JOHNSON: Learning Curve

Since 1947, scientists at the University of Chicago have maintained what they affectionately call the Doomsday Clock.

The clock measures how close the world is to a global disaster – the closer to midnight, the worse things look. The Doomsday Clock is currently set at six minutes till midnight.

If anyone is keeping a Doomsday Clock on the Sidney Lowe era at NC State, last night's loss probably just moved the hands to 11:59.

Following the Pack's loss to Boston College last night, things have never looked bleaker for Lowe. While he will always be beloved by Wolfpack fans for his playing days, his coaching tenure has become a source of continual frustration for that same group.

The problem isn't with talent. It's not with playing time. It's not with the sometimes bizarre substitution patterns. No, the problem for Lowe is that he simply hasn't changed over the five years he's been at the helm of the Pack.

Let's start with the lack of consistent effort on the court. All teams go through cold spells and hot streaks. But good teams don't go through stretches where lack of effort seems to be the cause of the problems. When it happens in year two it's forgivable, by year five it is a symptom of a larger issue.

Without fail, against good teams and bad, the Pack will go through a stretch where they work on their ‘five guys standing still' box out drill' or play ‘let's watch that guy dunk' defense and ‘let's stand around and wait for something to happen' offense. It's these stretches that, looking back, seem to kill State's chances of winning in close games.

But the problems extend beyond effort and into the fundamental philosophy that Lowe has to winning games. To Lowe, it's about making shots and forcing the other team to miss shots. That's the essence of playing well on both ends of the court - shooting percentage.

On one hand, Lowe isn't wrong. You win games by making shots and forcing misses. But a huge portion of being a great basketball team is winning the other facets of the game, allowing you to win games where another team gets hot or your team goes cold.

If you can win the rebounding battle, win the turnover battle or get to the line and make free throws then you can pull out some wins when shots aren't falling. Lowe's teams have never been able to win in these areas. If they get out-shot, they lose.

The worst-case scenario for Lowe is when his team actually does out-shoot its opponent and yet still loses. Syracuse was this year's example – the Pack shot better than the Orange from both inside and out but turned the ball over so often that they failed to escape with a win.

Look no further than last night to see how this philosophy can come back to bite you. Both teams ended up shooting right around 44 percent from the field – Boston College simply made a few more 3s and hit a few more free throws. Had the Pack just grabbed a few more rebounds or forced a few more turnovers, it's a game they win.

There are glimmers of hope for Pack fans though. This year's team has shown a remarkable ability to grab offensive rebounds and has done a reasonably good job of hanging on to the basketball.

But it's going to have to start doing more of the little things, and start doing them immediately, because you can't rely on shooting over 50 percent every night to win.

The clock sits at 11:59. Lowe is quickly running out of games to turn it back.


Pack Pride Top Stories