Three Points from N.C. State's 76-62 loss to Florida State on Saturday:
1) Reloading the gun
N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried compared the timing of the turnaround from Thursday's loss at Duke to Saturday's game with Florida State to the setup of the NCAA tournament.
One problem with that comparison: You don't have to play again after a loss in the NCAA tournament.
It's tough to reload the gun that quickly, even under normal circumstances, and this did not qualify as normal. Emotionally, almost all of the N.C. State players hadn't recovered from Thursday's gut-punch at Duke, a game which the Wolfpack led by 20 points in the second half (with the notable exception of forward C.J. Leslie, who finished with 21 points and nine bards and continued his march to the first round of the NBA draft).
Compounding the "turnaround" issue was the "Florida State" issue. FSU is an athletic team with experience and also a point to prove after nearly losing at home to a bad Virginia Tech team on Thursday and losing its previous road game to a bad Boston College team on Feb. 8.
FSU's size and athletic ability is a bad matchup for just about everybody (except, apparently, Ivy League teams) and especially a flat, N.C. State team which couldn't hit water from a boat.
"We just didn't have it," senior C.J. Williams said.
His summation was dead on. The Pack was just 6 of 29 in the first half and fell behind by 11, 37-26, at the break. Against FSU's defense 11 points is like 33, there's no coming back without a 3-point explosion. Such a a flurry never happened for the Pack, which finished 3 of 12 from beyond the arc.
And Gottfried didn't like how his team responded after a slow start.
"We just seemed to accept our fate," Gottfried said. "I did not like that. This team has not done that this year."
2) Running out of time
N.C. State has four more games before the ACC tournament starts, two of the teams are ranked in the top 50 of the RPI (UNC, Miami) and State has to play the other two games on the road (Clemson, Virginia Tech).
As Gottfried pointed out before the trip to Duke, that's a difficult closing path for his team. A win in either of the previous two games — at Duke, No. 2 in the RPI, and vs. FSU, No. 28 in the RPI — would have dramatically improved N.C. State's NCAA tournament chances. As would a win over North Carolina, No. 8, on Tuesday.
Gottfried has argued about the relative significance of this three-game stretch. He has argued that even if the team loses all three games, it's not eliminated from the NCAA tournament conversation.
His preference is for his team to focus "one game at a time" and also to be judged on the entirety of the season.
These are both fair points and one a coach should make. To Gottfried's point, Virginia Tech beat Duke last year and everyone from coach Seth Greenberg to Dick Vitale had proclaimed the Hokies were in but Selection Sunday rolled around and the Hokies were out.
Clemson, meanwhile, was winless in four games against Duke and Carolina, but found its way into the field of 68. (Clemson also had a head-to-head win over VT)
And while Gottfried is right, that doesn't discount the external value we (media, fans) have placed on the Duke-FSU-UNC stretch. Games against the top 25, and top 50, of the RPI matter. They just do.
Going back to Virginia Tech's example, the Hokies only top 50 win last year was against Duke. The NCAA was telling them, they needed more than just one win (which is Gottfried's point).
I had an animated exchange with Gottfried after the game on the topic of being judged on three games versus the entire season. He offered some funny, and insightful, comments about his experience as an ESPN analyst.
"I worked for ESPN. I was told to be an expert," Gottfried said. "I was told to stand up there and for sure say, 'This is the law.'
"Hell, I didn't know but I'm not going to get on TV and say, 'I really don't know what they got to do.' "
And Gottfried continued, admitting the value of the Duke-FSU-UNC stretch.
"Sure, it would be nice if we would have swept right through, you know all that, but if you don't, that doesn't mean you are eliminated," Gottfried said. "Some things still happen. You never know with this."
3) About Corch, Gugs and Hess (and the officials)
In 10 years, no one will remember Saturday's game because N.C. State couldn't get over the Duke loss or that it shot poorly but everyone will remember that Wolfpack greats Chris Corchiani and Tom Gugliotta were ejected with 6:40 left in the game by referee Karl Hess.
Corchiani, who regularly attends games, and Gugliotta, who was visiting from Atlanta, were sitting behind the scorers' table and by their own admission, protesting a series of calls during the game. According to Corchiani, and at least two officials at the table, Corchiani did not use any profanity or threaten Hess.
"We were just fans, cheering and yelling like everybody else," Corchiani said.
Hess refused to offer an explanation to the Associated Press seeking comment after the game.
The ACC has admitted that Hess did not follow the proper NCAA protocol, which is to confer with the school's game management official before having the fan(s) removed, but it did not offer an explanation for why the former players were asked to leave their seats.
The NCAA rule says the game official has the authority to eject "unruly fans" who exhibit "extreme or excessive" behavior. By Corchiani's account, their behavior did not qualify as either extreme or excessive.
At minimum, Hess and the ACC should provide a thorough explanation, not the weak e-mail response the conference flimisly provided Saturday night at 9:32 p.m. (four hours after it was originally requested by the media).
If Hess' account for what happened matches Corchiani's, there should also be an apology. And that's not because of who Corchiani and Gugliotta are but because any fan, regardless if their jersey hangs in the arena or not, has the right to protest calls within the limits of civility. To suggest otherwise would mean Duke and Maryland (to just name two hostile environments) would have to play in front of a sea of empty seats.
Hess is a good official who is having a bad year. He was also involved in the no-call on a goaltending at the end of West Virginia's loss 63-61 loss at Syracuse on Jan. 28. Hess and the ACC should provide the proper contrition and let everyone move on. Their paying constituents are owed as much.
As for the actual in-game officiating, ironically, there were no issues, at least not for N.C. State. FSU was probably not happy that the Pack was in the free-throw bonus 8 minutes into the first half and attempted 31 free throws for the game.
The free throws (18 in the first half for State, four for FSU), and ostensibly the officiating, actually kept N.C. State in the game in the first half, when Leslie made five field goals and the rest of the team combined for one.
Forward Richard Howell fouled out for the fifth time in the past eight ACC games but Howell is his own worst enemy. No amount of complaining on Twitter is going to change that. He has to play smarter. He's playing noticeably harder this year but that also leads to touch fouls.
His first foul on Saturday happened about 75 feet from N.C. State's basket. There's no reason for that.
Brian Dorsey made a bad call on Howell's fifth foul, a clean block of Michael Snaer, but Howell put himself in foul trouble by picking up fouls early that could have been avoided, without sacrificing his hustle or defense.
The bigger issue, going back to the Duke game, is N.C. State needs to let its fans — and in the case of Hess, its AD — worry about the officials. The players need to regroup and finish out the season knowing they gave their best effort. I don't think that was the case on Saturday, no matter how surreal the circumstances.
Sunday, February 19, 2012
Three Points from N.C. State's 76-62 loss to Florida State on Saturday: