What’s the problem with Pack basketball?

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.

About 1.21 Jigawatts

Class of '98, Mechanical Engineer, State fan since arriving on campus and it's been a painful ride ever since. I live by the Law of NC State Fandom, "For every Elation there is an equal and opposite Frustration."

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Home Forums What’s the problem with Pack basketball?

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    1.21 Jigawatts

    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
    [See the full post at: What’s the problem with Pack basketball?]


    Very cool. Look forward to your next entry.

    Alpha Wolf

    At the end of the day, I think it comes down to coaching. We have a mediocre practice and game coach, but one who is a pretty solid recruiter. Team defense and ballhandling at the college level come down to coaching, especially when you have enough players with enough talent coming in to the program.

    Despite eaking into a couple of NCAA tournaments, I think at some point we’re going to have to make a decision about whether the program can be taken to the next level and who the man is that can do that.

    No, I am not trying to ignite another Herb-esque debate, but the facts are speaking for themselves.


    Great analysis 1.21.
    I’ve only seen the Pack play once this year against Tennessee. I was underwhelmed. It seems we have plenty of firepower, especially from outside (Turner, Lacey) and I think by the end of the year we are going to have a beast in Abu inside. The support players are there in Washington and Martin. However, as in most chemical reactions, you need a spark and/or catalyst. His name is Cat Barber.
    I’ve been most amazed at how timid Cat is. He is typically the quickest person on the floor yet hesitates to slash. He also passes up seemingly easy 10 ft jumpshots that a point guard should look for all day. His defense is good but only if we get a chance to play in a half court set.
    Is he afraid of getting pulled? Is this some type of hangover from last year when he was splitting time with Tyler? Maybe. Cat has really only been THE MAN for this year and is still learning.
    If he doesn’t improve I don’t see us improving much. The unorganized looks we’ve seen will continue. If that does occur then Alpha nailed it. The question will have to be asked of why is the talent we are bringing in not improving? A lot hinges on this year and one young man.


    The really scary thing to consider is next year when we will be plus the transfer Henderson and minus Lee and Turner. How does it get any better?

    The bigs MUST develop or this program may be in trouble.


    The really scary thing to consider is next year when we will be plus the transfer Henderson and minus Lee and Turner. How does it get any better?

    The bigs MUST develop or this program may be in trouble.

    Dez basically isn’t playing any more, and Henderson is supposedly better than Turner. We’ll be fine on that front, but you’re right, we need the bigs to get better.


    … hmmm…

    Tell me again… exactly what the “problem” is ??

    #NCSU-North Carolina's #1 FOOTBALL school!
    1.21 Jigawatts

    The problems are still the same bill…

    On offense the pack struggles against a pressure defense and during their losses they struggle to rebound the ball as well.

    On defense when they lose they aren’t creating difficult shots and they struggle at defensive rebounding.

    Saturday’s game against Pitt showed they still struggle at all aspects even in the win. The strong halfcourt defense that prevented easy shots for Pitt is what allowed State to comfortably win.

    So what’s wrong with the Pack is still there, if they don’t fix the problems then they’ll struggle. Today they fixed one area and it benefitted them.


    Today’s game could be a nice start to the fix. The intensity on defense helped all way around. Still some issues of course and if playing against a quicker team other things have to happen. Step one is intensity and focus which playing good defense brings. Now the team has a brutal stretch of games. Come out at .500 or better and I think they are the winners the rest of the year. The gauntlet has been tossed …


    The effort was much, much better today. It manifested itself in better half court defense but it was running the court, getting steals, getting the 50/50 balls, etc..

    Good game by the team today. Still some glaring issues.

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