Tuesday, November 29, 2005


Who thought a bit of silver would look good on the uniforms of North Carolina, Illinois, and Michigan? Oh, right: Nike. Ugh.

In other news: prior to writing this post, I spent like five minutes refreshing Blogger trying to get the date and time stamp selectors to display, only to realize that there wasn't a problem with my browser--Blogger simply decided it was time to change its design and hide these selectors. Go me.


-- The ACC managed to take 3 of 5 tonight (as I write this, the Miami/Michigan game is still in progress, but Michigan leads comfortably), and I think that the ACC will get three more tomorrow (Maryland, Duke, NCSU/UVA), thus winning the Big Ten-ACC Challenge again.

-- Florida State pummeled Purdue. I am eagerly awaiting the official box so I can see how many points/possession the Seminoles scored in the first half. Maybe I shouldn't be admitting this.

-- Wake had to endure a late rally to beat Wisconsin. This was the most exciting game of the night. Wake had an offensive rebound rate of 50% (!) and made 90% of its free throws. Tonight, at least, Justin Gray and Deacs looked like the team of old.

-- Clemson took care of Penn State without too much trouble.

-- The Heels couldn't quite pull off the upset of Illinois. Very important win for the Big Ten. Going down 4-2 woulda meant certain doom.

-- Michigan is taking care of Miami, up 20 with 5:00 left.

-- I think the ACC is in good shape heading into the last five games. I don't expect Maryland to have much difficulty with Minnesota, and I think Duke will beat Indiana. Georgia Tech is sure to lose in East Lansing, which leaves NC State/Iowa and Northwestern/Virginia. The ACC should be able to split those two games.

Talkin' Iowa: Ryan from Hawkeye Hoops

Ryan and I exchanged a few questions about Wednesday's NC State/Iowa basketball game. My thanks to Ryan for taking the time to provide us with some insight into the Hawkeyes.

You can find my responses to Ryan's questions at Hawkeye Hoops.


1) What are Iowa's strengths and weaknesses? From what you've seen so far, does this year's team have any noticeable differences from last year's team?

That’s somewhat difficult to answer, because Iowa doesn’t excel at any particular area of the game, and they don’t have any major deficiencies, either. They were a decent rebounding team last year, and should be even better this year with Doug Thomas seeing more minutes and Erek Hansen chipping in a little more often.

Hansen (6.7 fouls / 40 min) and Thomas (7.0) were the two most foul-prone players in the Big Ten last year, so the team does allow its share of free throws, but Hansen’s shot-blocking and the team’s rebounding make for a decent defense.

The biggest weakness so far this year has been outside shooting, as the team has made only 28% of its threes. We’ve been quite susceptible to a good zone defense, which Texas showed when they shut us down at the end of that game. Jeff Horner and Adam Haluska are Iowa’s only big shooting threats, and both have started a little cold.

Overall, not much has changed from the end of last year. The same guys are getting the majority of the minutes, with freshman guard Tony Freeman thrown into the rotation. Most of the bench guys look improved, though, so Iowa can play a little deeper this year.

2) Which guys should we watch? Who should we worry about?

Iowa’s offense revolves around Adam Haluska, Greg Brunner, and Jeff Horner, or as they’re called in the Hawkeye state, the Big Three. Each went to high school in Iowa, and Brunner and Horner have started just about every game the last three years, so most fans here regard them pretty highly.

Horner spent most of the last three years at point guard, but is spending more time at the 2 this year in an attempt to better utilize his three-point shooting touch. He hit over 40% of those shots each of the last two years, and will shoot from well behind the line if his defender gives him room. He’s struggled with that so far this year, though, hitting only 28% of his threes in Iowa’s five games. Horner is also a great passer – he always gets the ball to the open man, and often finds ways to hit guys who aren’t. He should end his career as Iowa’s all-time leader in assists and threes made. He suffered a deep thigh bruise on Saturday but should be ready to go.

Brunner is a solid power forward. He’s adept around the basket, rebounds well, and is a good passer for his position. He’ll use his spin moves to get good shots when posting up, and tends to draw a lot of fouls. He’s also really smart about positioning himself in ways that make up for his lack of height. He does have a tendency to get stripped when he puts the ball on the floor. Brunner worked a lot over the last year to extend his shooting range, and is a legitimate threat from the three point line, though he won’t attempt many out there.

Haluska is the guy I really like, especially from the stats angle. He’s very versatile on offense, and can be very efficient. He hits the three reasonably well (39% last year), gets to the free throw line pretty frequently and makes 80+% there, rarely turns the ball over, and scores really well around the basket. He really stepped up after Pierre Pierce was kicked off the team last year, leading the team in scoring for their 12 remaining games against Big 10 teams.

3) Tell us a bit about the rest of Iowa's starters (anyone not mentioned in #2) and the bench. What sort of rotation should we expect?

Erek Hansen starts at center. He’s something of a mixed bag in that he’s a terrific shot blocker but an atrocious rebounder (at least he was last year). Last year, he blocked over five shots per 40 minutes, but his reb% was only 7.6%. He’s shown some signs of improvement this year, though. He’s notorious for his foul troubles, and has been the first man subbed out of every game, often in the first three or four minutes.

Mike Henderson starts at guard, mostly because of his highly-touted defense, and handles the ball quite a bit at the other end. He’s really pesky as an on-the-ball defender, and has stripped many a dribbler already this year. Offensively, he’s shown some ability to penetrate, which gets him free throws, but his passing is very weak. He simply doesn’t create better shots for his teammates.

Doug Thomas is the first guy off the bench, coming in for Hansen. He makes up for his relative shortness (6-8) with strength and great jumping ability. He’s easily Iowa’s best rebounder and ignites the crowd with his trademarked Thunder Dunks. That was about all he could do last year, but he looks more capable of contributing on offense this year.

Tony Freeman gives the backcourt some depth. He’s a short point guard who passes well, and whose defense is about as highly regarded as Henderson’s. Alex Thompson (6-9) comes in to play both forward positions. His scrappiness makes him a decent defender, and he seems to be constantly improving (he’s just a sophomore). He probably had his best career game with 11 points and 8 rebounds on Saturday.

4) How do you think Iowa will attack NC State? Or, how SHOULD the Hawkeyes attack NC State?

It would be nice to force the pace, build a lead, and get NC State out of their patient offensive mode, though I doubt that will happen. I’ll be happy enough to see the ball go inside to Brunner and see if he can push around NC State’s lighter post players.

5) Along those lines: what do the Hawkeyes need to do in order to be successful on Wednesday?

Iowa needs to take care of the ball and start hitting some three pointers. The offense was poor against Kentucky and Texas, mainly because Horner and Haluska missed so many jump shots. Brunner is reliable inside, and rebounding isn’t much of a concern, but I think they’ll need some threes to keep pace with a good offensive team like NC State.

6) What aspect of the Wolfpack (or player matchup) concerns you the most?

The number of guys capable of hitting the three worries me. Northwestern plays a similar style, and we lose to them seemingly every year, even though they haven’t had a winning conference record since the ‘60s. If you’re patient enough with Iowa’s defense, there’s usually a good shot to be found, and the Wolfpack seem capable of exploiting that. And I don’t like the idea of Hansen and Brunner being drawn away from the basket and their area of defensive strength.

Since I doubt NC State will have many turnovers (they handle the ball well, plus Iowa gets conservative and doesn’t try to force TOs against good teams), Iowa will have to keep them from shooting well. If the outside shots are falling, NC State will be tough.

The slow pace worries me too. Iowa tends to make a couple stupid turnovers each game, and its nice to have a few extra possessions to even those out. If this game only has 60 or so possessions, they’ll have to play with fewer mistakes than they have so far.

7) And finally, give us your prediction.

I expect this one to be pretty close and low scoring. I like Iowa’s defense, and I’m hoping the home crowd gives them a bit of an edge, so I’ll say 65-61, Hawks.

BlogPoll Ballot -- Week 14

My week 13 ballot is here.
Rank TeamLast Week
1 Southern Cal1
2 Texas2
3 Virginia Tech3
4 LSU4
5Notre Dame5
6 Penn State6
7 Ohio State7
8 Miami (FL)8
11 West Virginia11
17Boston College19
20Texas Tech22
22Georgia Tech24
23Fresno State14
25Florida State18

Dropped Out: South Carolina

Games Watched: Maryland vs. NCSU, UNC vs. VPI, FSU vs. Florida, Georgia vs. GT, Arizona vs. Arizona State, Texas vs. A&M, Nowledge vs. Colorado

Monday, November 28, 2005

Monday notes: football and basketball

-- Congratulations to Manny Lawson, Mario Williams, and Stephen Tulloch, who are first-team All-ACC players. TJ Williams and Darrell Blackman were second-teamers.

-- Boise or Charlotte. Boise or Charlotte. I have to admit, I'm hoping we end up somewhere we don't normally have a chance to go--like San Francisco or Nashville. We aren't likely to have many opportunities to play in a bowl outside of the normal ACC tie-ins. Barring that, here's hoping that Clemson ends up in Orlando so we can play in Charlotte.

-- The Wolfpack's hoops win over Notre Dame impressed the pollsters enough to earn it a ranking in both polls.

-- Sticking with basketball: Ken Tysiac laments the fact that the ACC isn't facing the Big East this week. After a heavy, remorseful sigh, Tysiac continues with a rundown of the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.

-- This is somewhat unrelated, but it caught my eye: John Chaney berates Temple fans.
The 73-year-old coach walked to the scorer's table, grabbed the mike and told the fans it wasn't Temple's way to be seen as "idiots."

"To endanger the lives of these kids is not our way," he said to a hushed crowd. "Always remember, stupid is forever. You can't change stupidity. So if somebody's sitting next to you, make them recognize that we do not allow that here at Temple."

Chaney said Monday he made his public rebuke because he was concerned about the safety of the players and he's grown tired of the increasingly bad behavior in all levels of sports.
For some reason, Chaney's remarks ring hollow...

Chaney has a history of insufferable antics, most notably threatening to kill Massachusetts coach John Calipari during a postgame news conference in 1994. And it was only last season when Chaney was suspended after sending in a player to intentionally foul a Saint Joseph's player, who ended up with a broken arm.

"I might do a lot of dumb things, but I don't tolerate them," he said.

Pack takes care of the Irish

There are often ill-effects when a team steps up from cupcakes to play a major-conference team for the first time(remember the groaner against Purdue last year?). Although the Wolfpack weren't great against the Irish, they did control the majority of the game and allow us to breathe easily for most of the night.
"Notre Dame has a
basketball team?"

Game notes:

-- Big discrepancy in shooting percentages: NC State's adjusted FG% was 53.5%, while Notre Dame's was just 40.2%. The Pack didn't shoot particularly well from inside the arc, but made up for it by hitting 50% of its three-point attempts.

-- Turnovers: Notre Dame became the third NCSU opponent to turn the ball over on more than 25% its possessions. NC State, meanwhile, only turned the ball over on 20% of its possessions.

-- Notre Dame did a much better job than NC State on the glass. Torin Francis had 11 rebounds, 4 of which were offensive. For the game, Notre Dame rebounded nearly 40% of its missed shots; NC State only rebounded 15% of its missed shots (4 offensive rebounds in 27 opportunities). Disappointing to say the least...I really thought we would be better at rebounding this season (though I guess we still could be). Evtimov had one rebound in 27 minutes, and Ced Simmons wasn't very productive, either.

-- The Pack has hit 75% of its free throws through five games, including 83% against UND. Both Simmons and Grant have shown marked improvement at the line, and since they're the guys drawing the most fouls, that is important. Evtimov struggled last year (67%), but looks like he could be back on track this season.

-- This game gives us a good idea of how the rotation will look for the more serious portions of the schedule. Seven guys--Evtimov, Grant, Atsur, Simmons, Brackman, Bennerman, Bethel--got major minutes; Costner and McCauley had a cup of coffee (1 minute apiece). So far, Herb has been starting games with his big lineup, with Bennerman and Bethel coming off the bench. Hopefully McCauley or Costner will get better over the course of the season, because it would be nice to have another forward in the rotation.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

NCSU 20, Maryland 14

(Sidenote: Check out the picture of "Toney Baker" in GoPack's recap. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that this hasn't been corrected.)

I don't get you, Marcus Stone. What do they tell you at halftime, and would it be possible for them to offer you this piece of enlightment prior to the game?

At halftime, I was feeling pretty bad about our chances. I'm sure a lot of people were. Maryland held the ball for over 20 minutes, and it seemed like the majority of that time was spent on State's side of the 50 yard line. The Wolfpack, meanwhile, had managed 40-something total yards. The only reason the Pack managed to score at all in the first half was because Maryland muffed a punt.

The Terps had the lead. They'd thoroughly outplayed the Wolfpack. Marcus Stone looked lost.

And then, much like the Florida State game, NC State turned the tables completely--seemingly out of nowhere.

On the first possession of the second half, Stone completed several passes in a row. The Pack controlled the ball for 12:24 in the 3rd quarter and re-took the lead. The offense went 3-and-out just once in the second half, and in that particular case they already had the ball in field goal range (courtesy of a fumble).

As we rolled into the 4th quarter, the vibe was much different. We'd clearly outplayed Maryland in the 3rd...odd as that was. The offense had a pulse and the defense was stifling.

When Sam Hollenbach threw the ill-advised pass that was returned for a score by Marcus Hudson, I thought that was it for the Terps. Recent history says I should have known better.

The Wolfpack had a several golden opportunities to put the game out of reach. One was an easy INT dropped by Stephen Tulloch near midfield (I can't recall where we were in the second half when that happened).

Another was a fumble by Hollenbach which came on the very next Maryland drive after the pick six. NC State had the ball in the red zone with less than nine minutes left in the game. Trestman kept the playcalling conservative, though, and NC State had to settle for a field goal. Instead of pushing the lead to three possessions (24-7), it was still two (20-7). Later, Maryland had a lengthy 4th down around its own 40. There were about five minutes left and the Terps had one timeout left. So if the Pack held on 4th down, they could pretty much salt away Maryland's chances. Instead, Hollenbach hit JoJo Walker for a miraculous 32-yard pass play.

I started having visions of 2001-2003 after that play. It was one of the few punches to the gut State fans had to deal with all day. Naturally, Maryland scored later on that drive.

Seems like we never make things easy on ourselves. Thankfully, we can smile about it this time.

Quick Notes:

-- Mario Williams. There's nothing I can say that will do his performance justice. Five TFLs--including 4 sacks--and a forced fumble. Mario was in Hollenbach's face all day.

-- Nice effort from Toney Baker: 13 carries, 68 yards (4.3 YPC)

-- I'm not sure if it's coincidence or what, but we've been far less turnover-prone with Marcus Stone under center. NC State won the turnover battle again today. State's one giveaway (a Stone INT) hurt but wasn't crippling because it occurred in Maryland territory. Maryland's turnovers, obviously, were among the most critical plays of the game.

-- I spent most of the game in quiet admiration of Vernon Davis. The dude has got to be the most difficult skill position player to tackle in the nation.

-- This year hasn't been what we wanted it to be, and the team still has some serious problems. But the Pack is on its way to a bowl game. It feels great. StateFans Nation has done some some excellent analysis on bowl scenarios.

-- The basketball team put the cap on this fabulous day. More on that on Sunday.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Goin' Bowling!

Box Score

Thursday, November 24, 2005

NC State 75, VMI 55

Box Score

So that could have gone a little better.

The first nine minutes were extremely frustrating; thankfully the guys decided to quit messing around after that point.

Game notes:

-- Cedric Simmons is an impressive sight when he is skying for a rebound, but I'm a little disappointed in his lack of production in this area tonight. Six rebounds in 30 minutes isn't going to cut it. VMI is not at all a good rebounding team.

-- I left the game thinking Gavin Grant had a terrible night, mostly because he couldn't hit anything. He also seemed a little out of control at times. When I checked the box score, I saw he had 8 rebounds and 6 assists. Not so bad after all.

-- A couple of impressive dunks by Cam Bennerman. If you weren't at the game tonight, you will definitely want to watch the Herb Sendek Show this weekend for the highlights. Cam wasn't hitting his jumpers, but he did have 7 rebounds and 4 steals.

-- I'm not going to get concerned about Brackman's poor early-season free throw shooting, which continued tonight.

-- Ben McCauley came into the game intermittently throughout; Fells only saw garbage time. I'm disappointed that Fells appears to be behind the other two freshmen. There was a lot of hype about him coming in and being instant-impact, but that clearly ain't happening. Trust is always an issue with inexperienced players, and I can see why it's an issue in Fells's case--while you can see his pure passing ability, the passes he made tonight could best be described as, um, interesting. During his brief six-minute stint, he tended to make risky skip passes as if he were trying to create a pretty assist opportunity every time he touched the ball. I should note that none of these passes resulted in turnovers, but this is VMI, after all.

-- Team Turnover Rates: NC State, 21.6%; VMI, 24.3%

-- Team OReb Rates: NC State, 35.7%; VMI, 25%. Good, solid effort against a crappy rebounding team. If we hadn't won the rebounding war convincingly, I'd have been quite concerned.

-- Team Offensive Efficiency (pts/100 poss): NC State, 101; VMI, 74. Second-consecutive poor showing for the Wolfpack. For perspective, last season's NC State team averaged about 113 points/100 possessions, which was good enough for 16th in the nation. Shooting and turnovers caused the problems this evening.

Ain't no thang

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

BlogPoll Ballot -- Week 13

Last week's ballot is here.
Rank TeamLast Week
1 Southern Cal1
2 Texas2
3 Virginia Tech4
4 LSU5
5Notre Dame6
6 Penn State7
7 Ohio State8
8 Miami (FL)3
11 West Virginia12
14Fresno State17
18Florida State19
19Boston College20
22Texas Tech23
24Georgia TechNR
25South Carolina21

Dropped Out: Minnesota

Games Watched: Alabama vs. Auburn, tOSU vs. Michigan, Virginia Tech vs. Virginia, Fresno State vs. Southern Cal, BC vs. Maryland, Penn State vs. Michigan State, Georgia Tech vs. Miami

Monday, November 21, 2005

Weekend of Gluttony: did we learn anything?

And you thought there was only one such weekend this month.

Against little resistance, the NC State basketball team bit into the delicious, creamy centers of Stetson, The Citadel, and Delaware. I made a point to pay close attention to how the Wolfpack rebounded the ball since that is typically a serious weakness. Prior to the season, I thought there was reason for optimism. What I saw this weekend was...less than encouraging.

Things began well enough against Stetson's midget brigade: NC State managed an Offensive Rebound Rate of 45.5%, which is quite good.

"Mmm...creamy center."

On Saturday, NC State was absolutely pummeled by Citadel at both ends of the court. Not only did the Bulldogs grab 47.9% of available offensive boards, they also held the Pack to a weak 21.9% O-Reb Rate.

Against Delaware, NC State rebounded well enough to make the percentages close, but still lost the rebounding battle.

I realize it is difficult and probably unfair to read too much into three games, especially against this level of competition; still, you'd think that if this team were going to be genuinely better at rebounding, it would show indications of improvement against the weakest foes on the schedule.

Does NC State's perimeter-oriented offense hinder its ability to grab offensive rebounds? Possibly, but the Pack's problems extend to the defensive side of the ball as well. And there is a much simpler explanation: NC State recruits forwards whose strengths tend to be range and ballhandling rather than rebounding. I'm still hopeful that Andrew Brackman and Cedric Simmons will improve their rebounding skills now that they're bigger and stronger, though certainly there is a lot more to rebounding than weight.

This post shouldn't end on a downer (we don't need to rebound well to be successful; it'd just be nice...). Bear in mind that offensive rebounding isn't the most important factor for success--shooting and turnover percentage matter more, and NC State is good in both areas.

I'm optimistic about our chances against Notre Dame and Iowa (the Irish moreso than the Hawkeyes), although there is that whole can't-beat-a-decent-OOC-opponent-away-from-the-RBC-Center thing. Ilian Evtimov, Engin Atsur, Gavin Grant, and Cedric Simmons have gotten off to excellent starts. For the weekend, Grant averaged 19.8 points, 8.7 rebounds, and 7.2 assists per 40 minutes. Simmons averaged 23.9 points, 10.6 rebounds, and 3.3 blocks per 40 min. If Ced can become a consistent threat in the post--filling Jordan Collins's shoes and then some--that's going to be huge.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Whatever works...

The game should have been much closer. We are fortunate that it wasn't.

Wake up, damn you!
The Blue Raiders scored on one of five red zone opportunities. They had a touchdown called back and missed a field goal. NC State, meanwhile, needed a short field set up by a punt block and a pick six in order to muster 24 points.

Although I expected NC State to win the game, I recognized that MTSU was capable of giving the Wolfpack some problems. But I didn't expect the Raiders to put up more total yards of offense, and I definitely didn't expect them to dominate time of possession the way they did.

I thought NC State could play well enough to create some positive vibes going into the Maryland game. Instead, the Pack offered up a pretty flat performance.

The offense actually wasn't as bad as it appeared. Those 238 total yards came on just 42 snaps, which is an average of 5.7 yards per play. NC State's offense hasn't managed an average higher than that since the Eastern Kentucky game (6.8 yards per play). You gotta hand it to Middle Tennessee for controlling the ball for so long, because I think that kept the offense from having a more encouraging performance.

Clint Marks was good (and efficient, not surprisingly), as was Draconian Lentils (who had 10 receptions). Maybe Lee Fowler can call in a favor so we can borrow those two guys for the Maryland game.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

News & Record: Stone's on-the-job training continues

Marcus Stone working hard to get better:
But even before Stone got his chance to replace Jay Davis as the starting quarterback, he was working hard on his flaws.

After each practice, Stone and Clark would stay late. Stone would throw an additional 150 passes to Clark. On each toss, Stone would refine his throwing mechanics and simulate working through his progressions -- looking where the primary target would be, then to the secondary receiver and so on.

"I'm a strong believer that after practice, when you're tired, you should go back and work on your fundamentals," Stone said.

Stone continued those extra workouts until this week, when Trestman -- a notorious workaholic himself -- actually asked Stone to take a break from it so Stone could rest his arm.

Trestman and Stone know what the sophomore quarterback really needs now can only be acquired in games: playing experience. The lessons Stone is learning throughout the week must be replicated at a much higher speed on game day.

"It's still fast to me," he said. "But every snap I take, it has started getting better and easier to see things."

The snap-to-snap progress Stone has made has the Wolfpack hopeful he can continue his education into December, when bowl season begins.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Greensboro News & Record previews Pack hoops; Wake continues to bumble

-- Another preview of Wolfpack hoops, another suggestion that perhaps the team will be better without Julius Hodge. Why is it that only after Hodge's departure do people assert that he never really fit into Herb Sendek's offense? Or did I just miss these accusations during the last four years?

-- Florida 77, Wake 72. Can't say I'm shocked.

An interesting early trend: lots of turnovers committed by the Deacs.

Turnover Rates

vs. Miss Valley: 27.6%
vs. George Mason: 26.5%
vs. Florida: 27.4%

Meaning that Wake has been turning the ball over on one out of every four possessions. Justin Gray has 17 turnovers combined over the last two games.

Last season, the Deacs were pretty good at avoiding mistakes ('04-'05 TO Rate = 20%). Obviously it's still early, but there is growing cause for alarm in Winston-Salem.

Previewing Stetson

With the basketball opener just a couple of days away, here's a look at NC State's first opponent.

The Hatters, who play in the Atlanic Sun, were 10-17 last season. Their 2004-2005 OOC slate featured Florida (Hatters lost by 39), Miami (lost by 31), Florida State (lost by 10), and Georgia (won by 4!).

Season stats here.

Let's look at the Four Factors. First, Stetson's offense (stats from KenPom.com):

Stetson Offense 2004-2005
Four FactorsPercentNat'l Rank
Adj FG%46.6273
Turnover Rate22.1242
Off Reb Rate35.555

They were a terrible shooting team and had problems with turning the ball over. Those two things do not make for a good offense, so it's no surprise that Stetson had a terrible one--they ranked near the bottom of D-IA in offensive efficiency (pts/100 possessions).

They rebounded pretty well and got to the line at a decent rate, but don't be fooled--this is not a big team. In fact, they rely on a couple of senior guards for most of their scoring.

The defense, unfortunately, wasn't any better than the offense:

Stetson Defense 2004-2005
Four FactorsPercentNat'l Rank
Adj FG%53.6312
Turnover Rate21.798
Off Reb Rate32.3179

Stetson's strength was forcing turnovers, but they allowed opponents to shoot spectacularly well against them, especially from three point range. Only 11 D-IA teams allowed a higher proportion of points to be scored against them by virtue of the three-pointer (see here). For NC State, this = JACKPOT!

Stetson returns 4 of 5 starters from last season. The lone departure was their starting center.

Anticipated starting lineup:
[why per-minute stats?]

PG Will Holloman (6'1"): 10.5 pts/40 min, 3.7 ast/40

G Anthony Register (6'3"): 18.7 pts/40 min, 4.4 rebs/40

G EJ Gordon (6'4"): 17.9 pts/40 min, 8.6 rebs/40, 2.4 stls/40

F Karl Hollingsworth (6'5"): 13.6 pts/40 min, 5.3 rebs/40

C JJ Hirst (6'8): 13 min/game in 2004-2005

See? Not very big. The first four guys listed are the returning starters.

The Hatters aren't really into this whole three point line thing. They can't defend the three-pointer and they don't shoot it very often, either. Register had the most three-point attempts on the team last year (120), but only made 31.7% of them.

Gordon and Register make this team go at the offensive end; expect those guys to combine for about half of Stetson's field goal attempts on Friday. They prefer to score off dribble penetration, and both are pretty good at drawing fouls. Gordon is the better overall player of the two--in addition to the stats listed, he's the leading returning shot blocker and was second on the team in assists/40 minutes.

There's just one problem: Gordon is a terrible shooter. Despite being a guard, he has no range whatsoever (was 4-26 from behind the arc last year), and he shot a meager 39% from the field. Gordon is a big factor in Stetson's inefficiency, because not only does he play 30+ minutes per game, he also takes a ton of shots (most attempts on the team in '04-'05).

Holloman was the team's best shooter last year, though his role in the offense was/is pretty limited. It's the Gordon & Register Show; Holloman just gives 'em the ball and takes a jumper here and there.

Hollingsworth is the third scoring option. The real question mark is the center spot. Hirst didn't play very much last season; also expected to play that position is Chief Kickingstallionsims (seriously), who, his profile tells us, has the longest last name in school and A-Sun basketball history. His name means "strength of the fallen rocks." He played a grand total of 69 minutes last season.

So there you have it. Gordon and Register will hoist shots without mercy, and by halftime we should have the foundation laid for a new computer lab or something.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

More MTSU notes; the return of McCants

-- From the Tennessean, more on the Lee Fowler-Andy McCollum relationship (while the AD at Middle Tennessee, Fowler hired McCollum):

When the Blue Raiders made the difficult step up from Division I-AA to I-A football in 1999, Fowler said he had to make Andy McCollum something of a sacrificial lamb. He had to force McCollum to play games his team had nearly no chance of winning.

"It was like sending him into a gunfight with a stick,'' Fowler said. "Because you don't have the players, you don't have the ability to get people to come to your place to play, and you're sent out on road games that you're more than likely not going to win."

-- More on Middle Tennessee: MTSU has scared fair share of BCS teams

-- I'm just wondering: if the Big 4 were conglomerated into the "Duke Forest Tarpack", what would the uniforms look like? I assume that East Carolina's players would comprise the practice squad.

-- In this article about the local women's basketball programs:

Carolina has added a slew of freshmen, most notably guard Rashanda McCants, the younger sister of former UNC men's star Rashad McCants. Rashanda's game is reminiscent of her brother's, but UNC might use her to spell Ivory Latta at the point.

Had the recently departed McCants been a marginal player not worthy of the NBA, I'd have found this news to be rather "convenient."

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Some positive bowl-related news, plus quotes from MTSU press conference

Sounds encouraging to me, anyway:
"N.C. State is definitely on our radar screen, and it probably will come down to the Maryland-N.C. State game," said Gary Beck, director of the MPC Computers Bowl. "Either would be great, and we'd be excited about having them in Boise."

The Pack (4-5) faces Middle Tennessee on Saturday at Carter-Finley Stadium, followed by a home game against the Terrapins (5-4) on Nov. 26. If State were to win both games, it would close the regular season with victories in four of its last five, enhancing its bowl chances.

The Dec. 28 MPC Computers Bowl likely will match an ACC team against Boise State, Beck said. In addition to NCSU and Maryland, the bowl also is considering Clemson, Beck said.

The Meineke Car Care Bowl is Dec. 31 in Bank of America Stadium. The bowl had North Carolina and Boston College last year, attracting a crowd of 70,412 as the Eagles won 37-24.

"N.C. State is on our radar screen, but it's obviously still a pretty big screen," said Will Webb, executive director of the Meineke Car Care Bowl.

Webb noted Clemson and Virginia already are eligible and have many fans who travel to bowl games. UNC, he said, again was a possibility should the Tar Heels (4-5) finish with wins over Duke on Saturday in Chapel Hill and Nov. 26 at Virginia Tech.

"State's fan base and its proximity to Charlotte would work well," he said. "We're still a young bowl, and the concept of the bowl was to have teams from the Carolinas or Virginia when we could.

"But it's like an election. All the precincts aren't closed yet."

We get to 6-5, we'll be playing somewhere. There is still the small matter of beating Middle Tennessee and Maryland...

A few excerpts from MTSU's weekly press conference:
Head Football Coach Andy McCollum

What is your impression of the N.C. State defense?
"Their defensive line is great. All four will be making a lot of money playing this game. They look as good as advertised. They really have speed all over the field. It's a very good looking football team all around and it's going to be a tough challenge.This is a team that beat Florida State two weeks ago so that tells you about all you need to know about their team. It's not one area, they are solid all-around."

What is your relationship with (former Middle Tennessee athletic director) Lee Fowler?
"I never met (current N.C. State athletic director) Lee Fowler until I made the visit to Middle Tennessee for the job interview. I think the world of him. I appreciate him giving me the opportunity to work for this great University. He was very committed to giving us what we needed in order to be successful. We still talk frequently."

When you were hired, did Lee Fowler talk to you about the fact it may take awhile to win at Middle Tennessee?
"When he gave me the job he knew it wasn't going to be easy. We had success probably faster than people thought as things fell into place. He is a good man and he worked hard to give us what we needed to be successful, and when he left he was really working hard to make some things happen facility-wise."

I'm sure the above reflects negatively on Lee Fowler in some way. I'll leave it to you people.

DB Bradley Robinson

Your thoughts on this week's game against N.C. State?
"It's very exciting to play a team such as N.C. State. We expect great things of ourselves because we have been in these situations before. It's a challenge but one we look forward to seeing what we can do."

Growing up in South Carolina, is N.C. State a team you wanted to play for?
"I like N.C. State. I wanted to go there growing up. It's a great school and a great program. A lot of schools told me I was too small coming out of high school and they were one of those, so now I get to show them what I can do."

BlogPoll Ballot -- Week 12

Rank TeamLast Week
1 Southern Cal1
2 Texas2
3 Miami (FL)3
4 Virginia Tech5
6 Notre Dame8
7 Penn State9
8 Ohio State10
11 Auburn14
12West Virginia15
17Fresno State22
19Florida State11
20Boston College25
21South CarolinaNR
23Texas Tech18

Dropped Out: Georgia Tech, Colorado

Games Watched: Boise State vs. Fresno State, FSU vs. Clemson, Maryland vs. UNC, A&M vs. Oklahoma, Miami vs. Wake Forest (damn you, regional coverage), LSU vs. Alabama, NC State vs. Boston College, Auburn vs. Georgia

Poll Items:

-- Plenty of reshuffling this week. Minnesota is back for the first time in a while, and the OBC makes his debut.

-- Yes, I'm aware Michigan played Indiana this past Saturday.

-- I'm liking Fresno State a lot more now that I've finally gotten a chance to see them play.

-- I thought about dropping Texas Tech out, but I didn't really care for the alternatives (Oklahoma, UTEP). The Sooners can prove me wrong by beating the Red Raiders.

Monday, November 14, 2005

MTSU: the best team in the greater Nashville area

MTSU Roster
MTSU Schedule & Results
MTSU/ULM Game Highlights

The Blue Raiders are coming off a deflating loss to Louisiana-Monroe which ended their Sun Belt conference title hopes. But they do still have that win over Vandy.

Middle Tennessee State 2005
Yards/GameNat'l Rank
Rush Offense114.896
Pass Offense186.691
Total Offense301.4107
Rush Defense142.657
Pass Defense193.428
Total Defense33633

As you can see, there isn't much that the Blue Raiders do well. They also rank 87th in penalties/game (behind the Wolfpack, even). In a game against Florida Atlantic earlier this season, MTSU committed 11 penalties for 158 yards, which is nearly 15 yards per penalty. At least they aren't half-assin' it.

Although their passing game doesn't look like much on paper, it is worth noting that QB Clint Marks has been an efficient passer. He's completed 66% of his passes this season (130-197) and has 6 INTs to go with 6 TD passes. Marks relies on Cleannord Saintil, who has 44 catches and 589 yards this season. From this point forward, Saintil will be known only as "Draconian Lentils," because that's the coolest phrase I found when I anagrammed his name (how could you not anagram his name?). I also liked "Nonsectarian Dill."

Eugene Gross gets most of the carries out of the backfield and is also, along with Draconian Lentils, among Clint Mark's favorite targets.

In its two games against major conference foes (Bama and Vandy), MTSU has averaged less than 200 total yards. Alabama held the Blue Raiders to 34 yards rushing, while Vandy held them to 62 yards. If they break 100 on the ground against NC State, it's a bad day for the Wolfpack defense.

With the running game contained, it'll be all about stopping MTSU's efficient short passing game. We probably shouldn't expect Clint Marks to have one of those 12-29 games, as he's been able to maintain a high completion percentage against all of MTSU's opponents--including Alabama. The Wolfpack's defensive line should hopefully have something to say about that.

I'll be disappointed if NC State doesn't force 2-3 turnovers even though MTSU is good at hangin' onto the ball (just 11 turnovers).

Middle Tennessee's defensive numbers are decent but mostly a reflection of the company it keeps. The Raiders held Alabama to 345 total yards, though that doesn't say a whole lot. Over the last three weeks, they've allowed 183 rushing yards per game and better than 4.5 yards per carry.

Placekicker Colby Smith hasn't made a field goal outside of 40 yards (0-5). Not that the game will come down to a kick... He handles the punting duties as well.

As for our side of things: not much needs to be said.

Andre Brown is set up for a rebound, while Marcus Stone has no excuse for another slow start. It would be nice to see some continuity out of the offense--some evidence that we can put drives together and score consistently without relying on big plays.

Edit: Visiting MTSU fans, please feel free to share some insight into the Blue Raiders. It's hard to know what to expect based off of recaps and box scores.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

At least the first ten minutes were fun

Box Score

I am posting the box score, but I can think of few reasons why anyone would want to look at it.

Here's a half-hearted attempt at being constructive:

-- We knew we needed to get 1 of 2 out of FSU and BC in order to give ourselves a shot at a bowl trip. We've done that.

-- Over the last two games, we've committed one turnover. So that's something.

Moving on...

Marcus Stone got off to an encouraging start, looking comfortable and making good throws. The athleticism he showed on the long pass play to Brian Clark was
"Remember, there's nothing funny
about ... vapor lock."

impressive, as was the would-be touchdown pass that TJ Williams dropped. Crappy Marcus Stone appeared shortly thereafter and incompleted his way to halftime.

Perhaps Marcus will put everything together one day, rather than simply giving us a few flashes of ability.

Since the full, detailed box score is currently unavailable, I don't have a tally of the number of times we ran the ball on first down tonight. Our conservative bent has made for a lot of first down runs over the last two weeks. We threw the ball a bit more tonight, mostly because the score forced our hand.

BC keyed on the run every bit as much as USM and FSU did; the difference in previous weeks was our ability to execute despite the they-know-it's-comin' factor. The offensive line was awful in all respects: they allowed eight sacks, and NCSU averaged less than two yards-per-carry.

I was really disappointed at the number of big plays allowed by the Wolfpack defense. Will Blackmon burned AJ Davis for two long pass plays in the first half, both of which led to Boston College scores. The first, which came on a third-and-a-mile play, ended up being an omen of things to come. Boston College's massive OL kept NC State from getting consistent pressure on Matt Ryan, and it also opened up a lot of holes for LV Whitworth.

Special teams were a mixed bag. Deraney hit a 48-yard field goal, but missed a long one later. He didn't get much distance on his punts, not to mention he was nearly killed on one occasion by a horde of BC players. That particular punt--near the end of the first half--looked to be another major blocking breakdown. Why has this become an issue all of the sudden? Thank goodness Deraney's injury wasn't serious enough to keep him out of the game.

With this egg laid and buried, NC State is in a position I'd hoped to aviod: it'll have to beat Maryland in order to become bowl eligible. I hate the thought of having so much riding on a game against the Terps. I'd almost feel better if the game were on the road.

Hopefully, we'll look crisper against Middle Tennessee State and inspire some confidence heading into the UMD showdown. If Marcus Stone can't complete at least 50% of his throws against MTSU, there is no hope for him...

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Hacking masses

NC State 97, Mt. Olive 56

Coolest box score ever.

I didn't go to the game tonight, and I'm glad I didn't. Mt. Olive committed an astounding 40 fouls, which led to 61 NC State free throw attempts.
"Dang, man, I just
got in the game..."

The Hacking Masses of the Game: Chuckie Jefferson, who fouled out in 7 minutes of playing time (pictured at right); and Justin Egdorf, who fouled out in 6. Way to go, guys.

Here's a fun stat:


Mt. Olive had more offensive rebounds (22) than defensive rebounds (17) because of an absurd discrepancy in field goal attempts. Mt. Olive hoisted/launched/saturation bombed 72 shots (making 20), while NC State shot just 36 (making 24). Twice as many attempts...40 fewer points.

All those shots made for a ton of available boards at Mt. Olive's end--53, to be exact. Their 22 offfensive boards gave them a 41.5% Offensive Rebound Rate for the game. In general, it sounded like the Wolfpack gave a better effort tonight, but allowing that kind of rebounding efficiency to Mt. Olive...ew.

On the other end, NC State grabbed 7 offensive boards out of 24 available rebounds. That's not a good percentage; however, because of the utter weirdness of the game, 12 of those OReb opportunities came courtesy of missed Wolfpack FTs. Since the Mt. Olive players had the best rebounding position for those missed free throws by default, they were able to grab a higher percentage of defensive boards than they otherwise would have.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Thoughts on Wake's basketball season-opener and some last-minute football notes

Wake Forest beat Mississippi Valley State 78-64 last night, though the game was close for a good portion. That's not something worth worrying about yet, though. This being the first game that counts, I was interested in seeing how Wake distributed its playing time. Not surprisingly, Justin Gray logged the most minutes--he's the only known quantity in the Deacs' thin backcourt. Plus he's not a big, hulking, foul-magnet. Other notes:

-- I was surprised to see that Justin Gray didn't attempt a 3-pointer. He must really be taking this point guard thing seriously.

-- Eric Williams's 22 & 9 in 25 minutes is awfully damn good. MVSU's lucky they got him in foul trouble.

-- Very impressive line from Trent Strickland. He scored efficiently and grabbed a bunch of rebounds--over 20% of the available boards while he was in the game (that's really good). Strickland's rebounding numbers were nothing special last season ('04-'05 rebounding percentage = 11.5%), though.

-- Strickland, as well as Chris Ellis and Kyle Visser, will be playing a lot more minutes this year. Obviously, how they adjust to this will be a huge factor in Wake's season. Of the three, Strickland got the most minutes last season, averaging about 17 per game.

-- Interesting that Wake didn't out-rebound MVSU. Offensive Rebound Rates: 23.8% for Wake, 24.4% for MVSU.

-- Looking at the discrepancy in shooting percentages between the two teams, it's hard to imagine how the game was close. Turnovers probably had a lot to do with it: Wake turned the ball over on 28% of its possessions; MVSU turned it over just 13% of the time.

In Blacksburg, Virginia Tech crushed Radford.

Some Friday football notes:

-- As you have probably heard by now JJ Jones won't be traveling with the team to Chestnut Hill. This hurts from a depth/experience standpoint, but I have always thought Jones was a marginal player. It's disappointing to hear that a fifth-year senior is having academic issues.

-- More from Boston College staff and players regarding Andre Brown. There's that Herschel Walker comparison again.

-- If you haven't seen it, Eagle in Atlanta has posted a preview of the NCSU/BC game.

-- We are 2-0 over the last two weeks because I have a newly-discovered lucky shirt. You see, after the White Sox lost game one of the ALCS to Anaheim, I decided that I'd make a switch from my normal ChiSox gameday attire and wear this:

That's the quickly-rendered-superfluous AL Central Division Champs t-shirt that I bought because I didn't think the White Sox would actually advance in the postseason.

Anyway. So I wore it for game two, which Chicago won, and then I pledged to wear the shirt until they lost again. They proceeded to win seven straight games en route to the title. As I was getting ready for the USM game, which was a few days after the World Series-clincher, I thought we'd need all the luck we could muster. I put the Sox t-shirt on underneath all my red--since it would have been in terribly bad form to attend the game in something other than red--and wouldn't you know it: fourth quarter comeback win. The shirt also had enough mojo to overcome two blocked punts and preserve the win in Tallahassee.

Yeah, it's a little smelly; and I don't really know what that crusty spot on the front is. But I'll be wearing it again tomorrow, and as long as things keep going the way they're going, the washer can wait.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Intro Tunes

Every Day Should Be Saturday posted a great discussion topic today: To what song would a team enter its stadium if it didn't have a fight song? I thumbed through my CD collection and came up with a few ideas...

NC State -- An EDSBS commenter suggested ZZ Top's "Cheap Sunglasses," which is a fine choice but doesn't evoke the depression surrounding most Saturdays at Carter-Finley over the last two seasons. I'm going with Blur's "Death of a Party."

The death of the party
Came as no surprise
Why did we bother?
Should have stayed away

North Carolina -- ...Trail of Dead's "Mistakes and Regrets." Seems apt:
If I could make a list
Of my mistakes and regrets
I'd put your name on top
And every line after it

Clemson -- First thing that came to mind considering the events of this season: Wilco's "I am trying to break your heart." Maybe Tommy Bowden can sing a few verses for us during an upcoming halftime show. This song doubles as the official song of the NC State basketball team.

Georgia Tech -- "The End Has No End" by The Strokes. Chan Gailey lingers, and the Jackets seem to win 7 games every year.

Duke -- "How to disappear completely" by Radiohead. Is there a major-conference football team with a lower profile?

Ohio State -- Weezer's "Undone -- The Sweater Song." The Buckeyes need to get on this one. I crack up when I think about Tressel leading the troops onto the field to:
If you want to destroy my sweater
Pull this thread as I walk away

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

A few loosely-related items

-- From the Boston Globe comes yet another article about Marcus Stone

-- Believe it or not, there are media members who think NC State has a legitimate shot at a bowl berth. Fox Sports projects the Wolfpack to play in the Music City Bowl against Northwestern. Please let this happen. I have forgotten what a bad defense looks like (Not that we'd make them look bad). ESPN's Pat Forde has us in the MPC Computers Bowl against Boise State. Oooh, a shot at a Gang of Six (we're still rolling with this, right?) team. I can't wait to be dazzled. (HT: Paul Westerdawg)

-- The defensive adjustments NC State made prior to the Florida State game have garnered some attention:
Mixing in zone defenses and a three-man rush went against N.C. State coach Chuck Amato's strongest inclinations, but he did it anyway against Florida State.

I wasn't a big fan of the three-man rush, but I can't argue with the results. We stuck to it on Florida State's final drive and it paid off with both a sack and an interception. Mixing in a little more zone to go with our usual man-to-man is definitely a good thing.

-- Look what's not there anymore: Poof

-- Congrats to John Deraney for being named a finalist for the Lou Groza Award. (HT: Pack Pride)

-- Elsewhere, a banged-up Sam Hollenbach will start at QB for Maryland against UNC this weekend. I'm rooting for the Heels. I think. Maybe just for the first quarter.

-- Switching to hoops: In this Ken Pomeroy post about Memphis forward Joey Dorsey, among the statistical categories Pomeroy touches on is blocks/40 minutes. He lists the eight best freshmen shot-blockers in the country from last season, and my first thought was--after "Shawn James must play against a bunch of midgets"--shouldn't Cedric Simmons be on the list? In fact, the only thing that kept him off the list was a lack of playing time: Ced logged 309 minutes last year, falling well short of KenPom's minutes-played criterion. Cedric Simmons averaged 4.5 blocks/40 minutes. He had more blocked shots (35) than defensive rebounds (34).

-- Anxious for some insight into Iowa, NC State's Big Ten Challenge opponent? Of course you are. Have a look at Big Ten Wonk's Iowa preview, and while you're at it, spend some time perusing Hawkeye Hoops

-- Also worth checking out are a couple of posts by Knickerblogger at Courtside Times: What can stats do for you? (Part I) and What can stats do for you? (Part II). They are NBA-centric, but if you're still not sure about possession- and per-minute-based stats, the posts are well worth your time.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Flutie Flakes: Part of a balanced breakfast

It never ceases to amaze me how mindsets can change so quickly. Coming off of two consecutive wins, I think there are a lot of people who not only believe that we can beat Boston College, but that we should beat Boston College. Count me among them (might as well roll with the good vibes while they're here...).

Earlier today, the Eagles announced that Matt Ryan would be starting at quarterback in place of Quinton Porter. Judging by Eagle In Atlanta's reaction, BC fans have been waiting for this move.

In the spots in which Ryan has played, he's played well. He was 10-14 against UNC on Saturday and played a significant role in BC's comeback win against Wake Forest three weeks ago. Ryan has completed over 65% of his passes this year.

Porter's troubles seem to have started after a good performance against Virginia. Following the UVA win, he threw for under 200 yards in each of his next three starts (including the Carolina game).

BC's team numbers for the season:

Boston College 2005
Yards/GameNat'l Rank
Rush Offense13865
Pass Offense249.131
Total Offense387.150
Rush Defense959
Pass Defense206.242
Total Defense301.218

The Eagles have the third-best offense in the ACC despite ranking just 50th nationally. It has been another rough year for ACC offenses...

Statistically, their running game appears worse than their passing game; at a glance, though, the Eagles' situation looks similar to Florida State's. That is, their proficiency on the ground is masked by a lack of carries. Among ACC schools, only FSU and NC State are averaging fewer rushes-per-game (obviously, NC State is working to change that). Because Boston College has been playing from behind a lot over the last three weeks, they've had to shift away from running the ball. They will play a more balanced style against the Wolfpack if they can.

LV Whitworth has 126 carries for 540 yards (4.3 YPC); Andre Callender has 99 carries for 496 yards (5.0 YPC).

So, much like Florida State, the Eagles have a couple of running backs who are good when they get the ball. Like Florida State, they aren't shy about throwing the ball (there's no reason for Porter's benching to change that)--they haven't attempted fewer than 30 throws in a game since September 10th against Army.

BC's tendencies being what they are, NC State's defensive gameplan shouldn't change very much this week. That gameplan isn't complicated; it pretty much begins and ends with asking the defensive line to beat the crap out of another opponent.

If NC State can get out to a lead and sustain it, Williams and Lawson can worry less about the run and concentrate on creating a big pass rush.

BlogPoll Ballot -- Week 11

My ballot from last week is here.

Rank TeamLast Week
1 Southern Cal1
2 Texas2
3 Miami (FL)6
4 Alabama4
5Virginia Tech3
6 LSU8
7 Georgia9
8 Notre Dame10
9Penn State11
10Ohio State12
11 Florida State5
15West Virginia18
18Texas Tech20
20Georgia Tech22
22Fresno State24
25Boston College17

Dropped Out: California

Games Viewed: BC vs. UNC, Iowa vs. Northwestern, Tennessee vs. Notre Dame, NCSU vs. FSU, A&M vs. Texas Tech, Miami vs. VPI, Stanford vs. Southern Cal

Poll Items:

-- Like many people, I'm hopping Miami into the 3-spot. I didn't punish Virginia Tech too much despite the 20-point margin since I still think they deserve to be ranked ahead of the teams in the 6-9 range.

-- I'm not sure how I feel about West Virginia in the top 15...I mean, I kinda like them, but I also kinda don't like them. Team's pretty good, quarterbacks are meh.

-- Colorado enters my ballot for the first time this season. Boston College hangs on by a thread. Losing to Carolina is totally ewww gross and firm grounds for punishment; however, I also have to recognize that the Heels have a solid, bowl-caliber team. That literally hurt to type.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Guelph angry! Guelph no get calls!

This from Guelph's official athletics website:
The Guelph Gryphons in front of 7,000 fans put a first half scare into the pre-season #4 in ACC NC State Wolfpack. The Gryphons behind great three point shooting hung tough all half and trailed only 12 at the break 36 - 24. Guelph went to the foul line on 4 times all night and they were taken all in the first half. The Wolfpack received every call all night and went to the line 33 times on the night converting 27. The Canadian team played inspired defense all night on the much larger more athletic home squad. The second half saw the Gryphs continue making three's hitting 6 and closing a 22 point deficit to 14 before the Wolfpack pulled ahead late. The Gryphs represented the University very well. Final NC State 74 - Guelph 46. Leading scorers were JR Bailey with 15 points and 4 boards, Jay Mott with 9 points and JS Esposito and Nick Pankerichan with 8 each. The Gryphs hung tough in every category except free throw shooting.

"Fire bad!"

Game photos: Guelph!

Fourteen shots from the exhibition game against Guelph.

Gavin Grant Airborne

Feeling much better, thanks

NCSU 20, FSU 15

Marcus Stone got off to another shaky start, which perpetuated 60 minutes of sometimes-painful conservative playcalling. Like last week, we ran the ball twice as often as we threw it, and like last week, Andre Brown showed all of us why the offense's style of play has changed so dramatically.

I felt like NC State could have taken better advantage of play action; on several drives, after reeling off 2-3 successful runs in a row, the Pack decided it would just run it some more--often with bad results.

Fortunately, when we did go back to the pass in the second half, Marcus Stone looked more comfortable and made some nice throws. He was 8-10 (9-10 if not for Brian Clark's drop in the endzone) in the second half, including an impressive 36-yarder to Tramain Hall.

The amazing thing about this game is how it shifted: Florida State held the ball for 18:01 in the first half, NC State held it for 19:42 in the second.

Drew Weatherford really looked out of sync in the last two quarters, and while I was a little nervous to see Xavier Lee warming up, he proved to be no better. Keeping their passing game under 200 yards, not to mention totally containing Lorenzo Booker (whom I can still picture torching us in Tallahassee two years ago), is a hell of an accomplishment.

It should be no surprise that all of this started up front. I don't know where these guys have been all season, but I'm glad they've decided to show up. They gave constant pressure and hit Drew Weatherford hard. Manny Lawson's sack during Florida State's final drive was one of the biggest plays of the game.

Said Weatherford aftwards:
"That's the best defensive line I've seen, period," Weatherford said. "That defensive line and the athleticism of all their defenders gave us fits all night."

NC State has plenty to work on--penalties continue to bite us; getting two punts blocked is also a serious concern--but this game definitely restored some confidence and a positive outlook on the rest of the season.

Marcus Stone didn't commit any turnovers against the best defense he will see all season. Andre Brown had another fabulous day and is proving to be a very secure ball handler. The offense should get better as it adjusts to the I-formation, no frills style, especially if Marcus Stone throws the ball well for 60 minutes rather than just 30.

After being left for dead a couple of weeks ago, we're here now with an excellent shot at becoming bowl eligible. Hopefully, after next week, we'll be back to where we should be: above .500.

[Memo to Gary Thorne: stick to hockey, or at least pretend like you looked over the rosters before the game started.]

Thursday, November 03, 2005

A Stone's throw and some rebounding woe

I saw this from the Winston-Salem Journal today, which provides an interesting look at what led up to NC State's go-ahead touchdown against Southern Mississippi:

Trailing 17-14, State drove to the Southern Miss 3-yard line with less than six minutes remaining. State faced third and goal, after running plays went for three and one yards the previous two plays.

Stone had one chance to make something happen, or else State would likely have to settle for a game-tying field-goal attempt.

Amato and Trestman made the decision to let it all ride on Stone's arm. They called a fake reverse with Clark sneaking out in the left flat, and Stone hit him in stride for the touchdown.

"We were back and forth and back and forth on what play to call," Amato said. "Marc was adamant about it, so I said, 'Just make sure that we have the ball after the play's over, either to kick an extra point or to kick a field goal.'

"Now, what kind of message do you think that could have sent to Marcus? I don't know. But it had to send a great message to know that my coaches are going to put these three yards in my right arm. And he took a three-step drop, and Brian Clark ran a great pattern, and he hit him right between the numbers."

Sounds like Amato was inclined to run the ball again (State ran the ball on 1st-and-goal and 2nd-and-goal), not that I necessarily blame him. Stone was better in the second half, but still had done little to earn anyone's trust.

In other news, as I was looking around the Tallahassee Democrat's website in search of articles about this weekend's football game, I ran into a piece about the FSU basketball team's efforts to improve its rebounding. Cited in the article are FSU's poor rebounding margin (-1.4) and their terrible record in games in which they were out-rebounded (5-13). The end of the article left me wondering if the Seminoles will be trying to improve the wrong area:

FSU's attempt to ratchet up its transition game hinges on the ability to snag defensive rebounds.

"We want to play getting up and down," Thornton said. "So the more we can rebound, the better it will fit our style."

Because although Florida State wasn't a very good rebounding team last season, defensive boards weren't the problem--offensive rebounds were. Check it out:

Defensive Rebound Rate (Def Rebs / (Def Rebs + Opp Off Rebs))

1) North Carolina (68.8%)
2) Wake Forest (68.4%)
3) Georgia Tech (67%)
4) Miami (66.8%)
5) Florida State (66.1%)
6) Maryland (66%)
7) Clemson (65.9%)
8) Virginia (65.8%)
9) NC State (64.4%)
10) Va Tech (63.3%)
11) Duke (63.3%)

Offensive Rebound Rate (Off Rebs / (Off Rebs + Opp Def Rebs))

1) Wake Forest (40.3%)
2) North Carolina (39.5%)
3) Miami (39.3%)
4) Clemson (37.8%)
5) Duke (37.3%)
6) Maryland (37.1%)
7) Georgia Tech (34.7%)
8) Virginia Tech (33.3%)
9) NC State (32.2%)
10) Virginia (31.7%)
11) Florida State (30.6%)

They were competent on the defensive glass but horrible (like, really bad) at grabbing offensive rebounds. Ken Pomeroy ranks all the teams in Offensive Rebound Rate (his numbers are a bit different from mine), and Florida State was 242nd in the country last year.

Lastly, Big Ten Wonk is back and in top form. Wonk's worth a regular visit even if you aren't a fan of a Big Televen school. Plus, you can find a lot more statisticky goodness there.

Talkin' Florida State

Not having seen a whole lot of Florida State this season, I figured it would be a good idea to go straight to a Seminoles fan for some answers about the team. My thanks to Corey, who blogs over at Sporting Fools and is a BlogPoll voter, for taking the time.

Look for my answers to Corey's questions at his site in the near future.


1) Talk a bit about Drew Weatherford's progression. What aspects of his game have improved since the Miami game?

Well the Miami game was a bit of an aberration because it was his first start and Miami's defense is amongst the top 5 in the nation. They just confused and frustrated him to no end. Drew is a solid, accurate quarterback. He hadn't really gone out and tried to win games, but he showed he can make a big play on his own last week against Maryland. He gets the ball in the right people's hands. I'd still like to see him go downfield more and challenge the defense with a deep ball. To be honest, I'm not sure if he has the arm yet. That should come in time.

2) As a team, FSU ranks near the bottom of the ACC in rushing, which suggests that the Seminoles haven't been effective on the ground this season. Yet Lorenzo Booker and Leon Washington both average well over 4 yards-per-carry, which suggests just the opposite. What's going on here? Are Booker and Washington not getting enough carries?

No, they aren't getting enough carries and it's probably the reason the team is 7-1 instead of 8-0. The offense has gotten a little pass-happy this year and it's going to be an issue in the last 4-5 games unless this team gets a little more balance. Leon Washington is out for this week so I hope Jeff Bowden has enough faith in Antone Smith to give him 10-12 carries and make sure Booker gets about 15-20.

3) Tell us about Florida State's wide receivers. They don't seem to have garnered much attention outside of Tallahassee yet, but I have been impressed with what I've seen. Greg Carr in particular looks like a monster.

The young guys are just terrific. Greg Carr, at 6'6, is just a raw, physical specimen. He's a mismatch against any corner in the league. The other freshmen -- Richard Goodman, Rod Owens, Fred Rouse will be spectacular in due time. The veterans have really stepped up. Willie Reid is finally healthy and making plays, Chris Davis has improved greatly and Joslin Shaw is getting in the action, he made some blocks last week that were worthy of ESPN's "Jacked Up". De'Cody Fagg should return this week and he's the number one guy. This group should be one of the top three units in the nation next year.

4) What--if anything--concerns you about the matchup with NC State?

The Wolfpack's defensive line is one of the best I've ever seen from a talent standpoint. They are as good as those FSU lines were in the 90s. The problem seems to be mental, they haven't shown up to play each week, most notably a couple of weeks ago against Clemson. For whatever reason, these guys aren't responding to what Chuck Amato is telling them. That being said I hope the Seminoles don't get a false sense of security because of what they see on film. I expect the Wolfpack to be fired up and I expect them to pressure Weatherford and put pressure on the defense with this newfound commitment to running. Chuck knows the FSU schemes as well as he knows his own family. I'm very concerned.

5) Prediction time. How do you expect the game to play out, and what will be the final score?

I expect a very close game for three quarters, I wouldn't be surprised if N.C. State has the lead going into the fourth. There will be some points scored and some big plays. I expect the Noles to pull it out at home, 38-28.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Think Zero

I have decided that turnovers are bad and that we shouldn't commit them any more.

Before the season started, in one of my typical bouts with optimism, I thought NC State would likely improve on its 2004 turnover margin. In '04, the Wolfpack gave the ball away 32 times while forcing just 15 turnovers. In turning the ball over that much, NC State lost 70% of its fumbles, which struck me as unlucky and thus was another reason why we would improve in 2005.

Shall we compare?

Fumbles-Fumbles Lost Thru 7 Games:
2004: 14-10
2005: 15-9

INTs Thrown Thru 7 Games:
2004: 7
2005: 11

NC State is on pace for 31 giveaways and 19 takeaways. An improvement only because 2004 was so pathetically bad.

So, Marcus Stone, please: think zero. Visualize...

No interceptions. No fumbles. Give us a chance to beat Florida State.

Points? Those numbers are still okay.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

BlogPoll Ballot -- Week 10

My ballot from last week is here. This week's version of the BlogPoll will be released tomorrow morning at mgoblog.
Rank TeamLast Week
1 Southern Cal1
2 Texas2
3 Virginia Tech3
4 Alabama5
6 Miami (FL)7
8 LSU9
10Notre Dame10
11 Penn State11
12Ohio State12
17Boston College13
18West Virginia18
20Texas Tech20
22Georgia Tech24
24Fresno State25

Dropped Out: Northwestern

Games Watched: BC vs. VT, USM vs. NCSU, Maryland vs. FSU, Clemson vs. GT, Florida vs. Georgia, Texas vs. Okie State, Michigan vs. Northwestern

Poll Items:

-- Yeah, so not much doing this week. Went with Louisville over Colorado in the #25 slot.

-- When two top 25 teams play, I try to be consistent in ranking the winner ahead of the loser in my ballot for the next week. That wasn't feasible this week, thus Georgia is still well ahead of Florida.

-- Texas has been gaining some ground on USC in the BlogPoll, but I'm not ready to make any changes at the top. Southern Cal still looks like the best team in the country to me, and they probably will look that way until they lose a game.