNC(RPI 19) in a week. Once the hit conference play, their RPI will go up. UNC is better than their RPI rank of 19. Halfway through conference play is a good time to look at RPI rankings. Another example is Kentucky. Right now their RPI ranking is 10. Vanderbilt is 6-3, ranked 25th, yet they have an RPI ranking of 6.

  2. NCStatePride 12/14/2011 at 4:06 PM #

    sundropdrink13 is spot-on. You have to step back and take to-date RPIs, 9 games into the season, with an open mind (again, hense why there wasn’t really any reason to look at “the top 25 programs” in RPIs. Looking at who is currently in the top 50, most of them will probably be “pretty good teams” this year and looking at the top 150, it looked like most of them would be “respectable opponents”, at least for us. When you start getting into anything too much more specific then that… well… let me put it this way: Northern Iowa and Marquette are #3 and #4 nationally in the RPI rankings right now. Is Marquette going to end up at #3 at the end of the season? No, but they’ll probably end up with a 20 win season and beat some good teams. For that reason, lumping all of them together seems halfway reasonable.

    The “eye test” that tractor57 mentioned, and several other eluded to, is probably the biggest way we can tell there is improvement. Like I mentioned in this write-up, seeing Gottfried under 30 seconds left against [one of those loses, I forget which one] and still coaching like he believed they could turn the game around really was pleasing to see. Hell, for a split second, he had me thinking we *could* turn it around. We’re seeing a lot more out of these kids, and that makes me think that the inability of us to finish a game might be somewhat tied to Gottfried’s up-tempo offense and not only a symptom of “not knowing how to win”.

    I have been supremely pissed at our loses, but haven’t for a second doubted that we were headed in the right direction and could possibly surprise some big programs this year.

  3. sundropdrinker13 12/14/2011 at 4:16 PM #

    What’s upset me about 2 of the losses is the fact that we had a decent lead with 6-8 minutes left to play. If we had not missed free throws, or actually made some baskets late in those games, we would have won them and we would be 8-1 right now. Alas, we didn’t, so we are sitting at 6-3.

  4. NCStatePride 12/14/2011 at 4:33 PM #

    Looking at last year, we had three loses at this point in the season:
    Georgetown by 20
    Wisconsin by 39
    Syracuse by 6

    This year we have three loses:
    Vanderbuilt by 7
    Indiana by 11
    Stanford by 4

    The difference between “average RPI” of the two season is less than 10 spots. It doesn’t need to be explained (again) that 10 spots in the RPI rankings this early in the season is pretty negligable. Again, it’s not rocket science (technically I could still figure it out even if it was) that we’re better than we were last year. Whats interesting to note is how much better we are. Against ‘similar’ competition, or atleast what appears to be similar this early in the season, we are scoring more while holding our opponents, in some cases, to much less.

    What I did not include in my write-up was “how we lost” this season compared to last season. Many of you have already covered this in your comments (thanks!). What I think is funny is in the scoring graphs I put in the section about our schedule. Note that against “top competition”, we are scoring much, much more, but aren’t really allowing any more points. The reason the average for ‘points allowed’ is greater this season than last season is because of how much closer we are letting lower competition play to us… not because we are failing to defend against quality opponents any worse than we were last season. I don’t have a conclusion, but I have a theory: last season we just played poorly against quality opponents. No offense and very little defense. This season, we play better which would make you think that the opponent’s score should be lower. However, we are also playing much faster which gives opponents more chances to make shots. This is little more than a theory at the moment, but I presume that what is happening is the mixed effects of ‘improved defense’ (should lower opponent’s score) and ‘faster gameplay’ (leads to higher scores) are cancelling each other out. Hense, our points allowed last season and this season against quality opponents is approximately the same.

  5. Tau837 12/14/2011 at 5:08 PM #

    Kenpom average adjusted offensive/defensive efficiency is adjusted for pace and quality of opponent’s offense/defense. Kenpom data for State this year and last year:

    2010-11 AdjO: 108.2 (#70)
    2010-11 AdjD: 100.9 (#140)

    2011-12 AdjO: 109.5 (#34)
    2011-12 AdjD: 98.6 (#147)

    The offensive ranking is quite a bit higher, but the efficiency numbers haven’t changed much (1-2%). It would appear the change in the points scored and points allowed are a function of pace, as many have suggested already.

    That said, given that the team is still adjusting to the new schemes, it seems possible that improvements on both offense and defense will continue, and the team will ultimately perform noticeably better in both categories. We’ll see.

  6. Dr. BadgerPack 12/14/2011 at 5:15 PM #

    I decided to dig for points per possession… This year we allow 1.006 points per possession, last year 1.017. The defense is marginally better this year, by these numbers. And by marginally I mean 1 point per 100 possessions better.

    needs work

    That, at this early juncture, is good for 219th in the country if the numbers I got are correct.

    In the “that’s just sick” department… Wisconsin right now is at 0.745.

  7. Tau837 12/14/2011 at 5:33 PM #

    DBP, good info. However, those numbers aren’t adjusted for quality of opposing offenses. I assume that is the difference between your numbers and KP’s numbers (which are per 100 possessions).

  8. Dr. BadgerPack 12/14/2011 at 5:50 PM #

    Correct Tau- those are raw numbers.

    At first glance, it appears the adjustments for quality of offense aren’t that large (0.8 per 100 difference for last season). With a larger sample size this year’s difference of 2.0 between raw/corrected will likely drop as well. That said, I (a) don’t know what that means and (b) don’t know if that bears out for the majority of other teams as well.

    Of course, they’re stats, so I could just make up a meaning 🙂

  9. wolfie91 12/14/2011 at 6:00 PM #

    I know it is fun to analyze the numbers, but at this point, I think the team, coaches and the fans would be best served if we just optimistically watch the games and support the team. I have no idea if Gottfried is the answer, but I don’t know at this point that he isn’t. I think the team has had endured enough critiquing over the last 5 years. I think at the very least they should get a free pass this year. 🙂

  10. tjfoose1 12/14/2011 at 6:10 PM #

    “What’s upset me about 2 of the losses is the fact that we had a decent lead with 6-8 minutes left to play.”

    Frustrating, yes, but also evidence that we are improving. We were up with “6-8 minutes left to play” against quality teams.

    Baby steps.

  11. vtpackfan 12/14/2011 at 6:11 PM #

    To me it all rests with CJ Williams. He is the one guy on this team that is fully aware of what’s going on both ends of floor. I like our chances any night he scores in double figures and plays 24> minutes.

  12. Wolfy__79 12/14/2011 at 7:44 PM #

    thanks for the stats! it’s very helpful to look to the numbers every once in a while..

    ..judging what i see on the court i’m happy. i don’t think the team is at all clicking and they are very much still learning. it seems they have these mental lapses in games that have cost us not only leads and wins. it is exciting for me to watch how this team might improve in those areas and grow up right before us.

    with respect to anything that happened last year, i don’t need to revisit the numbers to know how bad of shape we were in… our coach at the time looked just a lost as the players..especially against wisconsin..then i knew that it was time for a change!!

  13. Wolfy__79 12/14/2011 at 7:46 PM #

    and yes, much of what we do this year will be because of what we see out of cjw!!

    as far as scott wood goes, i think it is important for him to utilize a pump fake every so often and maybe a dribble drive. i realize this isn’t his strong suit but that would greatly improve our team offense. that paired with lorenzo’s growth at pg would make a huge difference!

  14. choppack1 12/14/2011 at 9:34 PM #

    I’m actually not too thrilled right now. That doesn’t mean anything – we’re in the infancy of the Gott era right now – and if we were 9-0 or 0-9, it wouldn’t change where we are.

    I’ve seen a lot of similarities in the tightening up factor that saw between teams coached by HWSBN and this one. We haven’t had that moment where I was blown away (in a positive away) like I was in Sid’s first big game – vs. Michigan, but there’s been some good things.

    Still, I don’t like the way we’ve responded to adversity. Even in our game vs. Texas – we were lucky to hang on. We’re like a golfer who makes his first 5 foot putt, then misses the next few, now we’re having trouble with 3 footers.

    Personally, I was hoping we’d see more progress at this point. I see a talented team that is losing because it isn’t playing smart basketball. The good news is that you become a smarter player. The bad news is that the dumb mistakes are similar to last year’s. Hell, you’d thought with a lot of returning players, we’d be a little smarter.

    We’ll see – a long year and hopefully the start of long career. We can still have a great year, but anything less than 8-8 in this sorry conference will be a huge disappointment.

  15. Wulfpack 12/14/2011 at 10:31 PM #

    Great stuff. I’m just going to watch the games. I have no idea where this team ends up this year. Listening to Gott at the beginning of the year, it was clear to me he didn’t exactly know what to expect. In essence, he was tempering our expectations, unlike Lowe blowing smoke up our asses and then failing miserably. I like Gott a lot. He is a true and proven coach. I just don’t know about the make-up of this team yet. Some good, some bad. Not really seeing much leadership, but I sense they are working better together. The Stanford loss has definitely tempered my enthusiasm, followed by the no show against Cenrtral. We’re not a bad team, but I wouldn’t put us in the good category yet either. I expect Cuse to beat us up pretty good. That’s our last real chance to make any sort of noise out of conference. The ACC is a very bad conference, so we really only have Duke and UNC left. That concerns me. Yea, we’re going to win a lot of conference games, but I’m not sure it will be enough for a bid. Probably need to finish 4th or better, and that’s a pretty tall order for a program in the tanker the past 5 or so years. We have as good of a chance as anyone, but we’ve got to take advantage of the opportunity.

  16. choppack1 12/14/2011 at 11:46 PM #

    We’ve got at least 17 conference games and a game vs. the Cuse.

    I’d like to start doing my magic # – but we’ve got 4 garbage games and one game on the road vs. St Bonaventure, so it’s a little early yet…but let’s just say that beating Syracuse is the only thing that I can see allowing us to go 10-6 in conference w/ a early exit in the ACC and get an at-large bid.

    And yea, some will say, “this is the first year..blah, blah, blah” – and they’ve got a point. However, to me, it’s not a good year for NC State basketball if we don’t go to the big Dance. There have been 2 exceptions to those rules, but I don’t think this team falls in the same category as the other two.

  17. Alpha Wolf 12/15/2011 at 8:00 AM #

    Chop, I understand your wariness, but at the same time there really is hope for optimism, especially in the intangibles: this is a team that has more cohesiveness than any we’ve seen in decades at State.

    No more standing around watching one guy dribble the shot clock down to ten before the offense actually starts, no more weave and heave, no more “Ole´!” defense, etc. The guys are scrappy. They hustle. None are above diving to the floor or chasing loose balls out of bounds.

    That’s a pleasant change.

  18. howlie 12/15/2011 at 8:56 AM #

    The word (time) should be (team) in the last paragraph of the article.

    Nice article

  19. NCStatePride 12/15/2011 at 9:03 AM #

    I also don’t know if I agree with your view, choppack1. I get your cautiousness, but something about a claim that beating #1 Syracuse is only going to give you hope in an early exist in the ACC Tournament seems a big jaded.

    I’d argue that if we can beat #1 Syracuse, it opens the door to a lot of possibilities that doesn’t include accomplishing no more in the ACC Tournament then we did the last few years.

  20. Wufpacker 12/15/2011 at 9:40 AM #

    I think Chop was just saying that short of a win against ‘Cuse and/or a REALLY standout conference record because conference is down this year, our at large bid status is a bit questionable at best, and I have to agree with him there. He also says he doesn’t consider anything short of an NCAA tourney bid to be successful for NCSU Basketball (with rare exceptions). I agree with him there too, except that I consider this year to be an exception.

    The difficulty of changing the culture of the program should not be underestimated. Despite that, I already see a difference in body language of the team (and coaches) that tells me there’s already a difference. Mostly, it’s the intangibles as Alpha Wolf mentioned.

    And that’s not to say that this team doesn’t have shortcomings….it definitely does. Assuming those shortcomings are addressed and this team continues to improve as the season progresses, I’d consider an NIT bid OK for this season.

  21. lawful 12/15/2011 at 12:52 PM #

    I’m not okay w/the NIT. If they’re not good enough now, then when are they going to be good enough? Why were they brought here in the first place? Do we really recruit players hoping they’ll be good enough to get us to the tourny by the time they’re Jrs or Srs? We should be winning now. No excuses. I’m not ragging on the players, I’ll bet they expect themselves to be good enough to make the tourny.

  22. VaWolf82 12/15/2011 at 1:24 PM #

    I’m not okay w/the NIT. If they’re not good enough now, then when are they going to be good enough?

    A bad team lost it’s leading scorer, has an extremely thin back court, and got a new coaching staff. Sorry, but I don’t see that formula as a recipe for immediate success.

  23. TruthBKnown Returns 12/15/2011 at 3:17 PM #

    A bad team lost it’s leading scorer, has an extremely thin back court, and got a new coaching staff. Sorry, but I don’t see that formula as a recipe for immediate success.

    I try not to talk too badly about Sidney, but I think replacing him and his staff with our current coaches ALONE is a recipe for some immediate success. We’re not winning any championships this year, but we can have success outside of winning a championship.

  24. lawful 12/15/2011 at 3:57 PM #

    So these players were never expected to be winners?? We lost our leading scorer to graduation. Tracy? Was he even our leading scorer? He played the whole year hurt. What’s changed? They’ve gotten older, they should be better. We like to blaim Sidney for his coaching (which I’m not arguing). Okay, we have a better coach, we have a somewhat older team. Haven’t we accepted mediocrity enough? What’s wrong with expecting to win now?

    I agree, Truth. We should expect some immediate success; not a championship. Counting the NIT, nearly 1/3 of all D1 teams make one of those tournaments. Being in the top third can’t be an acceptable benchmark…even this year. Have you seen what kind of D1 bball programs are out there? We’re good enough and I expect more.

  25. ryebread 12/15/2011 at 9:34 PM #

    Tau: I think you make some great points. Here’s a couple of counterpoints.

    I agree with your analysis of the Kenpom data. I love that site and am sad to see that it is now a pay site. It’s really a shame.

    Now onto Harrow. You see these three items as the largest plaguing this team:
    1. Lack of good outside shooting other than Wood.
    2. Turnovers.
    3. Defense.

    I can’t say I disagree with those points. What I don’t agree with is the perception that Harrow wouldn’t have helped them.

    I would add a fourth key factor and that is free throw shooting in the clutch. Let’s look at each one:

    – Shooting: Admittedly, Harrow didn’t shoot at a great % last year from three. At the same time, Johnson isn’t either so at this point we’ve traded bad shooting for bad shooting. Playing Harrow at point though allows us to move Brown to SG, where I actually think he is far more effective. It also gives us more slashers which would further open up things for the inside guys, as well as Wood. Right now we have our #2 pure scoring option trying to run the show and that’s hampering his scoring ability. While I like Johnson, he’s not really playing quality PG minutes.

    – Turnovers: Brown’s not a pure PG. I love what he’s doing, but having him back there is sort of like when HWSNBN tried to run Hodge at the point his SR year. We’re not as strong with the ball as we could be, and we take one of our primary scoring options out of the equation off the ball. That means everyone else is having to “step up” a little bit more, which opens up turnovers for the other players. Harrow would definitely have helped here. There’s no question in my mind.

    – Perimeter Defense: Defense was one of my concerns when we hired Gott. When we were filling out a staff, I was REALLY hoping we’d get a defensive guru. People were claiming that Lutz was that, but that’s not what I remembered from his Charlotte teams. I remembered them being great on offense from the perimeter and tough on the glass. I guess what I’m saying is that baring an infusion of talent so good that they can’t be denied, I never expect NC State under Gottfried to be a great defensive team. With that in mind, I don’t see Harrow negatively impacting us. In fact, I think our biggest gap on the perimeter is that we’re slow of foot, yet we’re not really playing zone. Harrow would have increased our foot speed.

    – Free throw shooting in the clutch: I’d argue that this issue has hurt us arguably more than any of the three that you list. We could be exactly the same in each of those three, had hit our free throws and be sitting here at 8-1. Let’s face it, we’ve struggled under pressure at the line. At the end of the game, you need your PG to be able to handle the ball, not turn it over and make his free throws. I love Lo, but he’s missed a lot of free throws down the stretch. Harrow on the other hand was absolutely money at the line. Throw the ball into him, let him dribble it low (where most college kids cannot steal it from him given his ball handling skills) and let him walk to the free throw line to ice the game.

    I’m not saying that Harrow would have been a savior. I am not making excuses for the staff. I am saying though that the missing piece on the court seems fairly obvious to me — a real PG. That’s nothing against Lorenzo. I love what he’s doing for the team, but he’s a more natural SG.

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