How many teams do you despise? I know that some of you despise the basketball team at North Carolina or Duke, and if you're an N.C. State fan, you despise North Carolina, Duke and N.C. State.
Well, you're spent. How about a mother's basement joke?
Others despise everything. I know because you send me e-mail. You even despise your parents for charging you to live in their basement. Hey, lots of 34-year-olds live in their parents' basement, especially in this economy. But most of them at least moved out before moving back. Dude, you've been down there since your second sophomore year of high school.
Elliott Avent's young team is off to a modest 15-12 (5-7) start to the season, though they showed some life this past Sunday in the process of sweeping an extremely important double header from Virginia Tech. Whether or not that was a sign of a team beginning to put it together remains to be seen; they have a pair of must-win series (at BC, at Duke) on the horizon that will tell us more. If they can take those two series, the schedule, back-loaded as it is, gives them an opportunity to make a late run at the NCAA tournament.
Let's take a look at some of the issues plaguing this year's Pack nine. First, offense:
State's hitting for less average and less power this season, which has led to a loss of nearly 70 points in OPS from '08 to '09. Avent is doing what he can to compensate for the power outage, namely running with much greater frequency. Last year's team attempted 78 steals in 64 games, while this year's already has 59 attempts in 27 games. Considering the Pack's excellent stolen base success rate (47-59, 79.7%), this is not a bad development.
The Wolfpack's batting average is down partly because they simply aren't putting the ball in play as often as they did last season. They've struck out on nearly 21% of their plate appearances in 2009, up from around 16% in 2008. That strikeout rate is the ACC's worst; however, State's walk rate has improved a bit thus far, and only Florida State has been better at drawing free passes. Still, since they aren't compensating with added power, the strikeouts are a definite problem.
They need to start generating more power in a hurry, because they're going to start running into pitchers that not only have better stuff but better command as well. Right now there aren't a lot of guys the opposition has to worry about challenging, which is not good news for a lineup that relies on the base on balls like this one does.
As you can see from the peripherals (i.e., the things a pitcher can control; first four columns), the pitching hasn't really suffered despite the loss of rotation stalwarts like Clayton Shunick and Eric Surkamp.
His outing against VT last weekend aside, Jake Buchanan has done a fine job, as he's made marked improvements to both his strikeout rate and his K:BB ratio (which is an outstanding 4.2:1). Jimmy Gillheeney has made an effective transition from reliever to starter, giving the team a pretty solid 1-2. It gets shaky behind those two, and the bullpen has had its share of struggles, but the staff's overall performance looks fine to me.
The increase in runs allowed per nine innings from 4.4 to 5.9 seems to be more the result of opponents' higher batting average on balls in play (last year's staff was a bit lucky in this regard) and a more mistake-prone defense. Both factors are reflected in State's defensive efficiency (percentage of batted balls that are converted into outs), which is down significantly.
Judging by the reaction on TheSabre.com to the Bennett news, Athletic Director Craig Littlepage will need to work hard to hype up the hire.
“If this is true I am seriously thinking about getting rid of my season tickets,” wrote TheGreatHooFan.
“Face it, we will always be bush league,” lamented Kenny Saw.
If he brings his system with him, Virginia will be easily the league's most methodical team. In three seasons at WSU, Bennett's Cougars ranked 322nd, 335th, and 340th in adjusted tempo. They averaged an adjusted 58.7 possessions per 40 minutes in 2009. I suspect Littlepage has his work cut out for him with regards to the hype thing.
Seth Curry will sit out next season and have three seasons of eligibility remaining beginning in 2010-11, when the Blue Devils will need another scoring guard. Gerald Henderson and Jon Scheyer will be seniors next season.
Dell Curry, a former NBA sharpshooter, said "Coach K kept telling him the timing couldn't be better.''
"I'm as confident as ever. I don't care what some chemistry student on PackPride.com is going to say about me. People romanticize football. It has a bigger meaning to them than it actually is. I put in hard work and I'm dedicated to it. I'm not concerned with how other people (perceive me). I'm all about gripping and ripping it. I enjoy playing. I like playing the game. I don't care about statistics."
-- ESPN's story about the Krispy Kreme Challenge can be found here. Pretty good effort by Greg Garber considering he ran the thing in his suit.
-- Via Dr. Saturday comes news that David Cutcliffe is Twittering. I've learned that Duke competes to the max every day and also that Coach Cut likes exclamation points. Elsewhere, Pete Carroll is eschewing his coaching responsibilities in favor of a campaign to get Will Ferrell to join Twitter. Carroll tried to enlist Shaq's help earlier this afternoon. I freaking love the internet.
-- Sweet 16 viewer's guide. I think Duke's run ends tonight in what should be an entertaining game. Villanova has averaged 1.12 points per possession since February 1st, while Duke's D has been fading down the stretch.
There are a lot of great basketball players in the ACC, and as each season concludes they are properly recognized and rewarded. But why should those guys hog the attention and the hardware just because they have talent? Hardly seems fair.
The Ekene Ibekwe Award For hideous shooting in conference play.
Bobby Frasor, UNC, 36.2 eFG% Chris Singleton, FSU, 40.2 eFG% Deon Thompson, UNC, 41.2 eFG% Brian Zoubek, Duke, 43.9 eFG%
The Ibekwe goes to...
It's one thing if you take your fair share of attempts from 15 feet and out, as those are inherently lower percentage shots, but if you're strictly a low post scorer, like Thompson and Zoubek, your bricklaying is all the more appalling. And if you're Deon Thompson and you've got the ACC Player of the Year at the point, a fantastic outside shooter at the two, an outstanding, versatile scorer at the three, and an air- and attention-sucking All-American at the other forward spot... how does this happen?
The Quentin Thomas Award For most turnover prone player in conference play.
Ryan Reid, FSU, 40.6 TO% Tanner Smith, Clemson, 32.6 TO% Iman Shumpert, GT, 30.6 TO% Brandon Costner, NCSU, 24.7 TO%
The award goes to...
Guys playing off the ball generally have to work extra hard to turn it over a bunch, and Ryan Reid--who averaged 5.4 turnovers per 40 minutes despite being asked to do absolutely nothing except maybe like shoot if you happen to get the ball under the basket and there's no one within three feet of you--certainly did. He had a higher TO% than any point guard that met the minutes requirement, which the awards committee has to admit is pretty fucking awesome.
The Tunji Soroye Hole In The Lineup Award For lowest possession usage in conference play.
Cortney Dunn, BC, used 4.5% of team's possessions David McClure, Duke, used 7.2% of team's possessions Bobby Frasor, UNC, used 10.1% of team's possessions LD Williams, WF, used 13.4% of team's possessions
The Soroye goes to...
Cortney Dunn, whose usage is a mere quarter of an average player's workload. Dunn took 15 shots in 250 minutes of playing time, or 2.4 FGA per 40 minutes. That's some epic non-participation. Come on, you guys, just let me touch the ball this one time.
The Anthony Harris Award For the overall most inefficient performance in conference play.
Ryan Reid, FSU, 73.2 O Rtg Sammy Zeglinski, UVA, 74.4 O Rtg Dino Gregory, UMD, 84.0 O Rtg Iman Shumpert, GT, 84.2 O Rtg
The Harris goes to...
Ryan Reid, who almost single-handedly made Florida State impossible to take seriously. In addition to his previously noted turnover issues, he made less than 45% of his twos and barely half his free throws. Sometimes it all comes together.
The Impressively Short Tall Guy Award For defensive rebounding like a girl in conference play.
This one fueled a lengthy debate within the awards committee, as all of the nominees rebound like players 5-6 inches shorter than they are. Ultimately, Brian Zoubek, the group's tallest, got the nod. Height isn't everything when you have a two inch vertical and are only capable of moving in super slo-mo. His development has been somewhat hampered by the fact that coaches cannot slow down his game film because it would take three hours to break down a single post move. But at least he's not breaking any nails out there; joke's on you, Mr. Hustle!
The Terrence Oglesby Award For he who is without shame in conference play.
The Oglesby goes to...
%Shots Oglesby 28.1 Booker 21.0
SERIOUSLY DUDE WHAT THE FUCK YOU HAVE TREVOR BOOKER ON YOUR TEAM. You deserve to be routinely pelted with the sharpest rocks that the state of South Carolina has to offer.
[ShotDiff = shot attempt differential. The difference, per game, in shot attempts by the Pack and the Pack's opponents, with free throws factored in. The negative number means opponents are getting more attempts at the hoop.
The Pack's good shooting and ability to get to the line carried over, they posted their lowest turnover rate since Lowe arrived, and they were better on the offensive glass than any NC State team in the last five years. It was an outstanding offense down the stretch despite one huge flaw (turnovers), and the ultimate result was the most efficient offense of the Lowe era--one that was actually better than league average (104.1).
This offense was good enough to get us to the NCAAs had we managed anything remotely close to league-average defense, which was apparent in all the games where we blew significant leads. The frequently-good-O, consistently-bad-D combo gave a lot of games a disorienting feel. (Edited to add correction: "consistently bad" is not an accurate description of the defense in light of this research I overlooked. "Terrifyingly bad second half defense" works fine instead.) The Pack would look like a 10-6 team for stretches, then have the offense give out and fail to compensate with stops, making them look like a 3-13 team.
For a lineup that will have a completely different feel in 2010, I see a couple of keys:
1.) Get the TO% under 20.0. There is going to be a significant adjustment period as guys who've either never played at the college level or aren't used to heavy minutes at the college level attempt to get comfortable with what's expected of them. It's likely that shooting and overall cohesiveness is going to be a problem for a while, which makes it extremely important that they give themselves as many effective possessions as possible.
2.) Clearly define roles sooner. Tracy Smith's insertion into the lineup was one reason why the offense became more efficient, but Lowe's transition to a tighter (generally 8-man) lineup shouldn't be overlooked either. I don't think it was a coincidence that when the role players found their minutes growing more consistent they started playing better. The sooner the coaches establish a set of expectations for the new contributors (before January would be preferable), the better off the team is going to be. Save the trial and error for pre-conference play. The production is going to be inconsistent, and that's okay, but I think the coaches need to do a better job of looking past small samples and staying focused on the long-term plan.
If you're going to give your opponents a lot of first and second chances, you'd better be able to force them to miss a lot of shots. We've never been able to do that, so the crappy unit Lowe inherited from Sendek has remained crappy. In fact, if you looked at the defensive factors from both eras, it wouldn't be clear where one ended and the other began. We've had the same issues for the better part of a decade. While Lowe's offense shows obvious contrast, his fingerprints aren't as easy to find at the defensive end. That's partly a reflection of the Princeton-optimized personnel with which Lowe has had to work, but that doesn't give him a free pass for his inability to forge his own defensive identity.
I don't doubt that the team's shortcomings are clear to Lowe, so it's disappointing that we haven't been very effective at obscuring them. Shaping up the defense is the tougher of the two tasks, though, and I understand that. He may try to use the team's quicker, smaller lineups to more aggressively contest passes or press with greater frequency, but those things come with their own set of problems. For one, I think the press-heavy styles of the likes of Tennessee and Clemson are self-defeating in the long term.
What's bothersome as I look to next season and beyond is the 2FG% defense, which held together okay in Lowe's first two years but collapsed in 2009. That's much less likely to be a fluke than 3FG% defense, and this was Lowe's best defensive rebounding team, so we can't just chalk it up to opponents getting cheap looks off of boarded misses, because they got fewer of those, not more.
I leave the continental US for a week and State wins threetitles? Oh, and golfer Matt Hill kicks more ass? Perhaps if I go farther next time, like move to Australia permanently, Sid will turn into John Wooden. I'd be willing to take that one for the team.
Josh Davis, a two-star guard/forward from Raleigh, emerged from nowhere to announce his commitment to NC State today. No idea what to make of that.
So, looking ahead:
PG: Gonzalez / Degand / Mays (SG?) SG: Brown (PG?) / Wood / Williams SF: Horner / Thomas / Davis PF: Howell / K. Smith? C: T. Smith
Yeah, I'd say that's a new look. It's hard to picture this group grabbing many defensive boards. The coaches aren't done, though, so I'm sure another big will join the team before next season. But no matter what, a complete overhaul of our defensive philosophy is in order. Gotta force more turnovers just to avoid epic defensive fail.
So thank you for letting me play on your blog for the past week. I'm sure your readers, while they stuck with me for the week, will be happy to see you, your statistical prowess, and your wit return to its rightful place here on this page.
Thanks to those who humored my attempts to provide some sort of insightful analysis to the season and postseason.
So I'll just close out with a final "BOOM, MOTHER*&^KERS!!!"
ACC offiically craps itself in front of the nation (UPDATED with Pack tidbits)
BC gets exposed as a slow, unathletic team in a total dismantling at the hands of USC.
Wake gets absolutely humiliated... I mean, gets their pants pulled down and proven to be eunuchs... by Cleveland State, who dominates every facet of the game. How bad was it? Jeff Teague can't dribble the ball. No shit - he couldn't dribble under even token pressure. So yes, Dorothy, Cleveland State takes down what was at one point, in another time, in another galaxy, in another dimension, the #1 team in the land this season.
And FSU loses in overtime on a 3-point play with 2 seconds to go. They had a chance to win, but Douglas missed a 3 on their last possession that would've put them up 4. Instead, Wisconsin... YES, WISCONSIN.. takes down a team that just beat unc-ch a week ago.
Way to represent the league, ass-clowns.
I woke up to the realization that the way the first round scheduling worked, Day One and Day Two ended up being (1) ACC teams the Pack didn't beat this year, and (2) ACC teams the Pack DID beat this year.
Day 1 record (teams we didn't beat): 3-1 Day 2 record (teams we did): 0-3
And unless I'm mistaken, we only played one.... that's it? One other G/D team that's in the field of 65? Yep - and that team (Marquette) played on day one. And yep - they won, too.
So teams we played and didn't beat go 4-1. Teams that were inept enough to let us beat them go 0-3.
Don't tell the selection committee, but we may be a better predictor of who the top 65 should be than anything else. RPI? Sagarin? AP? ESPN? OOC SOS? Record in last 10 games? Screw all that... if a team sucks bad enough to let the Pack beat 'em, they stay home.
Seems fair to me.
Props to BJD at SFN who caught that it extends beyond the NCAA's. With Miami's loss last night, there are no teams still left in postseason play whom the Pack beat this year...
So this one will be a bit more limited than yesterday... games start in a few...
Of particular interest today are:
Tennessee-Oklahoma State in the early game... a toss-up if I've ever seen one. Tennessee has enough talent to be much better than they are, but they simply haven't gotten it done. Is the SEC really going to be gone this weekend? I think so.
Temple-Arizona State in the next set... even without HWSNBN on the sidelines, this one's a test of exactly how crappy the Pac-10 really was this year. An ASU win doesn't say the Pac-10 didn't suck... but a loss is a severe blow. They were the new golden children this year. I'm thinking they get through round one, simply based on superior talent.
Southern Cal-Boston College in the 7pm... again, the Pac-10 gets a test, and I think they fail this one. Unless BC pulls a Clemson (aka a random white kid goes all Private Pyle & loses his f'ing sensibilities), they win this game.
Wisconsin-Florida State in the late games... the ACC's chance to go 6-1 through the first round, and they should do so. I mean, if the Pac-10 sucks, the Big-10 spews violently. Wisconsin is a slow, unathletic team that FSU should take behind the woodshed tonight. For some reason, though, I fear a cold night from Douglas and a monumental struggle. Hope I'm wrong.
I'll throw this out there in case anyone wants to brag about incredibly insightful picks, or whine about how their bracket's already blown.
I'm taking a pretty high amount of satisfaction out of Memphis trailing CS-Northridge in the second half. If that were to hold........ *** .... and within minutes of typing that, it goes from a 6-point deficit to a 10-point lead for Memphis. Oh, to see Calipari lose in the first round... ah well... *** Three games down, and I'm 2-1 since Butler laid an egg against LSU. My twin 7-year-olds are 3-0 so far. Ah, the wisdom of NOT over-thinking... *** Seven games down. As expected, top seeds roll, including Psycho "oh-my-god-he's-so-great-he-broke-another-record-today" T and the holes.
I'm 6-1... twins are now 7-0. We both took Mississippi State, which is the first game that should weed quite a few people down a bit. I just don't buy the Pac-10 or Big-10, and I picked for them to go down quickly... *** Clemson looks horrid so far, trailing Michigan by 3 midway through the first half. They've missed their last 10 shots, half of which are piss-poor 3-point guns by Oglesby. I'm actually glad that kid doesn't play for us - he'd drive me f'ing crazy. I mean, he's ice-cold, and he's still firing contested 23-footers... wtf? *** Oglesby gets tossed for throwing a weak elbow... awfully strong punishment for no contact... but the only chance Clemson had was to get him out of the game... he was shooting them out of it. 2 to go, Clemson down 6. Thanks for nothing, guys... *** Clemson indeed goes down, playing an abysmal game and losing to a team that would've had a losing record in the ACC. Dook up big on Binghamton. And VCU's not helping me out so far... they look overmatched against UCLA. Thankfully, at least WKU's looking strong so far against Illinois.
By popular request... Tempo-free defensive stats by half
As promised yesterday, I've taken a crack at estimating 1st half and 2nd half tempo-adjusted defensive efficiency for the Pack by game, and for the season as a whole. Note that I don't have possessions broken down by half (I assumed the pace was constant over the course of the game), so if the number of possessions was dramatically different from one half to the next, the below numbers will be off. (Halves at or below 0.8 are green, at or above 1.2 are red)
Particularly shocking are the Dook fiasco and the season-ending Miami debacle, a 1.64 points-per-possession raping that triggered this whole line of thinking and analysis... "Could they REALLY have been as shitty as I just imagined?". The numbers back up the fact that, yes, they were. And they were on a very regular basis, as highlighted by the red second-half pointsplosions that happened about half the time we took the court.
The thing is - it's not as if the team is INCAPABLE of playing good defense, as the first-half numbers show. They either were out of shape, stopped caring, or were too mentally fragile to handle the pressure when the game was on the line. This really seems fixable. If only we had someone who knew how to fix it.
Side note... Quick quiz: How many times this season did the Pack force 20 or more turnovers in a game? Answer: One... and they failed to force even ten in a game over the last four.
Due to feedback from an oh-so-inquisitive reader, I've run the numbers on the first 18 minutes of the second half vs the last 2 minutes, to see if there's an anomaly due to a losing team (that would be us) fouling the other team & artificially inflating their second-half scoring.
Raw numbers first (on a points-per-minute basis):
Second Half (1st 18)
Second Half (Last 2)
Even looking at all 16 games, the defense is worse in the second half, no matter how you look at it. But at first blush, the last two minutes are clearly abysmal, potentially driven by the fact that we... well... weren't good and were putting the other team on the line.
Problem is - when looking at the games where the last two minutes were exceptionally poor, more of them were Pack wins than losses. So I took out the games that the Pack won or blew a late lead in (meaning we weren't fouling). Below are the same numbers with those stats taken out:
Second Half (1st 18)
Second Half (Last 2)
The numbers are startlingly similar and show the same basic pattern... given that we've taken out wins, you'd expect the "Last 2" number to get worse if free throws were really a significant factor. Instead, the last 2 minutes get marginally better.
Bottom line - we sucked defensively in all phases of the second half.... win or loss, first 18 minutes or last two... we just couldn't stop a soul. I mean, 2+ points a minute, with a 35-second shot clock, means we gave up somewhere near 2 points per possession. I'll try to get a tempo-adjusted number later in the week.
So I alluded to it a week ago in the Comments section of the Maryland postgame debacle... it seemed like yet another game where we were in decent shape until we chose not to give a damn about anything on the defensive end of the court in the second half. A cursory glance at that point showed that, sure enough, we'd laid our fair share of second-half defensive eggs in our losses this year. To take it a bit further now that the season's in the books, I've done the detailed numbers on all of the Big Four schools.
(And I apologize for the lack of pretty graphics - Steven didn't teach me that before he headed to Hawai'i.)
First off, if you look at all 64 games by the Big Four in conference play, the average defensive effort in wins held their opponents to 36 second-half points, while they laid down like schoolgirls and gave up 44 in the second half of their losses. I won't go into the statistical details to avoid outing myself as an uber-geek, but we'll just leave it at the p-value being 0.000, meaning an extremely high level of statistical correlation between second-half defense and the outcome of the game (W/L).
An arbitrary but severe case of a defensive meltdown is giving up 50 in a half. Between the four schools, there were 8 games where the defense coughed up 50 in the second half. (The Pack led the way with four of these, while unc-ch didn't give up that many a single time.) The teams' collective records in those 8 games? 1-7. The lone exception was Duke's effort against Wake in their re-match... in that one, Wake merely out-sucked Duke on the defensive end, giving up 50 or more in both the first AND the second half. So taking that game out, when one crappy defensive effort HAD to win, the Big Four went 0-6 in games where they gave up 50 or more in the second half. Unfortunately, the Pack accounted for 2/3 of those. And without those "I don't give a shit, and I have no pride" efforts, the Pack is .500 in the league.
So finally a rundown of the rest of the league, showing both league finish and second-half no-shows.
2nd Half Defensive Collapses
Quite honestly, I was expecting to see something resembling a correlation between league finish and defensive collapses... from the above, there's nothing of the sort. All you get is that (1) the Pack by FAR led the league in not-giving-a-shit in the second half of games, and (2) Duke's and Wake's efforts can honestly be seen as much as an absurd offensive pace as defensive lapses. That being said, the numbers show that no team wins if they can't get second-half stops... period.
The league as a whole? Teams went 1-13 in games where they gave up 50+... with that lone win being a game where the opponent gave up 50 in both halves... so excluding that outlier, it's an 0-12 mark. Not sure you're going to find many stats with a predictive value quite that high.
And yep - getting back to where it all started, the Pack accounted for 1/3 of those twelve, putting them near the bottom of the league instead of squarely in the thick of things in the middle... instead of potentially being a bubble team. I'm not sure if anything else is nearly that big a factor... and it all comes down to heart and effort.
That's Sid's problem to fix... either get your guys to give a damn, or find someone else who will.
Ridiculous first-half three-point shooting by the Devils, coupled with a Pack-esque cold streak by the Noles late in the first half and into the second half, determined the outcome of this one long before the final buzzer. But like most Dook games, they got VERY three-happy, refusing to do anything but stand outside and jack up jumpers... and when they stopped going down (no, Skeletor, your team won't hit 70% from out there for the game), FSU had a chance to cut into the lead. Fortunately for Dook, FSU's 2-for-20'something stretch kept it from mattering.
Dook finished the game with... let's see here, 1, 2, 3, 4... that's it? Four G/D turnovers? For an entire game??? And two of those were in garbage time when it no longer mattered. Couple that with pretty stout offensive rebounding, particularly in the first thirty minutes, and you get an old-fashioned ass-whipping. Don't let the final score fool you - it wasn't that close.
Off Reb Rate
Off Reb Rate
Toney Douglas had a pretty forgettable day, after starting off strong. He never seemed to be able to get into the flow of the offense, alternating between forcing bad shots and not getting touches on some possessions because, quite honestly, his teammates looked tired of watching him gun it up.
At the end of the day, the better team won. But if Dook goes into the NCAA's (as they normally do) thinking they're going to win a title by standing outside and firing 3's, they'll be out (as they normally are) by the second weekend.
I've decided it's best to put some distance between myself and Wolfpack athletics for a while--about 5800 miles, give or take. I'm traveling tomorrow and will be gone until Monday the 23rd, but wolfonthehill will be holding down the fort in the meantime and recapping whatever post-season mischief the basketball team gets itself into.
The Pack's NIT hopes don't look so good, which means they're headed either to the CBI or that new College Insider tourney. Regardless of which of those two tournaments State ends up in, they'll be playing Tuesday or Wednesday.
HDNet will be televising some CBI games, so it's possible you can still catch the team on television one more time this season. (If you want to.) I plan to remain blissfully unaware of all of it.
When I get back I'll have one last look at the '09 season and some blog-related news.
"As a whole we played well as a team," [Costner] said. "We've grown each game and gotten closer. The younger guys have really grown up and really learned how to play this game in the ACC.
"I consider it a success. You look at the win-loss column and what we just did here and you may not think so, but overall being a part of this team has been a great experience this year."
If this is the kind of thing that passes for leadership on this team, it's no wonder they've played with so little heart or effort over the last few weeks. Whatever you want to give is good enough, kids. How can someone on a team that finished 10th in its conference be in any way satisfied with that? You wouldn't even find this perspective coming from a nobody on a bullshit mid-major team. Although that's pretty much what State is, profile-wise, after being led for three years by this complacent, self-defeating mindset. You play for a program that's won two national titles, but never mind that. Your team went 16-14, which is not even good enough for the NIT, but never mind that. You had fun. Success!
I hope one day we have a group of guys who aren't just in this for the free lunches.
As for N.C. State's game plan heading into tonight's game, forward Tracy Smith said the Wolfpack certainly would operate more out of zone defenses than they did the last time these two teams met. When asked what type of zone N.C. State planned to rely most heavily upon, Smith said a 3-2. He also offered that the Wolfpack plan to full-court press often and then fall back into the 3-2 zone.
I don't feel good about the decision to press, but if the Pack can do it effectively, they can mask some of the shortcomings in their halfcourt defense. Maybe the coaches decided it would be a good idea to try to force more turnovers.
N.C. State coach Sidney Lowe loves to see his sophomore center establish position in this spot. Smith, who is 6 feet 8 and 240 pounds, has a strong lower body and excels at creating space by sticking his rear end into the gut of a post defender.
"Coach Lowe always tells me I have a big body, 'So use it,' " Smith said.
When Smith gets the ball, he usually glances back over his left shoulder to see if there's a second defender double-teaming on the play. If not, he will take one power dribble and elevate for a right-handed jump hook that's difficult to block because Smith is strong and shields the shot with his body.
When a defender shades toward the middle to prevent the jump hook, Smith sometimes spins back left for a drop step, power dribble and layup.
The article notes that Smith is going to work on a high-post jumper during the off-season. If he succeeds in developing that, there will be nothing to stop him.
-- James is liveblogging the afternoon games at YANCSSB.
Since this is a popular recurring joke among Wolfpack fans on message boards and elsewhere, I'm gonna assume he's kidding. But it is the Technician...
I know what we need to get over the hump in football next season – a pack of live wolves. Yes, real, snarling, growling, live wolves held on leashes by some poor intern working for the Athletic Department or maybe an actual trained handler through the Vet school. How intimidating would it be to place a handful of wolves behind the visiting team’s end zone during the game and have a player hold the leash for one of the wolves as they run out onto the field!?
Better than a handful of wolves: two handfuls of wolves pulling a sled on which the coaching staff enters the field. That would be so bad ass it would be worth at least two touchdowns. Three touchdowns if an opposing player gets too close and loses a limb.
What the heck is a "log5"? Start here. Basically, all the figures listed below indicate a team's probability of getting to a particular round of their conference tournament, with the rightmost column showing that team's chances of winning it all. These probabilities are based on the adjusted Pythagorean winning percentages that Ken tallies up for all D-I teams, percentages that are always similar, but never identical, to the tempo-free numbers that I track. Where there's an interesting discrepancy I'll try to point it out, knowing full well that Ken's not here to defend himself, so what I say goes.
Bear in mind these are mere probabilities, not destiny. DePaul had just a 13 percent chance of beating Cincinnati yesterday. In what by my lights was a rather rude display of disinterest in things tempo-free, the Blue Demons won anyway.
NC State is given a 45.8% chance of reaching Friday, a 9.4% chance of reaching Saturday, a 1.7% chance of reaching the finals, and a 0.3% of winning the whole thing.
So the Maryland game is a toss up (the Predict-O-Meter, which says the Pack is one point better than the Terps on a neutral floor, agrees), but after that the odds get long in a hurry. Still, these are the best odds State's gotten in the Lowe era:
I'm uncomfortable with this thought as it runs contrary to my default pessimism, but I haven't been able to shake it: if we match Maryland's energy level, I think we cruise to victory. Everything about Maryland's win in Raleigh felt like a fluke to me (this could be the bitterness talking). Vasquez is more than capable of blowing up against our back court one more time (we are very accommodating, after all), but if he doesn't, I don't think the rest of the team can pick up the slack.
The Flame bounced back nicely from a disastrous 2008 to put together his finest season at NC State. In addition to re-discovering his shooting touch, he put a huge dent in his turnover percentage and improved his rebounding considerably (didn't put that in the table). A reliable but very sporadic contributor as a freshman in '07, he became a bigger and more consistent part of the offense this season. That he was able to provide such efficient scoring with the highest workload of his career is encouraging.
Whether or not he should have a bigger workload is debatable. Considering his somewhat limited skill set, one that makes him a guy who usually relies on teammates to create scoring opportunities for him, I think his current usage is pretty optimal. He just doesn't strike me as a guy who can handle an above-average amount of work. It'll be interesting to see how much he's asked to do in 2010.
Give Javi a lot of credit for working hard and sticking with it even when he wasn't seeing any playing time. His turnaround this season has been astounding. If he could find a way to bring his turnover rate down to a more acceptable level (25% or so), he'd really be on to something.
It turns out the signs were there last season, albeit in a very small slice of action. The importance of his emergence as a heavy-but-efficient contributor can't be understated. Sidney Lowe desperately needed to find some sort of foundation for next season, and fortunately, he did. It's just too bad it didn't happen sooner. 2010: the Year of the Macrowave.
"The rest that he received from the Miami game and obviously yesterday, and we'll see what he can do today in practice," N.C. State coach Sidney Lowe said Monday morning during the ACC coaches' teleconference.
"But I anticipate him being ready to play. If he’s 100 percent, I don’t know, but he’ll definitely play."
Also: the all-conference teams have been announced. Can't really quibble with the first team, though I tried. Alas, the tempo-free stats do not support a post that condescendingly scolds the ACC media for omitting a certain player.
I plugged in-conference efficiency numbers for each team into the Predict-O-Meter and got these results:
Thursday (8) Virginia Tech vs. (9) Miami, Noon [Miami by 2] (5) Clemson vs. (12) Georgia Tech, 2:30 p.m. [Clemson by 13] (7) Maryland vs. (10) NC State, 7:00 p.m. [NC State by 1] (6) Boston College vs. (11) Virginia, 9:30 p.m. [BC by 5]
Friday (1) North Carolina vs. (9) Miami, Noon [UNC by 11] (4) Florida State vs. (5) Clemson, 2:30 p.m. [Clemson by 3] (2) Wake Forest vs. (10) NC State, 7:00 p.m. [Wake by 8] (3) Duke vs. (6) Boston College, 9:30 p.m. [Duke by 8]
Saturday (1) North Carolina vs. (5) Clemson, 1:30 p.m. [UNC by 5] (2) Wake Forest vs. (3) Duke, 4:00 p.m. [Duke by 3]
Sunday (1) North Carolina vs. (3) Duke, 1:00 p.m. [UNC by 4]
After Dennis Horner hit a jump shot with 13:22 left in the second half, State missed 12 consecutive shots and generally stood idly by as Miami went on a 27-11 run over the next 12 minutes to seal the deal. That drought, a -10 turnover margin, and more uneven officiating--including another bizarre intentional foul call--proved far too much for the Wolfpack to overcome. So it was an altogether unpleasant afternoon, highlighted only by Tim Brandt's impeccable comedic timing.
From today's chat with Basketball Prospectus's John Gasaway:
Tracy Smith (Raleigh, NC): John, it took a while for Sidney Lowe to realize he needed me in the starting lineup, but in the ten conference games NC State has played since I became a starter, the Pack has averaged 1.1 pts per trip. I think we might be the best candidate among major-conference teams to pull a Georgia '08--win the conference tourney and steal an NCAA bid from a bubble team. What do you say?
John Gasaway: I say that over those same ten games you've allowed 1.12. Play some D! Then let's talk about pulling a Georgia.
Eleven NC State pitchers, two shy of the NCAA record for a single game, combined to strike out 31 Zips batters, setting a new NCAA Division I mark and easily eclipsing the old record of 26, set by Murray State on April 12, 1987, vs. Austin Peay. That game was a 15-inning affair. Akron used five pitchers in the game, and they combined to fan 20 Wolfpack hitters, and the 51 strikeouts for the two teams combined also is an NCAA Division I record.
NC State won the game when Kyle Wilson drew a one-out walk in the top of the 18th, stole second, stole third and came home when the catcher’s throw skipped off the third baseman’s glove and into foul territory down the left-field line.
The Pack used 15 position players in addition to the 11 pitchers. Eight Zips struck out at least three times en route to the record book.
This one went about how you'd expect a game between the ACC's two worst defenses to go; both teams played solid defense for stretches but generally didn't do a whole lot to discourage scoring. Boston College came out smoking, executed the offense perfectly, and took advantage of a bunch of open looks to hit their first eight attempts from the field. The Wolfpack managed to survive the early barrage and fought back to tie the game at 20 with about 12 minutes left in the first half. From there, they took control and built a nine-point halftime lead.
The second was mostly back and forth, though State was able to create a bit of separation thanks to a couple of key late plays by Javi Gonzalez--he nailed a tough layup and grabbed a miraculous offensive rebound a couple of possessions later that resulted in a Dennis Horner three and an eight-point lead with 2+ minutes to go.
Of course, the game couldn't possibly end in comfortable fashion; that simply wouldn't be proper. Rakim Sanders starred as this game's Random Player Who Gets Stupid-Hot All The Sudden, nailing three triples in the last few minutes. The Pack added more shaky late-game free throw shooting to increase their degree of difficulty.
But they did enough to hang on. Ben McCauley, who was more involved at the offensive end than he had been in some time, was outstanding in his final home game. McCauley finished with 20 points on 7-for-12 shooting, and fittingly, iced the game with a couple of free throws.
Javi did a little bit of everything: 5 points, 5 boards, 6 assists (against 1 turnover), and he helped limit Tyrese Rice's impact.
After allowing Boston College to grab 60% of its misses in the first meeting, the Pack limited them to less than 30% of the offensive boards last night, which was a huge factor in the win. They also kept the self-inflicted mistakes to a minimum--against a team that doesn't force turnovers, that's really all you need to do to ensure a low TO%. It was just the second time in conference play that State finished even or better in both the turnover and rebounding categories.
"Desperate times call for desperate measures, and we have to do whatever we can to make a little run here and finish strong,'' he said. ``It's my last two regular-season games of my career. I'm not going down without a fight and I'm going to make sure all my teammates know that.
"You have to take initiative, tell guys to be on their game and if they're not ready to play, get the heck out and get someone in there that can play. That's, I think, the mentality we have to take from here on out.''
But the other guys? McCauley tried to get them going in the first half of the Maryland game and it didn't work. It's difficult to hear anything when you're on another planet. It's just a matter of logistics, as this handy diagram explains:
Barring unforeseen difficulties either with finding an establishment that dishes out good money for the U or with getting the Liveblog doohickey to work, we'll be letting the F-bombs roll at 7 sharp tomorrow night. Yours truly will be hosting, filling in for Steven... so don't hold him responsible for any angry rants or non-tempo-adjusted statistics.
Maybe we should be thanking Boston College for pounding the living crap out of us in Chestnut Hill. The Eagles grabbed just about every shot they missed in the first half of that game, creating the kind of desperate situation that made the nuclear option appear not only viable but also necessary. So Sidney Lowe countered with a Costner-McCauley-Smith lineup in the second half in the hopes that it would stop the bleeding. After BC pushed its lead to 19 in the half's early stages, State's big lineup led the team on a 16-0 run and made the game competitive for the first time all afternoon. The Pack hung around down the stretch, but as is often the case, never could get over the hump.
Nevertheless, it was an a-ha moment for Lowe, and that lineup has been the team's staple ever since.
A glance at the Boston College offense and defense in conference play:
It's not a great shooting team, but they have the luxury of a lot of second chances, and they do a reasonable job of protecting the ball and getting to the line.
At the defensive end, their problems mirror ours, except theirs are more pronounced, if that's possible. I don't think I've ever seen a more extreme difference in a team's rebounding from one end of the floor to the other. They rank in the top five nationally in offensive rebounding percentage and in the bottom 30 in defensive rebounding percentage. They've allowed ACC opponents to grab 40% or more of their misses in eight of 14 games and so have been pretty much mauled on a regular basis (notable exception: NC State, which grabbed just 30% of its misses in the first meeting).
Outside of Joe Trapani, not a single Eagle has a defensive rebounding percentage that even approaches respectable. Often you'll hear that such-and-such is this height, but he plays much taller. Well, Josh Southern is 6-10, and he plays much shorter. His 9.9 DR% in conference play is lower than that of guards Tyrese Rice and Reggie Jackson. And clearly, if there's one team that needs its 6-10 guy to play like he's 6-10 (or at least 6-5; jesus, man), it's Boston College.
“For some reason our perimeter people were very tentative making passes and a little slow on some cuts. We allowed [the zone] to be effective.”
“We had some really bad turnovers that I can't even explain. Just bad decisions – jumping into the air to make a pass, stuff like that.”
“I'm frustrated because I'm more surprised that we did that. Like I said I've been disappointed in games or upset that we lost games but not upset at our players how they've played. But today I'm just frustrated because I don't know where this came from.”
"We allowed [the zone] to be effective" says everything about the Pack's effort. I didn't get the feeling watching the game that the guys were confused so much as they didn't care to try. They settled for too many jumpers, never looked comfortable, and worse, never asserted themselves. At the defensive end, I'm not sure they contested a jump shot all night. Maryland dictated everything.
Almost 40% of State's attempts were threes, and against a team with a small front line, that's unacceptable. Their lack of interest probably deprived them of as many points in the paint as the zone defense did. Lowe said this when asked about getting the ball inside:
“To me it didn’t look difficult. We had our tall guys on the perimeter. We didn’t make the pass inside. We were too tentative for some reason. We broke down.”
"This is very, very disappointing, this was such a big game," lamented McCauley. "We were lackadaisical in the first half and they jumped on us. We were lackadaisical at the start of the second half and they jumped us. We didn't have the feel of a team. Some people's minds were in a different place."
A losing record in conference play is assured, the last remnants of our NCAA tournament hopes are dashed, and there are two games left. What now, I wonder.