Wolfpack off to a decent start

Published 11:59 am Monday, December 3, 2018

College basketball season is in full swing now even though conference action won’t start for another few weeks. I don’t usually write sports-focused columns (outside of joking about what everyone’s wearing on NBA draft night), but this week I’d like to talk a little bit about NC State’s basketball team. Not a whole bunch of analysis because I never care much about the hardcore stats, but at least a few predictions about how the season will go.

This is Coach Kevin Keatts’ second year in charge, and it seems like he’s been doing pretty well so far. He’s even pretty good at sinking a nice trick shot, according to the occasional video posted to the team’s Twitter account. But actual basketball skills aside, he certainly exceeded expectations last year by taking the team all the way to the NCAA tournament with the leftovers of Gottfried’s underperforming team. It looks like the “Kevin Keatts is a winner” running joke might have some basis in reality.

This year, Keatts has an almost entirely new roster, so expectations might be even higher this time around. He’ll have a chance to prove his recruiting skills as well as show off how he’s able to mold a new team in a short amount of time.

I’ve spent the first couple games of the season trying to learn all the new players on the team. There’s so many of them! But it’s helped that the short roster gives everyone a chance for a lot of playing time, so more opportunities to learn their names and faces (and hair, to be quite honest. That’s how I tell people apart).

I’ve been impressed with their teamwork so far—they definitely don’t hesitate to pass the ball—and I think that’ll be one of their best strengths as the season continues. You can’t win games by relying only on one or two great players.

Another nice thing about this team? They can hustle for a rebound! The most frustrating thing to me growing up watching NC State basketball was the lack of rebounding on missed shots. Maybe it didn’t bother anyone else, but it sure bothered me letting all those potential possessions go to waste. This season (and last season too) it’s been a good change of pace to see players ready to grab rebounds instead of just letting the other team easily catch it. That, too, ought to be a contributing factor to wins this season.

The Wolfpack’s undefeated record came to an end on Tuesday in their matchup against Wisconsin. It was their first real challenge so far, and while it’s disappointing to see the outcome, I can’t say they didn’t play a good game. They never gave up even as their lead slipped away in the last couple minutes. Early foul trouble was concerning, but hopefully they’ll learn from the experience and make adjustments in upcoming games.

Overall, I’m optimistic, as I always am at the beginning of a season. I’m biased, of course, but I think this team will end up with a pretty decent year if they don’t lose their energy along the way. Maybe we’ll even get in a win or two against UNC and Duke again like we did last year. I hope so, at least.

Keep up the good hustle, Wolfpack! Or I’ll have to resort to analyzing everyone’s hairstyles or something to make the season entertaining. And there’s only so many jokes you can make about Braxton Beverly’s beard.

Holly Taylor is a Staff Writer for Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact her at holly.taylor@r-cnews.com or by phone at 252-332-7206.