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Now, I believe in Wolfpack football!

By Jim Pomeranz

Last spring when I looked over the NC State Wolfpack football schedule, keeping in mind the absolutely awful first four seasons under head coach Dave Doeren, I penciled in a 6-6 regular season record and a bowl game win over South Florida or some other minor directional school.

My record reasoning was valid: three wins in four non-conference games and three wins in eight Atlantic Coast Conference games. The breakdown would be similar to the previous three seasons. In four years, Doeren’s teams compiled a miserable 9-23 conference record. I figured the 2017 season would result in wins over Syracuse, Wake Forest and North Carolina, the latter because of annual hope for beating the Tar Heels.

However, when the Pack fell to South Carolina on opening day, I adjusted my thinking and lowered my expectations to 5-7 overall with two non-conference wins (Marshall and Furman) and another loss at Notre Dame. I even doubted my ACC prediction of 3-5. The Wolfpack made it through the first three games 2-1 and I was still on track to be right.

When Florida State’s quarterback went down (injured and out for the season) in the Noles first game of the season, I told friends and foes that the Wolfpack could win that game if the sub-QB was rattled in the least. And it happened. 3-1.

Then, after an excellent first half against Syracuse, the Wolfpack hung on (looked familiar to other Doeren coached teams) to win as predicted to go to 4-1. The Wolfpack then caught Louisville at the right time (in the shadow of a basketball recruiting scandal) and pressured its Heisman Trophy QB into mistakes to get a fifth win. As good as the wins against Florida State and Louisville seemed, a sixth win in a game at Pittsburgh was probably the best of the season.

So, after seven games in the 2017 season, the Wolfpack is 6-1 and has a week off before plowing through the final five games. How do I feel? Mixed is a good way to say it. I’m ecstatic about winning. I remain a Doeren doubter.

In his first season, he took a suspect squad and made it worse, going 0-8 in the ACC. Instead of using the little talent he had in the best way possible, he made the season a “my way or the highway” approach and lost them all. No doubt, Doeren is blessed (not beatitudes blessed but some other kind) to have a patient Athletics Director who last year fired the guy she hired as basketball coach soon after she arrived at NC State. He was doing an okay job with a team that had a revolving door of players coming and going. He had just one of those one-and-done quality players that Duke is relying on to win, and that player has to be suspect in the FBI investigation of college basketball though his name does not appear anywhere publicly in the probe.

The AD has lived through four miserable football seasons but she says the football program has been making progress. Other coaches subject to her kingdom have been fired for better records. As a matter of fact, the previous football coach was 22-28 in the ACC and got canned. Doeren has to be 13-3 total in the ACC for this year and next to match that mark. He seems to be on that path with a 4-0 ACC record this season. By the way, the progress the AD sees is at the ticket booth. Season ticket sales and attendance has not dropped while Doeren has been coach. On the contrary, the numbers have increased, and since she is more about the money (spending it wildly as she did at Maryland), it’s easy for her to stick with a loser and hope he becomes a winner.

With a 6-1 record and being on top of our ACC division, I’ve decided to get on the Wolfpack bandwagon if there’s room. I see no one jumping off and there seems to be unlimited space. There are five games remaining on the schedule: at Notre Dame, Clemson in Raleigh, at Boston College, at Wake Forest, and North Carolina in Raleigh. I believe the Wolfpack should (not will, not might but should) win them all and play in the ACC Championship game in which a win might get the Wolfpack into the four-team playoff for the national title. I’ll be disappointed in anything less.

None of the five remaining games are easy; all have subplots. Notre Dame is much stronger this season and is out to revenge the loss in Raleigh last year; Clemson needs to win out the season to stay in the hunt to win a second straight national title; the Wolfpack seems to have a tough time with BC, going 5-9 since 2005; Wake Forest has flashes of brilliance against State; and it’s a week before the Wolfpack’s game with North Carolina which looks more and more like Furman and Marshall but could be a season-ending spoiler. Doubtful and a loss to the Tar Heels might be reason to lose a job.

I discount all of that and say the NC State Wolfpack will be 11-1 overall and 8-0 in the ACC when the regular season is over. Dave Doeren will ride off the field on his player’s shoulders and there will be jubilation in Carter-Finley Stadium that hasn’t been seen since…well…maybe a close win against Florida in the early 1970s. Doeren will play down the win, knowing his team is headed to Charlotte for the ACC title game.

Unfortunately, the head coach will be wearing that stupid-looking t-shirt that he’s been displaying this season. It’s not a collared shirt; it’s worse than the Dabo Sweeny sweat shirt look at Clemson. Doeren looks less the part of a head coach and more that of a field hand, which he wants NC State to project, a team that gets dirty and work with it’s hands. And all this time, I though my alma mater has been trying to rid itself of the Cow College image that made it so great, Maybe Doeren is convincing those image-makers otherwise. If he wins, he’ll get more of what he wants, the school be-damned.

1973-74 Book Autograph Session!

The 1973-74 NC State men’s basketball team will be inducted into the NC State Athletics Hall of Fame, Friday, Sept 16 in the renovated Reynolds Coliseum. That afternoon, at two locations, Jim Pomeranz, author of the best book about that team, 1973-73 Reliving the NC State Wolfpack’s Title Run, will be available to autograph your copy if the book.

From 12 noon to 2 pm, Jim will be at the Red and White Shop in Ridgewood Shopping Center and then from 4 pm until 7 pm, he’ll be at the NCSU Wolfpack Outfitters Bookstore in the beautiful Talley Student Union which is on the west side of Reynolds Coliseum. Books will be available for purchase at both stores.

There’s a chance some members of the team will also be present at each location, giving fans the opportunity to visit with the best ever NC State basketball team. Also, for those attending the Hall of Fame induction, there will be an autograph session with the team after the ceremony in Reynolds Coliseum which was the home court for that wonderful season.

If you cannot make it to either book signing, check out the “Where to Buy” tab on the website: CaryTown Press.

First one to 100 points wins!

Seth Davis, the Sports Illustrated writer who has become somewhat of a college basketball expert, along with several coaches, feels that college basketball is in a downward spiral. He and others feel that good defense is trumping a fast-paced game and that unless something is done about it, the game will lose it glamour. He advocates changes to several rules that will weaken defense, strengthen offense, increase the speed of the game, and add to scoring.

In the March 9 edition of Sports Illustrated, Davis proposes changes to five rules which will drive defensive-minded coaches and players away from the game. In many respects, a well-played defense, especially one that leads to fast break baskets, is more enjoyable that the idiotic approach of running up and down the court at breakneck speed, attempting to score layouts on each possession. His changes would push the game from accurate three-point shooting and excellent ball movement and superior cutting and screening away from the ball to a fast-paced affair that allows no time to sip a beer or bite into a buffalo wing for fear of missing a score. College basketball, just as is football and, in a way, baseball, should be as much a tactician’s game as it is a sprinters track meet.

In SI, Davis writes/recommends:

  • Reduce the shot clock from 35 seconds to either 30 or 24. Davis quotes Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski: “A shorter clock means more possessions, and more possessions means more points.” Coach K is probably a smart person, but that statement is not necessarily true. There might be more possessions, but teams with poor shooting and missed shots will not score any more points that will the 35-second clock number of possessions allow. Maybe there a chance for more points, but more possessions will not guarantee it.
  • Extend the arc under the basketball from three-feet to four feet to try to draw the defenders , especially the help-side defenders away from the basket, maybe. According to the rules, if a defender has a foot inside the arc, there will not be a charging foul called if an offensive player runs into the defender. By pulling the help-side defender away, Davis says there would be more operating room under the basket. Defensive-minded coaches will keep the lane clogged and play the odds.
  • Widen the lane for nearly the same reason as extending the arc, giving drivers to the basket more room to drive, but also teaching post players to shoot facing the basket instead of backing in and trying to dunk. Let’s see: Fans would like to see the 8-foot jumper from, say, NC State’s BeeJay Anya than see him back in and slam one over the defender? Not!
  • Move the three-point line back from 20’ to 22’ to give players more room to operate. Davis continues to make it about opening up the court so guards can drive. Maybe the line needs to be moved back but it would reduce the excitement of the three-point shot, taking away an offensive weapon from some teams, though defenders probably would not guard as tightly at that distance so there would be no extra room to drive anyway.
  • Limited timeouts but Davis doesn’t say how many. No matter how Davis wants college basketball to be, it’s still a coach-driven game that includes teaching college players how to be aggressive on offense and defense. The timeout is used strategically to halt the run by the opponents, to keep your team in the game. If timeouts are decreased, give the coaches the authority to call for the next media timeout for the same reason they would call their own timeout.

Davis feels the game faces a complacency issue, that the slowdown game causes it and takes away from what he calls a once-beautiful game. A thing of beauty was watching David Thompson in 1974 face his defender who was playing a few feet away, drive at him and pull up for an open jumper. It was the same with Tommy Burleson playing with his back to Len Elmore, stop and skyhook one over him and into the basket. Defenses back them were not so tight.

Today, defenses get away with near murder. “Hand-checks” should be called a foul immediately. When the defense double-teams a player, the referees should watch the leg action and the knee fouling. Other than Davis’ proposed rule changes, there are plenty of ways to open up the game. Or there’s this: If Davis wants to make the game more exciting, to increase scoring, and to open up the floor to allow for more offensive action, the solution is to eliminate players fouling out, allow for free substitutions without the clock stopping, remove the clock altogether and play “First one to 100 points wins!”

If you like college basketball with lots of scoring, that will do the trick. If you enjoy good defense which also includes lots of fast-paced and spectacular play, leave the game as it is. It all seems to work out. The big paychecks from ESPN, CBS and their broadcast sponsors will not end anytime soon no matter how defensive the game is.

Watch David Thompson Soar!

When the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament rolls around each year, thoughts return to the greatest ACC game ever when NC State defeated Maryland, 103-100, in 1973-74. The star of the Wolfpack that season, the season before and the season after, was David Thompson. Here’s an excellent video of David, produced by the NC State University athletics department especially for his induction into the school’s athletics Hall of Fame: WATCH DAVID THOMPSON SOAR! 

 

 

World doesn’t stop for ACC tourney, but you should!

ACC TOURNAMENT: March 10-14

The jockeying is tightening for seeding in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament. What we know is that the two games Tuesday, March 10 will include the last four teams from the regular season. Wake Forest appears to be the best of the four. The other three are Georgia Tech, Boston College and Virginia Tech. No matter which teams meet that day, the Greensboro Coliseum will be nearly empty for those two games, and whoever wins will have to win four more games in four more days to win the tournament.

It appears the top four teams will be Virginia, Duke, Notre Dame and Louisville, and all will miss out on playing Tuesday or Wednesday, automatically advancing to Thursday’s quarter-final round. This is when the tournament really begins, as it was with an 8-team league. Thank goodness there are enough teams to make sure the eventual conference champion will have to win three games–Thursday, Friday and Saturday–to claim the title and the automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

That leaves the middle of the pack: North Carolina, Pittsburgh, Miami, NC State, Clemson, and Florida State (which could finish in the bottom four with Wake Forest jumping ahead). Syracuse has re-‘Cused itself this year from all post-season play, thinking the NCAA will look favorably on self-punishment when penalty time comes around when the NCAA gets around to it. The top two of these six–probably North Carolina and possibly any of the other five–will play Wednesday the winners from Tuesday. The other four will also play Wednesday with that day’s winners meeting the top four Thursday.

If you love basketball, if you love ACC basketball, here’s what you do: watch every game as if it means something to you, no matter your preference. Some will be boring; some will be pedestrian; some will offer you excitement from start to finish. The world as we know it in North Carolina doesn’t stop as it once did when the ball went up to open the first game to the final buzzer of the last. That may be because there are so many teams, but you’re still a fan of the game, of the ACC, so show it.