If there's been a staple to Mark Gottfried's teams at NC State, it's been the ability to create excitement late in the season, whether that's a late regular-season run or a run in the ACC tournament to earn an NCAA bid. The 2016 Wolfpack has been defined by its obvious ceiling, which we all had spotted by mid-January.
I really disagree with this change, and wish never for it to happen again.
So what went wrong, anyway? It's probably a little too early for deep excavation, so here are some knee-jerk reactions to the Year of the Cat, which was both great and depressing.
|NCSU Offense -- Four Factors||eFG%||TO%||OR%||FT Rate|
|2014-15 (National Rank)||49.3 (157)||16.0 (25)||33.9 (88)||35.4 (222)
|2015-16 (National Rank)||48.5 (235)||16.1 (45)||36.3 (24)||38.9 (112)|
In the past two seasons, State has struggled to find reliable scoring options inside the arc, and it hasn't been much better than average as a three-point shooting team, while taking a below-average proportion of threes. Basically: State has had no reliable paint scorers, and a limited number of decent jump shooters.
That problem grew worse when Ralston Turner graduated, Trevor Lacey turned pro, and Kyle Washington transferred. Turner was a better three-point shooter than anybody on this team. Lacey was better in iso situations than anybody on this team. Nobody could match Washington's instant offense in the paint, even if his shot selection was bad at times.
Terry Henderson was supposed to help State compensate for Turner's absence and stretch defenses. Instead he ended up playing like six minutes the entire year, leaving Cat Barber as the only genuine guard on the roster and forcing him to shoulder an enormous workload.
Barber handled that incredibly well, but it put extra burden on the Martin twins at the offensive end, and it also forced Maverick Rowan to be the pretend-sometimes-definitely-three-point-threat. There were mixed results. Caleb Martin began the season shooting well but was inconsistent most of the way. Rowan was never a consistent outside shooter.
Abdul-Malik Abu took time to establish confident footing, though once he did, he started to show what he can be next season. Lennard Freeman never fully recovered from off-season leg surgery, which limited what he was able to contribute offensively.
|NCSU Defense -- Four Factors||eFG%||TO%||OR%||FT Rate|
|2014-15 (National Rank)||45.5 (37)||14.9 (346)||30.1 (124)||34.7 (134)
|2015-16 (National Rank)||50.6 (204)||15.0 (331)||30.4 (212)||29.7 (43)|
Gottfried has never been known for good defenses, but it seems like the trickle down of all the bullshit circumstances of the 2016 season ended up here. When you have one guard, and you have a sluggish freshman trying to check veteran two-guards, everything can break down, just based off of that.
State's interior defense was really good in 2015--opponents made only 43.6% of their two-point attempts. That number dipped to 47.5% this season. Cat Barber couldn't avoid to risk fouls. Maverick Rowan couldn't check anybody. The Martins were often placed in disadvantageous spots as a result of those things. That stressed the interior, which had no depth.
Problems on top of problems. Square pegs hurled in frustration at round holes because that's all there was left.
As bad as the offense seemed at times during the first couple months of the season, nothing killed this year faster than the defense.
The defense shouldn't be nearly the liability next year with the injection of guard talent on the way. That should have a trickle-down effect. Doesn't mean everything gets fixed magically. But we can safely put this disaster behind us.