North Carolina State goalie Dereon Seabron (1) dribbles during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Louisville in Raleigh, NC on Saturday, December 4, 2021 . (AP Photo / Gerry Broome)
With limited rotation and a sagging guard point, NC State tends in the wrong direction. However, the Wolfpack changed the rotation, leaned on Dereon Seabron, and came close to defeating Florida State this weekend in Raleigh.
Let’s take a quick look at how Kevin Keatts deployed Seabron and how the State of Florida responded with Malik Osborne and a small bullet fix.
Dereon Seabron: Senior Ball Manager
When NC State hit the ground against FSU, the Wolfpack looked structurally different. Second-year point guard Cam Hayes, who started the game on the bench (for the first time this season), played just 14 minutes. It’s the fewest minutes in a game for Hayes since the middle of his freshman year.
Instead, the ball and offense went into Seabron’s hands.
Now Seabron manages the ball a lot in the NC State offense. The CCA Player of the Year nominee is the central figure in NC State’s Iverson / side ball screen sets.
However, in the Florida State game, the second red shirt player took over as lead creator, essentially functioning as the team’s playmaker.
Keatts went with more shots around Seabron, who responded emphatically: 32 points, 11 of 12 on rim shot attempts, 11 free throw attempts and seven assists.
Seabron’s seven assists resulted in 3 points, including five trebles from freshman Terquavion Smith. Add it up: Seabron scored or assisted on 53 of NC State’s 81 points.
The Seabron-to-Smith connection is becoming a really fun partnership, too.
At this point, the majority of Seabron’s production against Florida State – and every other team, really – has come from his ability to come down with his dribble, whether in transition or half-court, or when he went to work on the glass offensive.
Seabron plays the game with a determined attitude to hit the rim. For the season now, he’s shooting a ridiculous 59.3% on his 2-point attempts.
According to shooting data from Bart Torvik, 83.6% of Seabron’s baskets have circled around the basket this season. It shoots 61.4% on these looks. The majority of those finishes – nearly 75 percent – came unassisted, including the buckets put back in place.
Seabron is shooting 70% on takedown attempts after an offensive rebound this season, according to Synergy Sports.
Cam Hayes is a talented young goaltender – with intriguing pull-down potential and vision as a pick-and-roll passer. Unfortunately, he struggles to reach the rim and create an advantage. More often than not, Hayes has to play on the gravity of his pull-up to force the cover rotations.
When the shot is taken – as was the case against Richmond – Hayes will punish teams that go under the screen during a pick-and-roll.
Unfortunately, it was a cold start for Hayes. He only shoots 23.7% from downtown (14 of 59 3PA) and 37% on long 2-point attempts. According to Synergy Sports, Hayes has only logged 27.6% (32.9 eFG%) of his jumpers out of dribbling this season.
Plus, less than 19% of his field goal attempts have been close to 2 points this season, according to shooting data from Bart Torvik. Hayes shoots just 3.4 fouls every 40 minutes and his free throw attempt rate is down slightly from last year: 24.5%.
Hayes is a pick-and-roll guard; it’s not like he’s allergic to getting in the lane, either. He is able. However, if Hayes doesn’t consistently hit the paint with his dribble, forcing rotations and kicks, it ruins the rest of the attack.
If the rock is to be in Seabron’s hands, then Hayes has to show he can play with the ball. Hayes has the ability to be a good catch-and-shoot target; he’s scored 1.06 points per place possession on the non-dribbling jumpers this season, according to Synergy. That said, he is little shown as a cutter or attacking fences.
Hayes has shown closing / catch-and-go abilities during his first season. NC State needs more of that, however.
There is a version of the NC State offense where Seabron and Hayes are able to collaborate and divide the tasks of game creation. In this scenario, the pack would not have to overload Seabron and force opposing defenses to break down. ‘worry about double ball carriers.
However, until Hayes shows he can produce as the primary attack driver or as a secondary creator alongside Seabron, Keatts can roll with Smith, Casey Morsell, and Thomas Allen. (Breon Pass has had some good times in recent games as well.)
The hope should be that Hayes finds a rhythm in these situations – by playing with Seabron. Once that happens, it will open up other aspects of his game. Hayes is a good shooter; traction efficiency will improve. When that happens, however, Hayes must capitalize by stepping into the lane more frequently.
The defense of the State of Florida can be one of the most intimidating collective forces in all academic circles. Again, Leonard Hamilton’s club is huge; The state of Florida ranks # 1 nationally for average height, by KenPom. FSU picks up all the ground, changes all actions – upstream, 1-5 – and aggressively denies passing lanes.
Keatts came into the game with a solid game plan to attack Florida State’s change program. NC State staged a half-court pick-and-roll for Seabron (or Hayes) using screen-the-screener action in a ghost screen.
In many ways, this setup was similar to how Seabron was used on the stretch against Louisville: give him the ball, give him a screen, and let him work.
On that possession at the end of the second half against FSU, as Seabron dribbles high, Jaylon Gibson blocks the ball for Jericole Hellems, who apparently rises to establish a ball screen for Seabron. (This type of screen-to-screen action may be referred to as a “Ram” action.) However, before Hellems filters out RayQuan Evans, he slips away or slips away. That’s a good counter against the Florida State Switch.
FSU handles the action pretty well here, but Seabron goes to work on a switch against Caleb Mills.
Here is the same action again: this time, however, Smith performs the phantom action. Seabron attacks the Switch with Mills, draws in help, and smashes it for a Smith 3.
Once again, Ebenezer Dowuona sets the Ram screen for Hellems, causing FSU to stop the balloon. Hellems then performs the phantom action against a jam / switch Florida state defense. This creates a path for Seabron, who is so good at using his long strides to squeeze through holes in the last third of the ground.
Even Hayes managed to get into painting that same Ram Ghost screen action, which essentially captures the state of Florida between two switches. Hayes is paired with 7ft 4in Naheem McLeod and burns him to the basket.
It is also the state of Hayes NC which must see more.
NC State opened the contest with a different kind of pick-and-roll screen-the-screener (STS) action, however. Allen places a small brush screen on John Butler, the man guarding Hellems, forcing Mills to turn Hellems on. At this point, Hellems rises to set a blank screen for Seabron. Instead of actually projecting Anthony Polite, however, Ghost Hellems around the corner; Seabron drives left and exits a Dowuona ball screen.
NC State successfully participated in this action on several occasions on Saturday. (When the pick-and-roll screen-the-screener action takes place on a side screen roll aspect, I like to call it the “Wedge” action.)
The Wolfpack will also perform that Wedge look against the spread defense, like Virginia and Louisville. Here’s a little roller replacement action with Seabron last season against UVA, which results in a 3 corner for Hellems.
It’s a good defense against the ball from Jarrod West of Louisville, who is damn good at the point of attack. However, Hayes shows some of his shooting skills.
NC State also made up the Spain / stack pick-and-roll after a time out in the second half. From a look after the timeout (ATO): Dowuona defines a ball screen for Seabron, which FSU switches. As the big man rolls around, Allen places the rear screen on Dowuona’s new defender, who FSU switches again.
The end result: Seabron wins another race at the rim.
At heart for the adversaries
For three years now, Malik Osborne has been one of the best two-way role players and front pieces in the ACC. Osborne keeps every position, 1-5, rebounds from basketball and shoots a great ball. While working primarily as a game finisher, Osborne rarely returns the ball (10 TOV%), too.
Essentially, Osborne helps amplify the talent around him and takes almost nothing away from him. He is an ideal low error veteran leader.
Hamilton and Stan Jones can present Osborne in a multitude of ways, including as a “little ball” center. Yes, the biggest team in the country – as has been the case for the three years with Osborne in the rotation – can get slightly smaller (take 7 feet off the ground) and use the 6-foot-9 Osborne as a tool to the initiation of the offense.
Training with Osborne as the only real big man on the pitch was huge for FSU against NC State.
Osborne is averaging a career-high 12.5 points per game; So far he has scored 137 total points from 74 field goal attempts. The number of shots from his slash is ridiculous: 81.2% from the free throw line, 50% from over the arc (18 of 36 3PA) and 57.9% on 2-point attempts.
With 7-footers Tanor Ngom and Quincy Ballard out of the roster, the reliance on downsizing is even greater.
During the NC State game, FSU played 21 minutes with Osborne on the ground and McLeod and John Butler on the bench. Florida State edged NC State by 12 points in those minutes, including an offense that produced 1.52 points for possession.
The extra spacing expands NC State’s defense, paving the way for stud rookie Matthew Cleveland.
Osborne even took advantage of the state of North Carolina to mix up the pick-and-roll blankets. NC State typically goes from 1 to 4 and plays center on screen level in pick-and-roll looks. However, the Pack looked to go more generously 1-5 against FSU (and some with Ernest Ross in the Miami game).
However, these exchanges were not handled with flawless execution, including rear assist. With Dowuona ready to change and the weak side up, Osborne took advantage and slipped that empty corner screen.
For the season now, Florida State is at +35 in 156 minutes with Osborne as a de facto 5. During those minutes, Coach Ham’s team scored 119.1 points per 100 possessions.
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