Busting Brackets

What NC State head coach Kevin Keatts had to say after reaching Final Four by beating Duke

After beating Duke to reach the Final Four, NC State head coach Kevin Keatts met with the media to discuss his team's performance.
NC State v Duke
NC State v Duke / Patrick Smith/GettyImages

What a ride it has been for NC State head coach Kevin Keatts. Just three weeks ago, many thought he might be on the hot seat as he was in danger of missing the NCAA Tournament for the third time in four seasons.

Now, he's the first Wolfpack head coach to take the program to the Final Four since Jim Valvano in 1983. After beating Duke in the Elite 8, Keatts met with the media and expressed gratitude for his team.

"First of all I want to say this, man, God is good," he said. "These young men in the locker room from day one have kind of believed in everything that I've preached to them and everything that they talked about. You know at the beginning of the year we talked about what are your goals?

"And I think to a man everyone said we want to win the ACC. Check. What's your other goal? It is obviously, you know, go on and compete for a national championship and we're still alive for that opportunity. It means a lot you know.

"I think you know our school deserves it, you know, our players really worked hard. The fans deserve it. We've done a really good job... through all of the adversity that we went through, ups and downs of winning games, losing games they never lost their faith and stayed together and it means a lot."

Taking a team that was 17-14 in the regular season to the Final Four is remarkable. That's why Keatts was asked if this was his best coaching job to date.

"You know it, I've had some really good teams and for us," he said, "I would say something about all of my teams are really special. These guys are so special I think what is it 9 now, 9 elimination games or you go home?

"They're tremendous. Like, you ought to see us every day. They make it easy for me to wake up every morning and come to practice and work hard with them because of who they are as personalities. I would say this, I've learned more basketball from these guys than I learned in my entire career because they know how to work, they're great people, and they work hard so it's hard to say if it's my best, you know, you'd have to ask somebody else. But I'm sure having a lot of fun with this group."

"Yeah, the focus," he said. "I mean, I just you know it's weird because having a day in between [games] there almost seems like it's something wrong because we're so into what we did in the ACC tournament winning five games in five days.

NC State didn't play particularly well in the first half, though. In fact, they trailed 27-21 at the intermission. Keatts was asked about his team's halftime turnaround which led to a 55-37 edge in the second half.

"Missed a lot of chippies in the first half," he said. "I mean we left a lot of things on the rim. I counted myself about five missed layups and my assistant coaches were losing it. I was like 'Relax we're going to be fine. It's not like they're setting the world on fire offensively either.'

"So we, as I talked about, we talked about defending we talked about you know staying [true to] the scouting report and the ball will go in in the second half. One of the things, DJ Burns didn't play a lot because he got his second foul and so we knew we had an advantage throwing the ball inside to him. They decided, which some teams do, not to double-team him and obviously, he shot 13 for 19 and had 29 points."

Speaking of Burns, the breakout star of March, Keatts was asked about what he saw when he recruited him to NC State.

"...typically I play with two forwards," he said, "you know a Ben and a Mo together but when DJ hit the transfer portal I was like 'Man I gotta change.'

"I mean this. I mean he changed me. Like I've never thrown the ball inside as much as I have in the last couple of years. [He's got] great touch you know, great footwork. Last year one of his issues, he could pass the ball but he didn't have a great assistant-to-turnover ratio. And now he's doing that it's changed the way I look at you know post guys.

"Now like it's probably only three of those in the country and I know we're going to play a really good one next week at some point. But I'm looking for some more guys that I can throw the ball inside and I've now found out that I could have a mix of throwing the ball to a post guy and having guard play.

"I mean tremendous personality. You know, I've recruited him since when he went to Tennessee out of high school and obviously, when he went into the portal we looked at everybody in the portal and we needed some size and he fits the bill and I'm glad he's here. I'm glad he's on my team. I don't know how you guard him. I'm so excited and I hope nobody figures that out."