There are a bunch of different ways you can place this season into context, especially now that we know that head coach Mark Gottfried won’t be back. One thing that’s been gnawing at me is how the results ended up becoming what they are versus what we all hoped/expected would happen before the season started.
Hype was inevitable with the addition of Dennis Smith, a healthy Terry Henderson, Torin Dorn, and highly-regarded big man Omer Yurtseven. Those guys, along with Malik Abu and Maverick Rowan, were expected to establish a deep rotation that could play with just about anybody and attack in any number of ways. Heck, I thought this would be Gottfried’s best offense—better than the 2013 team, which finished 10th in offensive efficiency.
Nothing worked out this year like we wanted or optimistically expected, and maybe it boils down to this: the depth we imagined this team having was never really there. This is partly the problem that comes with relying on freshmen, but the fact is, certain guys who were expected to be major difference-makers found high-major college hoops a huge barrier.
State ranks 221st in bench minutes. In comparison to last season, State’s lineup is significantly more flexible, but it’s still been a pretty bench, which is not we anticipated during our possibly probably completely unfair offseason jubilation period.
Omer Yurtseven has been dreadful in ACC games, hitting only 44.6% of his twos while turning the ball over way too much. Torin Dorn has completely disappeared after a solid start to the season; instead of becoming the effective wing slasher his numbers at Charlotte suggested he could be, he’s been completely shut down by ACC defenses.
Malik Abu hasn’t leveled up. BeeJay Anya faded into the background, losing the tenuous grip he had on his physical state. You have to find positive margins somewhere coming off a 5-13 season, which is where you expect your veterans to fill gaps. They haven’t.
What does that leave? There were potential problems we were happy to ignore or avoid during the offseason, but they’ve all been made plain now.
Dennis Smith has been Dennis Smith, but he’s still a freshman and prone to the frustrations that go with moving from high school to college. Nonetheless he’s been tremendous, do not misinterpret me here.
And there is Maverick Rowan, who has had a breakout year, out of sheer necessity. Rowan shot 40% inside the arc and 33.6% from three as a freshman. This season, he’s at 53.8% and 36.6%. That’s been critical, but not enough to save a supposedly deep team that turned out to be perilously thin.
Markell Johnson wasn’t supposed to be a significant contributor this season—he was supposed to handle a few minutes every night, give Dennis a break when needed, and basically use this year as preparation for the next. Instead, he’s become a significant part of the rotation, even though his shooting has been bad.
The depth was never there. When I watch NC State play against the best teams in the ACC, it becomes clear that the depth on this roster we imagined was a figment of offseason hype-ism. I mean, you couldn’t blame any of us for being excited about the potential with this roster. We were wrong, though, and this whole season ended up going a sour direction.
Playing in the ACC ends up a coming-to-Jesus situation for a lot of guys, and that ended up the case for an untenable number of guys on the NC State roster. It doesn’t excuse poor fundamentals or bad effort or flat-out quitting, but bottom line is there are a bunch of dudes on this NC State roster who were not ready for what they were going to face, and they didn’t get the support from elsewhere that might possibly maybe have staved off the crisis in confidence that killed this season.
We overestimated, though, no doubt about it; didn’t figure in that a team being run by a freshman could be mentally fragile. Hey, we do this type of thing most years, to some degree—this year the bet managed to seem more likely than it has in a long time. There’s always next year. And the next coach.