The rest of this season – what to expect?

Within the comments section of VaWolf82’s fantastic ACC Mid-Season Review,  there was a post that prompted me to reflect on the Wolfpack’s current basketball season. In my opinion, the post – by 13OT –  really cut to the heart of why we’ve seen what we’ve seen this season – the good and the bad. A choice quote:

This team should be getting better but simply isn’t. If anything, they’re getting worse. What we have here is mainly a bunch of street-ballers who still don’t function as a cohesive team unit, can’t shoot free throws, hold on to the ball, take sensible shots, or play consistent defense.”

^I believe this is a very fair assessment. 13OT didn’t say that we had bad players or bad people, just that the group is not a cohesive team unit, among other things. I happen to agree. At the end of the post, the following opinion is offered:

I wouldn’t want to have to coach this team, and I’m beginning to wonder if those who have to really want to.”

^If I had to guess, I’d guess that there’s merit to this line of thinking. Before I get into why I’m expressing that sentiment please bear in mind that I’m not attempting to fan the flames of a “is Gottfried responsible?” argument. It’s his team, of course he’s responsible. That doesn’t mean we can’t try to decipher why certain things may or may not be working. I’m not on the sidelines and I’m not at practice, but that doesn’t mean I can’t take some good ‘ol message board guesses (read: pretty worthless) as to what might be going on.

So, why do I feel that this unit hasn’t gelled into a team and that perhaps this season has proven problematic from a coaching standpoint? Well, I’ll first start with some general observations about this season’s team:

  1. There’s some good individual talent
  2. These all seem to be really good guys. The type you want representing your team. They seem to support one another and buy into the ‘team’ concept. All very likable.

Ok, great – we’ve got some good talent and good guys whose personalities seem to mesh … So what the hell has happened to prevent this from all coming together? If they supposedly buy into the team concept, then why do we see evidence to the contrary on the court? In my view, it breaks down as follows:

– A) There is no on-floor general. Generally speaking, it’s accepted/presumed that Trevor Lacey is the leader of the team. He is by all accounts a good guy with good leadership qualities and is a great player. I’d argue even that he is a special player, one that has the potential to lead a team to a special accomplishment.

Sometimes though, a team needs more than a good leader / potentially special player. Sometimes a group of great guys need a kick in the ass. A group of great guys need a villain. A villain who will call out missed assignments, missed plays. A villain who will goad, will motivate, will unify those around them to share a common goal: overcome the villain. Gottfried has attempted to be this team’s villain. No response. You can’t fake being that which you are not.

As much as it makes me want to vomit to say, sometimes a ‘Laettner’ is just what a team needs. That one person who will keep everyone else from straying from the plan and keep them in check. The one person who will provide the impetus for having and sharing a singular direction, purpose, and vision when the coach doesn’t always get through.

– B) When players on a team stray and wind up on different pages, they revert back to relying on their individual talents and traits and stop relying on their teammates. Even if they buy-in and believe in the team concept, if they’re all on separate pages of the same playbook it’s damn near impossible to be one cohesive unit. Then they’re just a collection of individuals, and it really doesn’t matter how talented each individual part is.

A team provides a safety net for each of it’s individuals – everyone has each others’ backs. Everyone knows their role and function – the right decisions are made at the right time. Mistakes are made up for through practice, being on one page, through discipline … Not so for individuals – each mistake is glaring to observers.

It can be even worse for unselfish individuals – which I feel we have. Being unselfish is a good trait, especially on a team. But when you’re too unselfish you can wind up trying to please and doing what is asked of you come hell or high water. What’s that one play that we run quite literally every time down the court? The one that everyone in the gym knows is coming? Oh yeah – the ‘run one guy off a bunch of screens until he can reasonably shoot a contested 3’ play.

You’re trying to be unselfish, you’re trying to do what is asked – but everyone has a different idea of what that is. There are no feints, no mis-direction, no quick reads that take advantage of athleticism. No taking advantage of a system that – when executed as one unit – utilizes and maximizes an individual’s given talents. Just bad, bad, terri-bad decision making and discipline.


TL;DR: The team lacks motivation and a singular direction, purpose and vision. It’s greatest downfalls are a lack of discipline and some bad decision making.

^All of the above leads me to feel that maybe we should just abandon thinking – just start playing and reacting – in an attempt to salvage the season. Run full court man or some 1-2-2 trap press. Keep the transition game going. Failing that, in the half court just go 1-4 motion and break down the defense off the dribble. In limited samples, it seems the team has responded favorably and everyone is active.

Is this the right decision though? Would this be the best course for the rest of the season? As a fan, I want to win every bit as much as the coaches and players do. I want to take every opportunity and explore every avenue available that would lead to success within this season.

As a program manager and coach though it may not be quite that simple. What about the plan and vision that has been implemented? What about the core philosophy and the Pyramid of Success? Do we perhaps abandon some of these things at this point in what could be a futile effort to salvage the season? What about the future?

Hopefully, aside from the graduating seniors all of these guys will be back next season. As previously stated, there would be some really good talent returning – plus, to me, all of these guys are very likable and easy to cheer for. It’s a solid nucleus. Do you keep on keepin’ on, hoping that one day this season it will all fall into place? Or do you go all out in an effort to just win now? If you do the latter, then what do you do next season when these same guys are back?

It’s painful to lose, but I have a feeling there isn’t any question that things will continue as is for this season. Keep planning and building the foundation for the future while still trying to succeed in the present. “Know what you teach, and teach what you know.” I can respect that. Please notice that I did not say I ‘excuse’ anything, I said respect. The results, as always, will speak for themselves. The much reviled, unofficial theme of State fans everywhere may need to be uttered once again – ‘wait til next year!!!’.

What’s your take on this season and the future?



About wufpup76

'99 grad. Abundant reservoir of useless knowledge and even more useless skills. Vehement believer in the individual voice and also that it will indeed all be over by Friday.

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    Within the comments section of VaWolf82’s fantastic ACC Mid-Season Review,  there was a post that prompted me to reflect on the Wolfpack’s current bas
    [See the full post at: The rest of this season – what to expect?]


    Regarding the poll, I fall somewhere between the 2nd and 3rd choices, but I chose the 2nd because of the pessimistic streak instilled in me from being a State fan all these years (of course that was before I even read the last choice, which I would have chosen just for comedic effect).

    Kyle Washington, won’t you be our Bill Laimbeer?


    Wufpup! This is a well thought out and useful approach to evaluation…. especially for those who want to jump to conclusions based on … nothing substantive.

    Coaching is coaching, doesn’t matter where you are…
    Rule Number 1 is … “You GOTT to know your people.”


    … duh.. tell me something we didn’t already know…
    There are 400-500 guys that come out of high school every year and join basketball teams at the top 100 D1 schools. 98.7% of them = ‘normal’ – are “Streetballers”… They all are totally deficient in one area of the game when they arrive on campus. To be specific, that means they..

    1. Can’t play defense…
    2. Can shoot, but can’t pass… or vice versa …
    3. Can play inside, but can’t play outside… or vice versa…
    4. Can’t shoot free throws…
    5. Are not at their best playing weight or in their best physical condition..
    6. Have some “growing up to do”… and that slows their positive integration into a highly structured and demanding work environment… and may “distract” others from doing the same.

    The reason is that they have played a lot of street ball, AAU and high school coaches ain’t what they used to be. A good coach makes you do the things you don’t what to do ’cause you’re NOT good at them.

    Which is to say… if the kid is a “good shooter”… everybody is telling him to shoot more… when, in my view, somebody ought to taking the ball out of his hands and making him play defense until he can play defense as well as he can shoot.

    There little doubt that most of the off season practice for college basketball players is spent working on things that should have mastered before he started his Senior Year in High School.

    That only leaves 10-12 kids are generally well rounded and ready to go…. Now if you allocated those out evenly so every Top 100 D1 school would get ONE of those kids… each school would get one every Nine or Ten years… (100/10). And then… they ain’t staying in school but one year…. ’cause the money is calling.

    Bottom Line here is: It is the way it is. Deal with it.

    The “villian” ?? … interesting concept…

    I always preferred a “cheerleader” rather than a “villian”…. but then I had one of tho best of those on “my team: for ten years. Neverthess I can clearly see the value.

    To be succcessful… the “villian” has GOTT to be an upperclassman… and the organization structure has to be such that gives the “villian” some “respect” and “authority” in addition to that which he commands on the basis of his own personality. To put that another way… A freshman won’t challenge a Senior ‘villian’, while a Senior will ignore a freshman ‘villian’ or worse run him out of town. You can’t be House President, if you haven’t been thru Hell Week.

    The “Cheerleader” is your guy who keeps everybody positive and focused. When thing get tense, he tells a joke that breaks the room up and everybody goes back to work… There some other key guys too… the “Go To Guy”, the Workhorse, the Ignitor and the Stopper. A team that has the potential to win a championship is a team that starts five out six of these guys … their second season playing together.

    The key difference here is a freshman can play any of these roles and Seniors will “follow” him…

    Most importantly… The Coach will/should NEVER play any of these roles… If he does… you GOTT problems.

    The Poll…
    leaves out some choices that will skew your results and I’m pretty sure that’s unintended…

    It’s like asking us if we liked the book… after reading one or two chapters …. twice — on the season level and on the “era” levels…

    Of course, there are plenty of people who don’t read books, but still can form articular opinions as to what the author intended to say… and aren’t bothered with the “inconvenience”.

    My conclusion is… what we are watching is the Coaches working their butts off every day, every game to build these guys into a championship team… and that has little to do with wins and losses.

    We’ve all seen totally dsyfunctional teams who won 25 games or a championship… but that’s never the Coaches ultimate goal.

    As others have said and I agree… This group of kids has more “potential” than any other group of this “era”…
    We shall see.

    #NCSU-North Carolina's #1 FOOTBALL school!

    My vote was a solid 2. But, at this level it is always about winning even if we don’t like that philosophy.
    Therefore, the whole debacle is on the shoulders of Gottfried and his staff. Either they have the guts to take control of this team or they don’t and if not then the whole program is going to spiral out of control.
    Does he even care at this point or are there more things going on behind the scenes that we are not aware of as many have suggested on this and other boards…if so then this problem will get worse.
    I hope I am wrong……


    Boys, just bag it and hit the couch. Your cold mid-winter nights can be joyous concerning basketball if you’ll just load up on Jimmy Chitwood, Merle, Ray, and the rest of the Hickory Huskers. Good defense, nice passing, screen upon screen which amount to an X and O mindset akin to the ceiling of some chapel in Rome, fiery fans-fight songs minus all the rancid consumerism hauled South by the best the Chamber of Commerce from Tom’s River could send to Raleigh………….all that awaits you MINUS THE GRIEF if you will just turn on AMC.

    As for me, I’ll be praying for a tar heal defeat, cold Milwaukee’s Best Light will be in the fridge and a calm assurance will surround me in the knowledge that I will be in a good mood no matter the outcome.

    “I love you guys”-ND



    Every team under Gott has had dysfunction.


    Thanks for the feedback Bill, et al. 🙂


    Absolutely, I remember Art coming out of Huntington High School back in ’55. He should have been a member of the Indiana All-Stars vs Kentucky. No disgrace since Dick Barnett didn’t get voted on either. ’55 and then ’56 were great years led by Oscar. That “Hoosiers” stuff is phooey hype. ’53 and ’54 were the poorest years in “Hoosier Hysteria” history

    The above has no context, of course, without explanation. That was from an Email I received from my friend “The Old Coach.”(assistant to Rupp and Wooden) I got that last week, and McCallum just made me laugh, sooo…

    BTW. The Art in reference might be worth the Google.

    I chose the latter in the poll 🙂


    Every team under Gott has had dysfunction.

    True words. Some years they seem to have a “come to Jesus” moment, and things get better, some not.
    Even if that happens this year, it’s too late to salvage what could have been (SHOULD have been based on how this team is capable of playing) a successful season.

    Seems like we would be better served with Dr Phil on staff instead of someone trying to teach these guys Xs and Os.


    Rest of Season??? Spin the roulette wheel. Put all your money on Red or Put all your money on Black. It will surely land on Green.

    Program?? Gott has to replace the bulk of this team with 2016-17 recruits. I expect a rodeo ride.


    There’s a level between #1 and #2 in the poll and that’s where I’d fall. Gott jumped the shark with the late run in year 1.

    Year two’s disaster was up there with Sid’s year 2. We had a higher ceiling with the Gott team (preseason #6) and Sid’s second team was critically flawed (no PG) but the level of disappointment was similar. It all even started in an eerily similar way where a physical team punched us in the mouth and we never really recovered on the way to a blow out. All momentum built in year 1 was effectively squandered.

    Fast forward a couple of years and we’re kind of stuck in neutral. These are HWSNBN type results, but with a better scheduling philosophy and a more conventional team structure.

    My answer to the poll is that a staff change is inevitable. It’s just how long it takes to play out. It surely won’t happen this year, if for no other reason than the contract. The question is whether it happens next year or the following.

    Because of the team make up, I don’t for a second believe another coach wouldn’t want to have a go at this squad. There’s talent here at every position. The only position without depth is PG where we really have two combos. This isn’t what HWSNBN left us — a team with no PG and whose interior guys were all recruited to jack up 3s.

    As for the “villain” comments. We have one, and his name is Kyle Washington. He was clearly “directing traffic” earlier this year. He’s also willing to step up when we’re desperately in need. Since then his minutes have fluctuated, presumably due to performance. If an on the court leader is so important, then the staff clearly should recognize that and prioritize having them out there.

    My contention (admittedly never having played or coached at the college level) is that a team leader isn’t as important as a go to player. The “team leader” excuse is trotted out by every team with weak leadership out of the coaches. The important player is the one that can put a team on it’s back and carry them. We have that in Lacey this year and had it in TJW last year. The results look about the same.

    There were some other comments about strategy. The strategy from this year from the very beginning was very obvious. There were two choices:
    1) Go 10 deep, platoon like Kentucky or Arkansas and press like crazy. This is a long, athletic, fast and deep team. We lack top line talent and shooting compared to the elite teams but make up for it in depth. We were going to struggle some in the half court without TJW. We needed to get out and run and it started with defense and a style of play.

    2) Reduce the rotation to 7-8, play a zone defense and stick BJ in the middle to clog it all up. Live with his reduced offensive production. If a player got hot from the perimeter, switch it to a box or diamond and 1 with Cat on the hot hand.

    We seemingly did neither. When we get in a hole we go to option #1 and look really, really, really good. Then we revert to “the plan” and back to mediocrity (putting it kindly).

    I don’t agree with the “honor the process” and “NC State/Wooden pyramid of excellence” argument. That one sounds as stubborn as HWSNBN and TOB. At a certain point, a coach has to look at what works and go with it. Failure to do so is noticed by the players. They know they’re not being put in the best position to win. Deviation from the plan shows a sense of urgency by the staff, which the players appreciate as well.

    For reference, think about this past football season. We turned it around because we hit the softer part of the schedule, but we also turned it around because we were more aggressive on defense and switched to a run first offensive philosophy. We didn’t try to do the same thing over and over again because we were “honoring the process” or “building for the future” with the “long term in mind.”


    We are a flaming turd storm. Somebody get the Lysol!


    We are missing a floor general, someone who is going to take charge. Problem is we got too many soldiers and no leader on court. We also don’t have a motherf*cker on our team. Kenny Inge was a motherf*cker. Damon Thornton was a motherf*cker. Hell, Scott Wood was a motherf*cker. Those guys talked sh*t, roughed you up if needed and got Technicals. Every team needs a motherf*cker and we ain’t got it.


    ryebread, nice post.

    Disagree here:

    Year two’s disaster was up there with Sid’s year 2.

    I thought Gott’s year 2 was discouraging, but acceptable (Sid’s was an unmitigated disaster). Gottfried stated something to the effect of: “Erm, we’re not at this point yet. Still years away” before that season started. Some may see that as deflection and/or as covering bases for an inevitable under-performance, but I give him credit for saying it. He was right – at least about that iteration of the team.

    Where I take issue with any type of ” ‘x’ number of years plan” – especially in college basketball – is that this type of plan doesn’t really work at power conference schools in today’s game. Four year players are virtually extinct in ‘power’ conferences. Almost all power conference schools suffer extreme turnover from one season to the next. It’s always the race for the “best talent” (which I feel can be very subjective). There will never really be a “foundation” to build upon.

    I think mid and low major schools are now the exception in college basketball. You can get and keep 4 year players there and “build” towards something. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that more and more Butler’s, Wichita State’s, and VCU’s are making runs to the Final Four. It’s just when they get there they’ll be facing the best of the one or two year power conference teams – like a Kentucky.

    Also, to clarify – I didn’t argue for ‘sticking with the plan’ – just merely laid out why I thought we’d probably see Gottfried sticking with his. My agreement level on that point is fairly irrelevant 🙂

    Edit: When discussing ‘4 year players’ and roster turnovers, I should have mentioned transfers as a big reason. Seems to be the culture now.


    I feel like Gottfried has learned the hard way that not every PG is Lorenzo Brown. Under Lowe, Brown was just ordinary and the offense was just ordinary–that was coaching. Under Gott, Brown and the offense were firing on all cylinders. Someone with Zo’s length and court vision is rare. Perhaps Gottfried took that for granted and just figured, “Hey, I can pop a Tyler Lewis or a Cat in there and they’ll be just as great.” Nope. Also, I agree with teams needing certain personnel. One glaring absence is a Richard Howell in my mind, a player (this year, a BIG) who is thirsty for opportunity, who leads by example. I was at State when Howell started in the program; went to a couple of his early games where he wasn’t much of an impact except in garbage time. Over the next year or two, man, he just blossomed. And he became the silent leader that our collection of guys–Zo, CJ, and Wood–really needed out there.

    Those are the two key things I believe we’re missing. But we have the pieces there. Cat has come on as of late; unfortunately, the rest of the team hasn’t. Then there’s your Washingtons, Abus, and Anyas–any one of these guys could step up and really become a leader. Another issue is, I don’t really see Gott as a leader, so how can his team rally?


    Gott tried to back pedal on the expectations in year 2, but it didn’t matter. People looked and saw 4 potential pro players on a team coming off a Sweet 16 run that only lost 2 role players. They were replaced by 3 McDonald’s AA freshman. The pieces were there. They just didn’t come together.

    The brake tapping was all coach speak before the season anyways trying to keep the players focused. Had the team actually gelled, Gott would have been a mastermind motivator. Instead he’s the guy trying to lower fan expectations (like TOB and HWSNBN always did).

    The fact that they didn’t come together completely undermined all momentum of year 1. That’s my point about that and Sid’s year 2. That momentum hurts future recruiting, not necessarily what you have coming in immediately afterwards. We’re suffering in recruiting now because of year 2 and what has transpired since.

    It was also obvious to me about the middle of year 2 where this was going to go. Those kids that finished strong the previous year suddenly weren’t bad kids. Heck, that year 2 team was way more talented. It pointed to coaching and it was Sid all over again (but with a higher floor).

    I’ve been waiting for this to play out ever since. The seeds of the results for season were planted a while ago. I think the general fan base is waking up now, and the big money donors will face the inevitable after next season. Due to the contract, Gott will probably get one more even after that.


    ^Ryebread gets it. The premise which the article began with–that this team hasn’t improved, and it’s primarily because we have individual parts and no team or floor leadership–is flawed. That same excuse was the one offered up by countless posters on this board when we underwhelmed in Gott’s Year 2. We missed the SR leadership of CJ Williams and Alex Johnson, and we missed DeShawn Painter, an upperclassman. Hogwash. When exactly have we ever shown team improvement? Individual improvement, undoubtedly from year to year, but only time I can remember, during the second half of conference play in Gott’s Year 1, was there team improvement. That team really amped up its defensive intensity and rebounding, which largely accounted for its run.

    Truth. There are constants. To predict future performance, look at past results. Not only this year, but in years past.

    If you want to run the UCLA high post, you probably need to heavily recruit some European bigs, or bigs with far more skill than we have on the roster. As an NCAA coach at a place like NCSU, you simply cannot expect to have a few years off to season your players. That’s just being real. What’s changed, imo, is that conference expansion and the rise of several other programs who made stronger hires have relegated us to the middle of the pack, or lower third of conference.


    TheCOWDOG can sit in the recliner and drink beside me.

    Suck it losers.



    So much wisdom came when Comrade 76 adopted Lenin Cat as official avatar.

    That team leadership point is so very apt. We really have only had one during MG’s entire tenure, and his name was Alex Johnson. I mean, for f-ck’s sake, CALVIN listened to him. CALVIN. He wouldn’t even listen to anyone in the Knicks’ organization with his livelihood at stake.

    Cat can lead by example. But he’s a quiet, introverted guy. So was Lorenzo Brown. Lacey, as was pointed out by Comrade 76, is too nice to crack skulls when needed. Everybody else is too young, too passive, or both.

    Gottfried keeping that wildly dysfunctional 2nd team together might have been his best coaching job of all. That team was all kinds of screwed up, and it really truly wasn’t his fault (nor, in year two, could it fairly have been his responsibility yet).

    I voted 2, though I’m probably around 2.3. I think a change is probable, but inevitable, or even overwhelmingly likely. Next season is absolutely vital, whether this one turns around a bit or not. This season’s ending has no bearing on how much I need to see in 2015-16. It needs to be special, or I’m worried. And unless there are mass defections from the program, MG gets next season no matter how high the dumpster flames rise this season.

    My two cents. Maybe worth half that.


    The premise which the article began with–that this team hasn’t improved, and it’s primarily because we have individual parts and no team or floor leadership–is flawed. That same excuse was the one offered up by countless posters on this board when we underwhelmed in Gott’s Year 2. We missed the SR leadership of CJ Williams and Alex Johnson, and we missed DeShawn Painter, an upperclassman. Hogwash.

    ^Fair enough. I feel that reaching that type of conclusion though doesn’t mean it’s an excuse for team or staff performance.

    All teams deal with hierarchy, personality, and personnel issues. Saying that =/= excusing results or excluding patterns. Some coaches deal with it better, some teams win in spite of themselves.

    Why can’t acknowledging a possible symptom and the resultant failure or ability to deal with said symptom be used as a grading or evaluating tool, as opposed to an excuse generator? After all, the program manager is responsible for his/her charges. Their failures are his/her failures.


    So much wisdom came when Comrade 76 adopted Lenin Cat as official avatar.

    ^Hahaha I thought you’d like that. Miss Black had served her purpose, and we are still waiting for that inevitable ‘Friday’.


    And amen, 76. Critical thought DOES NOT EQUAL excuse making. It’s damned interesting, at least to me. I want to understand why. To me, the dynamic is much harder to pinpoint than it was under HWSNBN or Sid. Thus I love the brainstorming.

    And NO, that does NOT mean I will hesitate to hold MG responsible if/when his day of reckoning comes. Fair is fair.


    We’re in the middle of the Pack in the ACC. Occasionally playing great, mostly fair to middlin’ and awful every once in a while. Did you really expect anything else?

    Remember the Valvano formula, win 20 games, play 500 ball in the ACC and peak at the end of the season. The Pack is 14 – 10 and 5 – 6 with a month to go. This team still has a chance to hit on all three – go 4 and 3 for the rest of the regular season and win a couple games in the ACC tournament.

    The one improvement I’d really like to see is for the coaches to manage late game leads better. We’ve lost several games where we were up by more points than there are minutes left in the game. We could easily be 7 – 4 instead of 5 – 6!

    Bottom line, this team shows the two things I require to be an interested fan – they go all out 40 minutes a game and play exciting basketball that’s worth watching.


    The continued undermining of V and his accomplishments to prop up our successive coaches saddens and maddens me. Apples to oranges with respect to the ACC, round robin scheduling, teams in the tournament, etc.. Massive differences in regular season finishes, ACC and NCAA tournament results. Massive difference in scope of the role (AD + coach for a while). Massive difference in positive exposure brought to the program. Massive difference in resources afforded to them by the university.

    We can start comparing when any one of these successive coaches actually wins a thing of note.


    I didn’t expect this team to be great this year. I expected us to be on the bubble, probably a little outside (which is where we are now), and that an NCAA bid would be a success with this roster. My problem with this team and with Gottfried is the same problem that I had coming into the year. They’re bad defensively, and I don’t know if that’s ever going to change.

    This is a good offensive team. We rank 31st in the country on offense (for comparison, last year we were 25th). That’s not elite, but it’s very good, and frankly it’s much better than I expected we’d be this season. Of course, I didn’t know Trevor Lacey would be this good, but it’s still an impressive showing for a team that graduated the second best offensive player in the country last year. There are places to make improvement, sure (I’d like to see more secondary action off screens for Ralston, less long 2s early in the shot clock, and quicker/smoother transition into the next set if an initial play is shut down), but on the whole I think the offensive talent on this roster has been well utilized.

    As for player development, I think there are some really encouraging signs. The Martin twins are much improved from the beginning of the year, and have the look of being really solid players for years to come. Abu is almost unrecognizable from the player he was at the beginning of the year. It’s startling how much he’s improved. Cat seems to have responded very positively to his benching, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen him play with as much confidence on the offensive end.

    The problems are at the defensive end, where this team is somehow worse (in relation to the national average) than last year, which feels like it should be impossible. We’re ranked 142nd nationally in defensive efficiency. Among ACC teams, that puts us barely ahead of Notre Dame and Virginia Tech, and well above Pitt, but well behind everyone else. It basically comes down to two factors. First, we rebound poorly. The only one of our big men who is a plus rebounder is Freeman, and he’s bad at everything else. The others tend to overcommit to the shot block (which is especially bad when both big men are trying to block the same shot), and have poor box out technique. The problem is compounded by the fact that Ralston completely loses track of his man a stunning number of times, and allows guys to sneak in from the wing for rebounds.

    On that note, the other problem is perimeter defense. Cat is a really good defender, and has had several excellent games at that end. The wings are often a disaster though. Lacey is rarely egregiously bad, but he’s most often defending the weakest perimeter option, and seems to save most of his energy for offense. And that means that Ralston isn’t guarding the least threatening player, and that’s often catastrophic. While he can be a reasonably competent on-ball defender, Ralston loses his man all the time in off-ball action, gets screened easily, and often gets caught in no-man’s land between being and help and covering his guy. What that all adds up to is a perimeter rotation that often gives up far too many open looks, and when are staying in front of people they’re never exerting pressure. That last thing is the killer, as we are ranked 339th in forcing turnovers. 339th! There are only 11 teams worse are taking the ball from their opponent than we are. Between the offensive rebounds and the lack of turnovers, it doesn’t really matter if we make shots tough, opponents are getting so many more opportunities than we are that they’re bound to hit enough eventually.

    After 4 years of Gottfried, I just don’t know if the guy can coach defense, or emphasizes it enough that the players buy in. This team has defensive talent. They have the athletes to hang with most teams. I’m not asking for an elite defense, but 142nd is inexcusable with this roster. It’s not just player development or effort though, it’s scheme too. If you’ve got a bunch of shot blockers who aren’t great rebounders (which we do), you should be leveraging that advantage by pressuring the perimeter. If you create turnovers, you don’t have to worry about the rebound for that possession. If you gamble and miss, you’ve got plenty of back line help. Instead, we let opposing teams dictate the way that they’re going to attack us. This team never imposes their will on defense, never. The closest we’ve come is in the Duke game, when we trapped Okafor pretty aggressively. For the most part, however, we’re a passive defense, and it’s really hard to win that way.

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