If there’s an overriding theme for NC State basketball over the last, oh, let’s say 30 years, it’s bad timing. Bad timing thanks to external forces sometimes, bad timing thanks to internal ones most of the time. But bad timing; a lot of bad timing.
Consider this season, for example. NC State loses the best rim protector in the country roughly 10 seconds into the year. And it just so happens this is one of the best years for offense in the ACC in a long time, which makes Manny Bates’ absence that much more untenable.
In league play, ACC teams are averaging 1.065 points per possession, which ranks 3rd among 32 D-I conferences. There are seven teams—basically half the ACC—averaging at least 1.1 PPP this season. Last year, there were two.
State was not going to be a great defensive team with Manny Bates, and it sure as hell had no prayer without him, but combine that with the further attrition in the front court and the overall league scoring environment, and you get a true disaster.
State is dead last in defensive efficiency in ACC games, and dead last in effective field goal percentage defense while second-worst in defensive rebounding rate. Thanks to the prior week or so, the defense has cratered to 251st nationally. A nightmare in a wide variety of ways.
This is squandering what has actually been Kevin Keatts’ best offense in league play—his best offense by a wide margin. NC State is averaging 1.1 points per possession in ACC games, and while that ranks only sixth in this year’s offense-heavy ACC, it would be top-three in any of the prior four seasons.
If anything, State’s offense has been trending up, the Pack coming into its own as a jump-shooting team carried by Terquavion Smith while attacking the glass and taking great care of the basketball. Yet this has made absolutely no difference in the win column. Winning only a quarter of your games while averaging 1.1 points per possession should not even be possible.
In conclusion, NC State is a land of contrasts. Currently ranked 38th in offensive efficiency and 251st in defensive efficiency. No breaks whatsoever in close games down the stretch, even figuring that on balance, that might balance a little, on balance; but on balance, it has not.
If you play at the extremes, there’s always the chance that the results will reflect it, for better or worse.
There’s an alternate universe where the defense still ranks 251st and yet a few of those coin flips went the other way after the under-four timeout, and maybe this is not such an apparent crisis. The next time Kevin Keatts locates some good luck will be the first, though.
This stupid universe.