Because I have been stuck in my house for the last few nights, I have gotten to see a great deal of basketball. Two performances, both of which resulted in losses, stood out to me tonight.
First, the N.C. State Wolfpack were very impressive to me in their defeat to Duke. I have always liked the way Sendek-coached teams play, with a heady brand of basketball that relies on cuts to the basket and strong outside shooting. Against Duke they did something that no one else has done against the Blue Devils, hitting them at their weakness inside. N.C. State got most of their points inside and their decision to take all shots inside the paint, when combined with their great free throw shooting, gave them a real shot to win this game. Unfortunately, a rare 6 point possession hurt them at the end, but State showed that they will be a force in the ACC.
The same can be said about Tennessee, which showed me a lot in their loss at Memphis. Bruce Pearl is attempting to do something a bit out of the ordinary this year in Knoxville, using gimicky offenses and full court press in order to make up for a bit of a lack of talent. Yet his team is buying into his system and it is playing to some of his guys’ strengths, especially Chris Lofton. While they lost at Memphis, they played them tight the whole way and went head-to-head with one of the best five teams in America. While I question to what extent the Pearl strategy can be utilized to build a consistent power, it is building an exciting team in Knoxville….something DESPERATELY needed by their fanbase.