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NC State Fans Need To Give Kevin Keatts A Chance

It’s only his second year for God’s sake.

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North Carolina State v North Carolina
CHAPEL HILL, NC - JANUARY 27: Head coach Kevin Keatts of the North Carolina State Wolfpack watches his team during their game against the North Carolina Tar Heels at the Dean Smith Center on January 27, 2018 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. North Carolina State won 95-91 in overtime.
Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

Unfortunately, the enduring memory of this NC State season won’t be this. It will probably be this - the bizarre and dismal matchup between State and Virginia Tech where the final score was 47-24.

And that’s too bad.

State fans have gotten so used to losing and to what they’ve taken to calling NC State stuff the they can’t remember, or never knew, what winning is like.

Well here’s a good primer Pack fans, so pay attention.

Mark Gottfried left a major mess for someone else to clean up.

We’re not even talking about the NCAA issues that State may have to deal with. Just look at what a train wreck he made of that team in his final two seasons, finishing 16-17 and 15-17 for a two-year total of 31-34.

Kevin Keatts took over and in his first year he whipped that sorry bunch into decent competitive shape, taking a roster almost entirely made up of Gottfried recruits and short timers and leading them to a 21-12 mark and an NCAA appearance.

It was a beautiful transformation. State went from dysfunctional to highly functional.

From that team Keatts lost Abdul-Malik Abu, Omer Yurtseven, Al Freeman, Lennard Freeman, Sam Hunt and Lavar Batts.

Yurtseven and Batts transferred. We’re not sure why Batts did but Yurtseven left at least partly because he felt like State fans were a bit bigoted for his taste. He’s now at Georgetown, where presumably he feels more welcome.

State was 21-12 last year and 22-11 so far this year. The Wolfpack missed the tournament in part because of its weak schedule but news flash: coaches make weak schedules for weak teams.

Keep in mind that this team also lost highly promising 6-11 freshman Manny Bates for the year to injury which made State’s roster pretty small. Wyatt Walker, a grad student transfer, is 6-9 but limited. DJ Funderburk is 6-10 and by the end of the season he was useful but he still didn’t start.

After that, the roster is really small. The next biggest guy is Jericole Hellems, who is 6-7 but just 198. Erick Lockett, Torin Dorn, Devon Daniels and CJ Bryce are all 6-5, Blake Harris is 6-3, Markell Johnson is 6-1 and Braxton Beverly is just 6-0.

You can win with a smallish roster, as Duke and Virginia Tech did this year, but only if the talent is really good.

Otherwise it’s just little guys against bigger, faster guys and other than three pointers, there’s no way to win that kind of matchup, certainly not consistently.

But imagine State with the same system only with 6-6 guys like, say, Cody and Caleb Martin. Now imagine Gottfried had had the courage and foresight to recruit Chris Clemon, who went to Campbell, or Ky Bowman, who left Havelock for Boston College. Jay Huff was available. So was Moses Wright, who left the area for Georgia Tech.

Imagine whoever you’d like. Keatts needs a talent upgrade and he needs it soon.

We have no doubt that he’ll have his guys fighting and playing hard but there is no substitute for talent.

State fans are a bit surly and that’s understandable. But give him time. This is only his second year and he’s made the field once and barely missed it despite a ton of turnover.

Things are going to get better as soon as (assuming that he does and we think he will) brings in some more talent.

If Jeff Capel can find a dynamic backcourt in a couple of weeks last spring, we’re pretty sure Keatts can too. He needs some patience and support from State fans though. Frustration is understandable - it’s been NC Frustration State for far too long - but we think this guy will turn it around and put State back where it should be.

As long as State fans don't go full Sendek crazy on him.

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