Over the last few seasons, NC State’s offense became extremely half-court oriented. Mark Gottfried likes to say that he prefers an up-tempo style, but he’s proven to be flexible on that point. His first two Pack teams played fast, ranking 60th and 33rd, respectively in average possession length. During the Cat Barber era that followed, however, State slammed on the brakes.
Average possession length for the NC State offense under Mark Gottfried:
2012: 16.9 seconds (60th nationally)
2013: 16.5 (33)
2014: 19.3 (301)
2015: 19.5 (278)
2016: 18.5 (298)
2017: 16.1 (83)
(Note: these numbers span the rule change from a 35-second shot clock to the 30-second clock, which was instituted prior to last season. In the 35-second era, the current Pack team would rank in the top 25 in tempo.)
The Gott Man’s early teams had the personnel to run effectively, and so they did—Lorenzo Brown and C.J. Leslie together could go from defensive rebound to dunk at the other end in approximately 0.5 seconds. After they left, though, Gottfried didn’t have the roster necessary to leverage that type of game, and besides that, he was breaking in a new point guard.
A more half-court orientation persisted from 2014 through last season, at no cost to the Wolfpack’s offensive efficiency. Fast or slow, Gottfried’s NC State offenses have always been good.
With Dennis Smith running the show this season, State is looking more like Gottfried’s first couple of teams, for better or for worse. (Obviously, against Illinois, we saw the “for worse” portion of this equation.) With superior athletes again in place, the run game is back on.
And I’m all for that, but this is also a team still learning the necessary balance between opportunism and restraint. Sometimes it’s gonna blow up in their faces the way it did Tuesday, but when these guys are on—and we’ve seen those stretches already—they’re going to be a lot of fun.