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Head coach Kevin Keatts yells during the game against Miami in PNC Arena on Saturday, Jan. 14, 2023. The Wolfpack beat the Hurricanes 83-81 in overtime.

The call for NC State men’s basketball head coach Kevin Keatts to be fired after last season was greatly over exaggerated.

Keatts’ seat was scorching hot after the worst season in program history, in which the Wolfpack missed the NCAA Tournament once again, and many fans thought it was time for Keatts to go. Despite the outside noise, NC State decided to roll with Keatts for another year, and it was clear this was Keatts' last chance to prove his haters wrong.

Thus far, he has done just that, already surpassing the number of wins his team had last year and making the Wolfpack a legitimate threat in the ACC. Everyone expected this team to win more games than it did last year, but it's the teams NC State has beaten and how the Pack is doing it that's impressive.

The game that got Keatts back in good graces with the fans was the home beatdown of the rival Duke Blue Devils where his team dominated from start to finish in an 84-60 rout. This was the statement Keatts needed to make to prove last year was a fluke.

Other impressive wins that have boosted Keatts’ stock were a road win at Virginia Tech and an overtime win against a ranked Miami squad at home. Even the loss to defending national champion Kansas was a positive because it showed that the Wolfpack can compete with the best.

Getting sophomore guard Terquavion Smith to come back for a second season was a good sign for Keatts because if Smith didn’t like his head coach he could’ve easily left for the NBA and been a first-round pick. Since returning for a second year Smith has led the ACC in points along with being top five in assists and steals in the conference. Smith has definitely been a major part in helping Keatts with this turnaround, but he is not the only reason.

Two words: transfer portal.

When schools like UNC and Duke share the same state with you, let alone the same conference, it’s going to be tough to get the best recruits. So Keatts decided his best chance to compete was to look for hungry and experienced players in the portal, and that strategy has paid off in a big way.

Who knows where this team would be without the likes of graduate guard Jarkel Joiner and graduate forward DJ Burns? Joiner is the leader of the offense and a key voice in the locker room, and Burns is a dominant post presence who energizes his teammates and the crowd every time he touches the ball. Keatts has done a tremendous job of getting players to buy into his program and putting them in positions to succeed.

Another aspect of this resurgence that can’t go unnoticed is how Keatts has been able to weather the storm of injuries to key players, which he was unable to do last season. This season, starters graduate forward Dusan Mahorcic and graduate guard Jack Clark have missed some significant time. Keatts has been able to adjust his lineups on the fly, and players like redshirt junior Greg Gantt and junior forward Ebenezer Dowuona have stepped up in their place.

Many of us may have expected a dropoff in play from the Pack, but Keatts has found a way to construct his lineup to not only compete in the ACC but win games against some of the best teams.

Keatts has thrived under the pressure, knowing this most likely would be his last chance to prove he is the right coach for NC State, and he has the Pack ready to make a run in the ACC and the NCAA Tournament.

Correspondent

Hey, I'm Colby Trotter, a freshman at NC State from Denver, North Carolina. This is my first year at TechSports. I love the competitive nature of sports and the amount of joy it can provide for a large portion of society.