There has been a lot of discussion on the site about the disappointment in play by this year’s Wolfpack squad so I thought I’d take a deeper look into the stats and see where this squad is deficient. First let’s take a look at all games up to this point using date from Kenpom (National Rankings in Parenthesis, 351 total teams):
NOTE: Adjusted offensive efficiency – An estimate of the offensive efficiency (points scored per 100 possessions) a team would have against the average D-I defense. The opposite applies to Adj. Defensive efficiency.
The reason I point this out is I have to use Raw Data efficiency for other comparisons later since I can’t calculate AdjO on my own so for this part I’ll use Adj values and Raw values later.
First let’s look at the Offense. As you can see from an efficiency standpoint the Pack are still efficient in the national rankings POV. The difference in the Raw values vs the Adjusted shows the Pack has been playing less than average defenses so far this season (a reduction of 2%) but their rankings get better because more people are playing even worse defenses than State. The tempo shows the Pack is at a slightly faster pace than the average team. In the Four Factors the Pack is an above average team in all aspects: eFG% (combination of 2fg & 3fg taking into account the extra value of a 3fg), turnovers, offensive rebounding, and Free Throw Rate (the ratio of shooting free throws compared to field goal attempts).
We’ve seen how poorly the Pack looks on the court, how disorganized they appear, and the constant turnovers but of late they are still an above average offensive team and that is truly shocking.
Now let’s look at the defense, something most everyone has taken umbrage with not only this season but in the past, yours truly included. First off the Raw vs Adj shows the Pack has been playing less than average defenses for most of the season. We’ve all seen that a pressure defense makes the Pack wilt and turnover prone so you can imagine just how bad most of the defenses State has played this year really have been to adjust the raw value negatively by 3%.
Looking at the Four Factors the Pack are very good at forcing bad shots and creating poor shooting performances by the opposition as well defensive rebounding. The Pack is also pretty good at limiting the number of attempts at shooting free throws in relation to taking shots. This means the pack is likely mostly playing ahead and not needing to foul late and playing defense without fouling during the act of shooting. As usual State treats forcing turnovers like its Ebola, you have to intentionally try to not steal the ball to be this bad at it.
If the Pack is so efficient on offense and really good at 3 of the 4 factors on defense then why is it they look so bad? Let’s separate the wins from the losses and see how they performed.
In the Pack’s wins they are more efficient on offense, slightly higher tempo, shooting the ball the same, turning the ball over less, and grabbing more offensive rebounds. On defense opponents are struggling to put the ball in the basket.
In the Pack’s losses they shoot the ball just as effectively and increase their FT rate but the tempo is a lot slower (fewer possessions), turn the ball over a lot more as well as rebound a lot less. On defense the opponents are shooting the ball much better (easier shots) and when they do miss a shot they are getting more second (and third) chances, and increase their trips to the line (likely because State is losing).
So what’s the deal? I’m sure if you broke down the game film of each game you can find all the details you need as to what are the root causes but this is a high level view where we are using data to focus in on what to look at instead of saying fix everything. Level of competition might have something to do with it. In State’s wins their opponent’s average ranking is 165, where the losses average ranking is 58.
Let’s list State’s problems on Offense:
1. Tempo is dictated by the opponent.
2. Turnover prone (seen by pressure defense and inability to break the press).
3. Reduction in second chance opportunities.
Now let’s list the problems on Defense:
1. Opponents are getting easier looks at the basket.
2. Allowing more second chances due to lack of rebounding.
3. Increasing the opposition’s chances making FT’s (thus more points).
There are numerous reasons being speculated, even spoken during press conferences, as to the cause of the problems but simply put this is a collective effort in failure: coaches and players alike are responsible for the problems. The question is can they change?
I’d like to answer that question by presenting historical data to help us determine what State has done under Gottfried’s tenure during pre-acc games, acc games, and post season games to see where they start, do they improve, and how do they finish. That is for another article.