At some point last night, right about the stage where I think everyone in the bar was beginning to accept the inevitability of defeat, one of my friends said, "sometimes I wish I didn't like sports." "Me too," I said, wondering as I do all too frequently why I put myself through stuff like this. More often than not, the games that bring about that sort of sentiment end badly.
But there are those rare occasions, like last night, where despair becomes joyous surprise in a flash, and then before I've even had a chance to catch my breath and sit back down, there is more good fortune and the surreal shock that comes with it, and I'm hugging and high-fiving people I've never met.
Jordan Vandenberg, a seven-footer from Australia, committed to NC State over the weekend. His addition makes next year's front court situation appear a bit less frightening. It may be that he isn't ready to contribute much at the offensive end next season, and that's okay, because what we really need from him is defense. If he can disrupt shots in the paint and rebound well at that end, he'll be a valuable member of the lineup regardless of what he does offensively.
Coaches: if you are looking for success, please follow volleyball coach Charita Stubbs’ three step plan for establishing a winning program and building fan support.
1. Demonstrate unflinching excellence on the court. In three years with the Wolfpack, Stubbs has accumulated a 3-61 record in the ACC and a 14-84 record overall.
2. Respond to criticism in a professional, mature manner. On Oct. 14, Technician ran an editorial cartoon complimenting Stubbs’ first ACC wins in a backhanded manner. Stubbs, a black woman, felt the cartoon was directed at her race rather than her performance as a coach.
Stubbs responded to the Oct. 14 piece by refusing to comment to Technician reporters, demanding a front page apology and talking to seemingly everyone about the cartoon except the Technician staff. Repeated invitations to Stubbs to come to our office and discuss the issue in an open forum were left unanswered, and what could have been a learning experience for everyone involved developed into a bitter standoff.
Personally, I don’t think there was anything racist about the cartoon, but I will invite anyone interested to make up their own mind. Search “stubbs cartoon” on Technician’s Web site and see for yourself.
3. Create strong student and fan support by alienating the student newspaper. Stubbs understands that the best way to put out the word about her blossoming volleyball program is to refuse to talk to the only media outlet that will ever regularly cover N.C. State volleyball. She has not allowed any interviews with Technician reporters since the cartoon ran Oct. 14 (She has also not won any matches since that date.)
"I know I'm going to get the phone call," Lowe said. "But this is where I am. [Saunders] is not the only one who is going to call. One has already called. But there's so much here. I love working with young men, teaching them and preparing them for the world."
Lowe said he received another year on his contract so that means he has four years left on the original six-year contract with the Wolfpack.
"Flip is my guy but I've got a contract here and this is my first time really starting over here," Lowe said. "We've got a great opportunity now and we're moving in the right direction."
Think he'll change his mind if this upcoming season goes poorly?
Also in that post, a tidbit about the schedule:
Lowe is trying to upgrade the schedule. The Wolfpack host Florida in a return of a home-and-home series and do return a game at rebuilding Marquette and start a series at Arizona, which is going through a makeover project. Even though two of these three schools likely aren't headed for the NCAA tournament, the Pack need confidence early before ACC play begins. Lowe said he is also committing to the inaugural Diamond Head Classic in Honolulu in December with headline teams USC and UNLV.
Florida, Marquette, Arizona, Northwestern, Rutgers, plus the tournament in Honolulu--that's a significantly improved OOC slate. One that--if we have any sort of success--should put us in good shape with the RPI heading into conference play.
I remember glancing up at the clock as the puck was passed along the point, seeing two seconds remaining, and thinking there was no way, even if the shot went in. I didn't really celebrate when it actually did go in, because no way, right? But then:
Florida State outscored the Wolfpack 25-7 over the weekend en route to a three-game sweep that dropped the Pack to 7-14 in conference play. With just nine to play, they're a full three games behind 8th place Duke, so their ACC tournament odds are pretty dismal. They probably need to finish 7-2 or 8-1, and they'll have to do it against Virginia, UNC, and Clemson. Yeah, that's not happening.
A brief summary of what's gone wrong:
Hitting: NC State hit .301/.389/.483 in conference play last season, averaging seven runs per game. They're hitting .255/.363/.367 so far this year, averaging six runs per game. That's a 140-point drop in OPS. They've done a better job drawing walks in 2009, but they're striking out more frequently and hitting for considerably less power (2.5 fewer extra base hits per 100 plate appearances).
Pitching: The number of extra base hits allowed by the Pack is comparable to last season, but that's about the extent of the good news. The staff's K/9IP has declined from 8.3 to 7.8, while its walk rate has soared from 3.3 BB/9 to 4.7. A bad combination, that. Making matters worse, opponents are batting .337 on balls hit in play, compared to .309 last season.
Great job today, Wolfpack fans. More than 21,000 people turned out--which I'm just going to assume is the biggest spring game crowd in school history--and raised more than $28,000 for the Kay Yow/WBCA Cancer Fund. (That was the unofficial cash tally announced before I left, and they were still counting.)
Both Russell Wilson and Mike Glennon looked sharp, reiterating what we already know: they're pretty damn good. They threw into coverage a few times but generally made good decisions all afternoon and managed to avoid any big mistakes--always an encouraging sign. Their play made for a game that felt much tidier; Tom O'Brien has said all spring that this team is way ahead of where it was at this time in years past, and it certainly looked that way this afternoon.
Comp Att Yds TD INT Comp% Yds/Att Wilson 10 14 195 1 0 71.4 13.9 Glennon 24 38 272 1 0 63.2 7.2
The offensive line's struggles and the team's inability to produce on the ground were a couple of the well-documented concerns on display. The OL had a difficult time dealing with the blitz, and while the RBs had a few nice runs, there wasn't a lot to be had overall. But I think that says as much about the improvement of the defense's front seven as it does about those offensive shortcomings. Or at least I hope so.
Jarvis Williams and Owen Spencer each finished with 90+ receiving yards, and Spencer's 65-yard TD grab was the highlight of the day. Tight ends George Bryan and Mario Carter stood out as well. Carter led all receivers with six receptions.
Because Saturday will mark the last day that the field will be used for football, head coach Tom O’Brien wanted fans to be able to come down to the field for pictures, so he decided to move the postgame ‘Meet and Greet’ session with the team down to the field level.
“We wanted the kids to be able to run around on the field and see the stadium from the players’ and coaches’ perspective,” he said. “I have a feeling there might be some older ‘kids’ who might want to come down as well, so the whole team will be down there following the game to meet the fans.”
Game starts at 1 PM. I'll have some thoughts and photos posted here afterward.
There are published reports that athletic director Lee Fowler is not going to honor Yow's wishes, a baffling decision if it is accurate.
Let's face it; this is women's basketball we're talking about. Football and men's basketball demands success without sentiment, and an AD has to make coaching choices that affect millions in revenues and soothing the passions of tens of thousands of supporters.
But when Yow from virtually her deathbed asks for a favor based on her 34 years of service and nearly 700 wins at N.C. State, that wish should be granted unless there is a compelling reason to do otherwise.
Enter Harper, who could be walking into a position where anger, hurt and disappointment may prevent full support from the Wolfpack faithful.
So much wrong in so few words. Kudos, sir.
Sylvia Hatchell, Joanne McCallie, whoever the hell coaches at Wake Forest: this is a peek at your future:
Oh it's on now. PAIN TRAIN.
-- Pack Pride has some quotes from TOB's Tuesday press conference. Also: TOB talks to Dave Glenn, Heather Dinich. He told Glenn that he's still a year or two away from having the kinds of offensive lines he had at Boston College. Which is to say that Chuck Amato left one hell of a mess there.
Western Carolina athletic director Chip Smith told the Citizen-Times today that women’s basketball coach Kellie Harper has interviewed for the N.C. State job.
Smith said N.C. State athletic director Lee Fowler called him to ask permission to speak with Harper. Smith also said Harper told him she had interviewed and is keeping him abreast of details as they develop.
-- Per this report, NC State plans to hire Kellie Harper as its new women's basketball coach.
BasketballScoop has learned that NC State plans to hire Kellie Harper as their new head coach. We expect an announcement early this week. Harper has been the head coach at Western Carolina for the past 5 seasons, accumulating a 97-65 record over that time.
Coach Charita Stubbs refused to comment following the tournament.
"As long as I'm at N.C. State, you guys are never talking to me again," Stubbs said.
Stubbs has not spoken to Technician since mid-October due to an editorial cartoon about the volleyball team which ran Oct. 14.
I hope she eventually changes her mind about that since the Technician is pretty much the only local media outlet willing to give her team some ink. See the cartoon in question right here.
-- The baseball team desperately needed to take two-of-three from Boston College and Duke these past two weekends, and they put themselves in position to do just that but blew the Sunday rubber match in both cases. BC rallied from a 10-2 deficit to take game three and the series last Sunday; yesterday, Duke scored three in the bottom of the 10th inning to win 8-7 and take the series. State now sits in 10th place in the ACC, a full two games behind 8th-place Duke, which, obviously, holds the tie-breaker. They have to claw back into that #8 spot just to make the ACC tournament, and they'll have to do it by going through Florida State, UNC, Virginia, and Clemson--four of the seven teams with winning records in conference play.
It's difficult to remember or imagine now, nearly ten years later (good god), but man, that was an exciting time to be a Wolfpack basketball fan. Especially so for 16-year-old me, as I had little to no recollection of State hoops prior to the Sendek era. Here, finally, with a brand new arena and future superstud (surely!) Damien Wilkins suiting up for the first time, we were turning the corner. My dad went so far as to suggest we'd have a top ten program by the time I enrolled a couple years later. I couldn't fathom that. (And unfortunately, I still can't. New plan: top ten by the time I'm 40. Plan to be revised as necessary.)
Neither Wilkins nor the team had an impressive debut (I believe it was the first time Wilkins showcased his dribble-off-the-shin move to the basket), but both of those omens were forgotten when Archie Miller drained a three from the corner with less than a minute to go to give NC State the lead for good.
NC State 98, North Carolina 76 (2/24/02) [recap/box]
(Yes, the student tickets were green for some reason. And sometimes yellow.)
The Pack had already dispatched the Heels with ease in Chapel Hill, so I doubt many folks expected them to give us any trouble in Raleigh. Yep, just another day of entertainment and sports. Says so right in the name. But Carolina had other ideas; namely, to not be terrible at doing basketball-type things. They were surprisingly sharp in that first half and used some hot shooting to build a 10-point halftime lead. I don't remember feeling a sense of dread at that point--just shock.
While I was still trying to figure out what the hell happened, State went on a 20-5 run to start the second half. The scoring went back and forth for a while, and UNC actually held a 68-66 lead with about eight and a half minutes to go. Those last eight minutes, though... I've never seen anything like it. They put Carolina away by scoring on eight consective possessions, ultimately burying the Heels under a 32-point onslaught. The final tally: 98 points, 62 of which came in the second half, and a deceptively comfortable-looking margin of victory. En route to those 62 second-half points, the Wolfpack shot 69% (eFG) from the field and made 22 of 26 (84.6%) free throw attempts. Unreal.
Like most Wolfpack fans, I'm not one to tempt fate, because if I've learned one thing over the years, it's not to give that cruel bastard an opening. What's that? Is that hope you got there, son? WELL HERE'S A FUCKING BIZARRE PALMING CALL ON JUSTIN GAINEY JUST FOR YOU. I CAN DO THIS SHIT ALL CENTURY.NOW GET THEE BACK TO SULKSVILLE.
With the good guys in control late, victory looked like a pretty safe bet, and it was clear that a court-storming was in order. It was my first chance to do it and I didn't know if I'd ever get another opportunity, so I left my upper deck seat early, made my way to one of the lower level section entrances, and waited. I was probably one of the last students to make it onto the court once the buzzer sounded, but that didn't matter.
Wake led by as many as 18 points in the first half, 16 at the break. But they went cold in the second and the Pack slowly got back into the game, eventually tying it with about five minutes to go. This was one of those times where the outcome never felt like it was in doubt, despite the fact that it appeared very much so, what with the score being tied and all that. When Marcus Melvin fired up a three that would give them a four-point lead with 30 seconds to go, my only thought was of course this is going in. That's the kind of foreign sensation you don't forget. Usually it's the other team doing the shooting when I have that thought.
That was probably the most fun I've ever had at a basketball game. We celebrated at Reynolds for hours afterward.
The weather in Chicago (wet, windy, temps in the 30s--sounds about right) will prevent the White Sox from kicking off their season today, but nonetheless, party on. I'll be looking forward to King Felix vs. Francisco Liriano tonight instead.
A couple of quick baseball items:
-- Good read from Joe Posnanski on Zach Greinke here.
-- Meet Stephen Strasburg, the likely number one pick in this year's draft. His fastball touches triple digits, and if his numbers are any indication (94 Ks in 48.3 IP; 17.5 K/9), he is freakishly talented. His "adviser"/soon-to-be-agent (I'll give you one guess who) is looking for $50 million.
N.C. State athletics director Lee Fowler said Friday he has interviewed Stephanie Glance and others and expects to have a women’s coach hired by the middle of April.
And, by the way, Fowler plans to be at N.C. State then – and beyond.
A rumor making the rounds this week had N.C. State on the brink of a major athletics department shakeup. But university spokesman Keith Nichols said there had been no special meeting of the Board of Trustees, and Fowler said he wasn’t on the brink of leaving the school.
“I’m still here,” he said. “I’ve got a contract through October of 2013.”
Fowler said he had heard the rumor, but assumed it was an April Fool’s joke that had taken off on the Internet.
-- Audio of TOB's post-scrimmage press conference is available here. If the scrimmage stats are any indication, Russell Wilson has retained the awesome he found last season, which is good. Not that I was concerned. He and Glennon combined to throw for 312 yards on 31 attempts, which is either encouraging (10 YPA yay quarterbacks) or worrisome (secondary oh noes) depending on how you want to look at it.
-- The Charlotte Observer's Scott Fowler examines the legend of David Thompson. Never knew DT couldn't palm a basketball. Also, I wonder if there's any footage somewhere of that dunk against UNCC.
-- Not surprisingly, there's someone who doesn't think Tony Bennett's system fits in the ACC. By the way, I've about had it with the phrase "a good fit." At least when it comes to coaching carousel articles. See:
-- With Calipari officially off to Lexington, John Wall says he does not have a leader right now, while DeMarcus Cousins said yesterday that he's going to "start over." (Though there is a rumor from tonight's McD's AA game that Cousins said he was leaning towards Kentucky.) This video will give you a good idea of the media frenzy that's surrounded both Cousins and Xavier Henry.
-- Wolfpack Hoops interviews Scott Wood here. Wood reveals that he's planning on majoring in civil engineering, and he's already using "we" when he talks about the Pack. I think I'm going to like this kid.
this occurred to me the other day when i heard that state is looking for a new womens basketball coach which means that lee fowler is doing his thing. now i heard they formed a search committee thats fairly sizeable in order to minimize his overall impact but come on people we know whats gonna happen and so does states shit ass administration. partly cloudy skies with a hundred percent chance of fail.
lee fowler is like toonces the cat that could drive and their administration is like those idiots that let him keep getting behind the wheel time after time despite newsflash hes going to crash the fucking car again.
toonces look out!!!!!!!!!!!!!! boom explosion herb vote of confidence. toonces look out!!!!!!!!!!!!! boom explosion lets have more chuck amato. toonces look out!!!!!!!!!!! boom explosion sidney lowe. hahahahaha you suck state.