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NC State’s newfound resiliency may be a sign of good things brewing

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Since when are we living in a world where 15 point deficits don’t mean anything?

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: JAN 21 Miami at NC State Photo by Michael Berg/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

We are watching something growing from the NC State basketball team that hasn’t been seen in quite some time. Kevin Keatts is teaching resiliency to this young team at a surprisingly fast rate. Now, NC State should have beaten Pitt handily; and they should not be continually putting themselves in a position of needing to have come from behind wins. But a certain sense of resiliency and never quit attitude is undoudtedly emerging from the early Keatts era.

This latest game against Pitt is another example of the Wolfpack going down in a game, and working their way back in for a victory. NC State fans are not accustomed to this type of in-game recovery. Read these quotes here. These are actual quotes, from actual players, after actual blowout wins against the Wolfpack last season. Actually.

It was such a widely known issue last year, opposing players were brazenly talking about how they knew the Wolfpack would quit if just got up on them. Something (read: Keatts) has changed this year. Being down by double digits all of a sudden doesn’t make the Wolfpack players sweat as much. The head coach is not satisfied with simply trying the same thing with the same result (there’s something about the definition of insanity in there). The team will change looks on both sides of the court in order to shake out some success. Look no further then Keatts settling on a successful 4 guard lineup surrounding Omer Yurtseven.

Side note: The emergence of Omer Yurtseven could not have happened at a more opportune time. The big man has had several big games, even earning co-ACC Player of the Week honors last week. Part of this comes from just the natural growth and maturity of his game. But Keatts has also been pushing Yurtseven to keep improving, as seen in Wolfpack Hustle. Keatts is reminding Yurtseven that if he wants to play at the next level, he needs to step up his game now, and Omer has responded.

This is a table!

Opponent Final Score Result (W/L) Margin of Victory/Loss Largest Deficit Swing (Margin + Deficit)
Opponent Final Score Result (W/L) Margin of Victory/Loss Largest Deficit Swing (Margin + Deficit)
VMI 102 W 35 0 35
Charleston Southern 78 W 22 2 24
Bryant 95 W 23 12 35
Presbyterian 86 W 18 8 26
#2 Arizona 90 W 6 2 8
Northern Iowa 60 L -4 ?
Tennessee 58 L -9 10 1
Penn State 85 W 7 11 18
South Carolina State 103 W 32 0 32
UMKC 88 W 19 0 19
UNC-G 76 L -5 15 10
Robert Morris 81 W 12 7 19
Jacksonville 116 W 52 0 52
@ Clemson 62 L -16 21 5
@ Notre Dame 58 L -30 30 0
#2 Duke 96 W 11 11 22
#19 Clemson 78 W 1 3 4
@ #3 Virginia 51 L -17 20 3
Wake Forest 72 W 9 6 15
#25 Miami 81 L -5 12 7
@ Pittsburgh 72 W 4 15 19

NC State is currently (14-7), and in 3 of those games they were down between 5 and 10 points. They have won 4 games where they were down by 10 or more points. In half (half!) of their wins, State was losing by at least 5 points.

Outliers do exist, such as NC State blowing a 14 point lead to UNC-G, but a 10 point swing there means the team COULD have lost by as many as 15 but cut it to only lose by 5. In the second matchup with Clemson, the team did give up an 11 point lead before pulling out the 1 point win. And of course, against Pitt, State had an early 11 point lead before going down 15, followed by winning by 4. But hey, they earned that ice cream.

Also, this shows that the team allowed itself to get down a LOT throughout the season, especially to subpar competition early in the schedule.

Other teams have contributed to these comebacks, mind you. Pittsburgh absolutely panicked down the stretch, shooting themselves out of a winnable game. Duke and Clemson went away from their strengths slightly. At the same time, much of of this must be attributed to the Wolfpack disrupting the other team’s momentum. Full court pressure defense has thrown teams off, and State gets 5.2 extra scoring chances per game (currently 14th nationally).

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Could the Wolfpack be playing better in the halfcourt, both on offense and defense? Yes and yes, absolutely. They continually lose opposing big men for easy dunks, and give up wide open threes. If the first option (Yurtseven) isn’t there many offensive possessions end in a long and ill advised jumper.

But even though halfcourt play could definitely see improvement, the Wolfpack persist. This “never give up” attitude is emblazoned on the Dail Center wall, but State hasn’t seen a team truly embody the school mantra in many years.

Would I rather they blow teams out by 20 and not need to worry about coming back all the time? Well, yeah, of course, I would rather they be winning games end to end rather than giving me a heart attack to see whether they can eek out a game against the #214 team in the country. I’d rather not have a Cardiac Pack at all, my weak heart can’t take it.

But to know that if the team is down 15 they are still in the game, and will keep fighting until the end... that is something worth watching. I can’t wait to see where this goes.