My friend Jonny and I don’t agree on much. Especially when it comes to college basketball. He is a self-loathing NC State fan, while I am a delusional Kentucky fan. That’s not to say we don’t know anything about basketball, because we do. Well, as long as you’re not asking us to be objective about our own teams. That’s where this feature comes in. We’re going to be watching various NC State and Kentucky games and give our thoughts and opinions. The role of the Homer and the Troll will alternate depending on who’s team we’re watching. Enjoy.
Tonight’s game: #18 NC State: 72 – #3 Michigan: 79
Tonight’s Homer: Jonnny
- ESPN cameras were in the locker room for Mark Gottfried’s pregame speech. This happened for several games last season as well, and even though it probably has a lot to do with Gottfried being a former ESPN analyst, that kind of exposure and access goes a long way toward making the program not seem like a redheaded stepchild. The added attention means nothing, however, if you do not live up to expectations on the court, which NC State is struggling with right now.
- Freshman T.J. Warren got the start tonight over fellow freshman Rodney Purvis, giving NC State a big lineup, presumably to counter Michigan’s length, and reward Warren, who is leading the team in scoring so far this year. Purvis seemed very ineffective off the bench, finishing with 6 points. He played poorly against UNC-Asheville last week (although who on the team didn’t?), but Purvis is talented enough that he should be allowed to work through a slump, rather than getting demoted. Warren, meanwhile, continued to be excellent, scoring 18 points and generally looking like State’s best offensive player.
- The result of putting Warren into the starting lineup is that Scott Wood shifted to the two, where he is a complete liability, especially on defense. Wood finished with 10 points. A shooter who is in the starting lineup but can’t play defense, pass effectively, or even get open on his own accord, ought to score a lot more than 10 points. If someone is going to be benched to get Warren into the starting lineup, it should be Wood. On the other side, Michigan’s Nik Stauskas is the player NC State wishes Wood could be: a deadly shooter who can hold his own on defense. The freshman came off the bench to lead Michigan in scoring with 20 points. NC State had no answer for Stauskas, who was constantly left open by the Wolfpack’s zone defense.
- Speaking of defense: UGH. NC State couldn’t stop Michigan off the dribble, so Gottfried switched to a zone, where the Wolverines promptly destroyed them from three-point range. Michigan’s Trey Burke, who finished with 18 points, 11 assists, and 0 turnovers, deserves praise for his performance, but a lot of guards would have had an amazing game against this defense. We all knew when he was hired that Gottfried was a poor defensive coach, but this is just ridiculous. The Wolfpack has the athletic ability to compete with anyone defensively, but the players just don’t seem to understand what to do on defense, or even care that much about defense. The blame for this falls squarely on Gottfried.
- Burke’s opposite number, Lorenzo Brown, had an improved outing statistically, finishing with 10 assists and only 1 turnover, but he continues to not pass the eyeball test this season. I feel like Brown has trouble balancing his own scoring with his responsibilities as a point guard. He has to figure out when to set up his teammates, and when to take over the game. Gottfried insists that point guard is Brown’s natural position, but I’m starting to doubt it.
- In another lineup note, Gottfried brought in redshirt junior center Jordan Vandenberg fairly early in the game. With forward Thomas de Thaey leaving the team this week, Vandenberg is in line to receive some decent minutes. He had a nice basket early on, and then proceeded to do nothing for the rest of the game. Vandenberg seems to have trouble understanding (or maybe executing) his role: getting rebounds and easy baskets under the rim. He wanders from the basket far too often. NC State is very thin in the frontcourt.
- Being thin in the frontcourt is a major problem, because the Wolfpack continues to rack up fouls like nobody’s business. Richard Howell fouled out with about five minutes left in the game, and C.J. Leslie finished with four. NC State fans like to cry conspiracy, especially with “TV” Ted Valentine in the house, but the Wolfpack players are simply out-of-control and sloppy sometimes, and pick up fouls that could be easily avoided. Like the defense, this comes down to coaching.
- C.J. Leslie’s Jekyll and Hyde routine continues. He sometimes looks like the best player on the court, and sometimes like he’d rather be anywhere else. He would be one of the best players in the country if he could focus for 40 minutes. He also continues to have outbursts about officiating. I am beginning to wonder about Mark Gottfried’s ability to get through to the young man.
- Remember when Lee Fowler tried to hire John Beilein to replace Herb Sendek, only to realize there was no way NC State could afford to buy out Beilein’s contract with West Virginia? Wolfpack fans were upset that Fowler was even considering hiring someone who ran a Princeton-style offense, which was run in a sleep-inducing form by Sendek, but Beilein clearly would have been a better choice than Sidney Lowe. It’s always interesting to think about what could have been.
Tonight’s Troll: Richard
- The obvious place to start in this game was on the defensive side of the ball. Neither team played D very well, but NC State was especially atrocious. While playing man to man, the Wolfpack was consistently beat off the dribble and committing fouls. When they went to a zone, Trey Burke carved them to pieces and they couldn’t close out on the shooters. Scott Wood (who I don’t think broke into a sprint the entire game) plays defense like he’s riding a Merry-Go-Round. Richard Howell should be a good defender, but he just likes hitting people too much. For as athletic and quick as this NC State team is, it doesn’t make sense why they look so slow on defense. Communication is a major issue, but often they are simply out of position and too uninterested in fixing it.
- I’ve always rolled my eyes when I read about CJ Leslie vs. Calvin Leslie, but that guy is seriously bi-polar. This is Leslie’s 3rd year at NC State, but he still plays like he’s in AAU. He’s clearly the most physically talented player on this team, but he’s like a puppy still figuring out what to do with himself. His strength is his length and athleticism, so his spot on the floor should be around the free throw line. But he’s far too often banging around on the block and trying to shoot over double teams. He and Lorenzo Brown play a nice two man game out of the high post, but those plays are few a far between.
- Scott Wood. I roasted his defense already, but I feel like he deserves more criticism. This guy is a senior who has added absolutely nothing to his game in four years at NC State. While he is a great three point shooter, he does absolutely nothing to create his own shot. 95% of the game is spent jogging around the court hoping someone will pass him the ball. The other 5% is him turning the ball over when he decides it might help if he dribbles.
- I hate to break away from my role as the troll, but I do really like freshman TJ Warren. He’s a really good all around player on offense, grabbing rebounds and cleaning up around the basket. He looks to have a good outside stroke, but won’t force the shot if it’s not there. He finished the game with 18 points on 8 of 10 shooting. That’s crazy efficient for a guy in just his 6th college game.
- As bad as the defense looked tonight, NC State’s biggest issue might be between their ears. The paranoia of Wolfpack fans has penetrated into the mind of the players. Way too many guys spend their time complaining about fouls and looking at the referees. Suck it up and play ball boys. Let the Coach worry about TV Teddy and Karl Hess, nothing good is going to come of your whining as CJ Leslie found out in Puerto Rico.
- Mark Gottfried has an incredibly athletic team. A majority of State’s points came from flat-out beating their man off the dribble. If he can get his team to just play a little bit of defense, this can still be a very good team. Lorenzo Brown needs to be more assertive on offense and run the show. Leslie is the teams best player, but Brown is the most important. He must set the tempo.
No fireworks from either side yet, but the season is still young. Keep coming back for more. Next time we’ll switch hats and give our thoughts on a Kentucky game.