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NC State loss: Where do we go from here?

Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

Sorry for missing a recap following the heartbreaking NC State loss. I was out of town for the weekend and didn’t get to see the game. I did, however, see Scott Wood’s game winner. I’m usually looking for someone to point a finger at when things go wrong, but in this instance it isn’t that cut and dry. Wood is tremendous at coming off screens and he shoots with such a quick release that you have to stay in his hip pocket or he’ll make you pay. Brownell said that they knew the ball was going to Wood and stuck Rod Hall on him. Hall was able to stay with him through Howell’s first screen, but that screen was just a decoy to let Hall think Wood was going to come off a double screen. When Wood cut back to come back off Howell’s second screen, Hall was juked out of his shoes. At that point you had Jennings and Harrison on that side of the court with Wood, Howell, and Lorenzo Brown to guard. In hindsight it would’ve been smart for Jennings to switch off Howell and jump out on Wood. In that scenario, Wood most likely finds a wide open Howell underneath and we’d be heading to OT. But the play developed so fast that I can’t fault Jennings here. It was just a really well designed and executed play by NC State.

Clemson missed out on getting a signature win. The win wouldn’t have done anything for tournament hopes, but it surely would’ve done something for the guys’ confidence. With their best win this year being @ South Carolina, notching a win against preseason ACC favorite NC State with their best player (Brown) back in the lineup would’ve been huge. Instead, they’re left trying to figure out how they blew games to @FSU and NC State that they should’ve won.

The doubts that Jennings admitted had crept into their heads at the end of games will escalate until their confidence is restored. Guys need to stop thinking so much at the end of games and play without a conscious. Do you think Scott Wood thought twice about shooting that 3? No. He’s so confident in his shot that it’s like shooting a layup for him.

Obviously this season isn’t going the way that many people had hoped. But this team was picked to finish 9th in the ACC. They weren’t expected to be good. And they currently sit in 8th place, so essentially right where people expected. If you were expecting to make the NCAA tournament this year than your expectations were unrealistically high. At this point, I watch the games as much to evaluate progress in our young guys as I do for the outcome.

I watch to see if McDaniels will improve his ballhandling so that his offensive repertoire expands beyond 3’s and dunks, to see if he can become our go-to guy. I watch to see Roper continue to improve defensively and as a primary ballhandler, because I already know he can score the basketball. I watch Adonis Filer’s decision making hoping I’ll see him make strides. We know that he can attack the basket, but he needs to understand when and where to pick his spots to attack. He needs to do a better job of setting up his teammates for easy looks. I watch to see if Rod Hall can provide enough offensive firepower to be the answer at PG, or if he should be used as a defensive stopper/heady backup PG. And lastly, I watch to see if I can get a glimmer hope that we’ll be okay in the frontcourt next year with Nnoko, Sullivan, and Smith.

I know that might sound sacrilegious because we all want to see W’s. But because the team is so young, and because they are struggling to win games right now, it enhances my viewing pleasure to watch the game this way. Victories, at this point, are just an icing on the cake.