Friday, March 20, 2009

Different Sendek, same first-round result

You can't write about Herb Sendek without the comments section turning into a referendum on either N.C. State fans and how they supposedly ran Sendek out of town or the News & Observer and how we supposedly mistreated Sendek.

This is an attempt to just talk basketball and Sendek. That's it.

There was nothing surprising about Arizona State's 66-57 win over Temple in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Preparation has always been Sendek's calling card and that is evident in Sendek's opening-round record in all tournaments.

He improved to 6-1 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament — winning once with Miami, Ohio in 1995, four times with N.C. State and in his first trip with ASU today.

Sendek's also 5-2 in the first round of the NIT and 12-4 in the first round of conference tournaments (two of those losses with Arizona State).

What was remarkable was watching a basketball game between Temple and a Herb Sendek-coached team and Temple was playing man defense and Sendek a 2-3 zone. I shook my head, changed the awkward four-digit cable channel and then flipped back to make sure I was watching the right game (State Fans Nation has noticed the same changes).

Since leaving Raleigh after the 2006 NCAA Tournament, Sendek has adjusted his coaching methodology. Like Mike Krzyzewski, Sendek insisted on playing man-to-man defense in 10 seasons in Raleigh, regardless of the level of talent on the roster.

Unlike Krzyzewski, Sendek never increased his overall talent level to the point where he could play 40 minutes of man-to-man, regardless of the opponent or situation.

Then there's Sendek's choice of offense. You could write a book about the "Prince-State" offense and its successes and failures (notably in the second half and end-game situations). At first, Sendek needed the offense, brought in by then-assistant coach Larry Hunter after missing the NCAA Tournament Sendek's first five seasons in Raleigh. It actually saved Sendek's job.

But by the end of his tenure, he had better talent — notably a first-round pick in Cedric Simmons in the post — and he never adjusted.

Once in Tempe, and with a fresh start on all levels after a disappointing 2005-06 season in Raleigh, Sendek implemented a 2-3 zone defense. He also ditched the methodical offense in favor of the flex cuts, like those favored by Maryland.

After one losing season at ASU, Sendek added top recruit James Harden, who'll likely be a lottery pick in the next draft. Instead of cramming Harden into an offensive system, he tailored the offense for Harden.

The zone defense and the flexible offense are all good moves by Sendek, who no one disputes is a good coach. They have paid off for a program that had previously made three NCAA Tournament trips since 1981 and was best known for a point-shaver named Hedake (appropriately pronounced "headache").

Harden (eight points) wasn't great Friday but Sendek found another way to win, another sign of good coaching.

Syracuse, and its famous 2-3 zone, is next for Sendek. As good as Sendek has been in the first round, he's 1-5 in the second with at least one infamous missed step — against Vanderbilt in 2004. That record is also telling about Sendek's inability to adjust, either within a game or a weekend.

Two things are certain:

1) Sendek will need more from Harden to beat the Orange and improve to 2-5;

2) If ASU does win, it won't be the final words written about Sendek on this blog.

With one more win each, ASU will be in the same regional as UNC. If that happens, then we can talk about who was mistreated and how it all ended. -- J.P. Giglio


Anonymous said...

Happy now State fans?

Unknown said...

Yeah, we are. Can we please stop talking about Herb Sendek now? It's been 3 years.

Anonymous said...

Totally happy. Couldn't stand Sendek then, can't stand him now. My question is, NC State fans moved on the day after he was gone, why can't everyone else?