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NC State Basketball

Keatts: "Things Are Unusual"

January 25, 2021

Following a road loss at UNC in its first game in 10 days Saturday, its fourth straight defeat NC State men’s basketball is looking to get back on track this week with a Wednesday game against Wake Forest.

Head coach Kevin Keatts spoke to the media as part of the ACC men’s basketball coaches teleconference on Monday, here’s a full breakdown of everything he had to say: 

Do you miss wearing suits for games? 

It’s different. You think about all of those years that we invested in buying suits, and now we don’t wear them. I’m not saying that we should go back to it. It is a different feeling. I’ve been wearing pullovers, so really not even so much the polos. Do I miss it? I don’t know that. I miss my lucky suit. I’ve got a suit that I’ve never lost in before, so I may even put that on.

What was it like being part of the basketball subcommittee during the offseason and do you think there should be an ACC Tournament? 

We talked about so much stuff. I was honored to have the opportunity just to be on those calls. We talked about the NCAA Tournament and how that should look, and obviously about our own conference tournament. We talked about whether we should possibly have a bubble. We talked about a lot of things. I’ll throw it back at you, and I know that you are asking the questions. But, what’s the alternative if we don’t have it? 

I know that we are struggling as a country and the world, but with our guys I think we feel safer because our guys are having the opportunity to play. We’re getting tested as often as anybody is in the country. If you’re not going to have a tournament at the end of the year, it makes it tough, because things are unusual. 

You don’t know how many games you are going to play. You have no idea if you’re going to have enough games to qualify for the NCAA, or have enough opponents. For some folks, that may be their opportunity to make it to the tournament, by being able to play and trying to win the tournament and get the automatic bid. 

I’m a fan of us having the tournament, especially if we can continue to do the right stuff. I’m sure the ACC is the best at making sure that we are following protocol. It will be weird. There may be a situation where going into the tournament, you may have one or two teams that have to drop out. But that’s no different than what’s going to happen in the NCAA Tournament. There’s a lot more people that make a lot more money at that level to figure it out than we do, but I do think we should have the tournament if it is possible. 

Why do you think so many teams are going to a ball-screen offense instead of featuring a big man?

Well, there are not many big guys anymore in college basketball. We have one. In our league there are probably five of them, and Carolina has at least three of those. For more people, it’s positionless basketball. 

I tell our guys sometimes that somebody has to play the post. Somebody is going to have to be a post player in the league and get paid, but nobody wants to be a traditional back to the basket guy. In our situation, we love ball screens. More than likely, we have guys that can pick and pop, and we pick and rim run. 

But, it’s hard now to find guys that can score with their back to the basket. It’s only a handful of them in the country. [Luka Garza] from Iowa being one. It’s tough for these kids because when you look at the draft, even on draft night they talk about the traditional center not having the ability to get drafted as much. It has kind of trickled down from the NBA game. When you look at the NBA game, most of those guys who play the center position are really skilled. They can shoot it. They can step out to the 3. Certainly it has entered the college game. 

Is that why you’ve stressed how hard it is to win with freshman guards? 

Yeah, for three years, I’ve been very successful because we’ve been playing against a lot of talented freshmen guards, even pros in this league. Now, in my situation this year, I’m counting on two guys that are playing at least anywhere from 17 to 25 minutes a game. 

It’s tough, because freshmen, and think about it, this year, it’s even tougher because we would have had 11 nonconference games. For my guys, we got three nonconference games, and so you just didn’t have the time to develop the freshmen as you would like. It’s tough in college basketball at the guard position, especially if one of them has to be a point guard, to be able to win consistently. 

Wake Forest got its first ACC win this weekend. What jumps out to you about that upcoming matchup?

The biggest thing that jumps out is you look at the last two games, they have shot the ball very well behind the 3-point line. They have two different guys who have made a bunch of 3s. They’re playing hard. They’re one of the teams, I think somebody gave me a stat, we have had at least five-seven games postponed or cancelled because of COVID. Wake doesn’t have as many games because of when it hit, but they’ve had so much time off. So when you look at them, they’re becoming a better team because they’re finally getting a chance to practice a little bit. 

They’re tough. They’re playing hard. When you look at our league, it’s going to be competitive day in and day out, and then you’re going to see the games that may be lopsided. That’s weird, because every now and then you’ll have a few games that’ll end up being above 20 or so. But they’re a talented team. They’re playing hard, they believe in one another. I’ve been watching tape for the last 24-48 hours. The biggest thing is they have really shot the basketball behind the 3-point line. That’s tough to guard when you’re making those shots. And they’ve been tough shots. 

You’re coming off a couple games where Carolina and Florida State have been able to shoot the ball pretty effectively. What do you guys need to do better defensively?

I don’t think there was anything we could have done at Florida State. They were great. When we lost the Florida State game, everyone was like ‘Well how could they lose like that?’ They’ve had two or three games where they’ve done the same thing to other teams. Right now, in my opinion, they’re playing the best basketball in our league at this particular moment. 

In the Carolina game, I thought the encouraging thing for us was I was able to see Manny Bates and Braxton Beverly get on the floor and contribute. It’s tough. We were off for 10-12 days and the rhythm, what happens is when you’re off and you can only practice for a certain amount of time, you’ve got to try to figure out what’s important. I told someone we have spent more time on the offensive end trying to be able to score than we have defensively, because you’ve got to kind of pick your poison to try to figure out what you can do in a game. I think we haven’t had a lot of time to really prepare defensively like we should and spend a little extra time. We’ve been one of the better teams defending the 3-point line the last couple years, and the last couple games we haven’t.

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