After seeing the beginning of the 2012-13 season, NC State fans have had 8 games, 4 against quality opponents with RPIs less than 100, to evaluate their squad. The big question coming out of the pre-season hype was whether NC State truly deserved to be a top 10 contender. Yes, NC State did return many players from a team that finished in the Sweet Sixteen (well, now it’s just 4), but it hadn’t actually accomplished anything to prove to anyone they were a #6 team. No one wants to be the bearer of bad news, but maybe… just maybe… those saying NC State wasn’t yet a #6 team were on to something. Is that being a “bad fan” or just looking at things objectively?
PLAYING THE NUMBERS GAME
It’s no secret that the Wolfpack’s performance at the end of the 2011-2012 season, mixed with a returning cadre of highly acclaimed starters and recruits is the cause of NC State’s pre-season hype. It also doesn’t hurt that NC State was the proverbial underdog during the 2012 NCAA tournament which always makes you a bit of a media darling. Despite the emotional fervor, nothing about NC State’s performance then or now indicated that it should have ever been ranked nearly as high as it was. When we look at the numbers, NC State is the exact same team at the beginning of this season as they were last season, save a couple important categories. Let’s look at our shooting…
|Per Game Stats||FG%||FT%||3PT%|
|Top 4 2012 Games||49.10||35.60||61.30|
If we had a job-evaluation chart for NC State, we would be either meeting or exceeding expectations, at least if we based those expectations on how we did last season. Again, keep in mind that the “Top 4 2012 Games” category is looking at our performance against UMass, OSU, Michigan, and UConn which represent our 4 “real tests” for this Wolfpack squad. In the area of overall FG%, we are doing notably better than we did during the 2012 post-season while in FT and 3PT accuracy we are somewhere between ACC Tourney and NCAA Tourney performance. Not bad. Let’s look at a couple more numbers.
|Per Game Stats||REB||AST||STL||BLK|
|Top 4 2012 Games||32.50||12.00||6.50||2.25|
Again, not bad. Rebounding, assists, and steals are all sitting between how the Wolfpack performed in both tourneys at the end of last season. The statistic to note are blocks because it speaks to NC State’s well-noted defect thus far in the 2012-2013 season: defense. In the 2012 ACC tourney, NC State allowed 63.3 points per game. In the 2012 NCAA tourney, NC State allowed 62.7 points per game. In our 4 toughest matches of the 2012-2013 season, NC State has allowed over 10 points more per game than in any of our 2012 post-season tourneys. With that kind of drop-off in defensive performance, it’s going to take more than “meeting or exceeding expectations” on offense to translate talent into wins.
One more category has been overlooked by many writers/bloggers out there: 3PT attempts. During our 4 biggest matches of the 2012-2013 season, NC State has only taken an average of 12 attempts compared to 15 in the 2012 post-seasons. With a 35% 3PT rate, that amounts to an extra 3 each game. That might not sound like a lot until you consider that we took 18 attempts during the UMass game. Remove that game from the mix, and we average only 10 3PT attempts over our toughest 3 opponents of the season, to-date. Now you are looking at 5 less attempts (~6 points) per game compared to the 2012 post-season which would make the Michigan loss a 1-point game going into the final seconds.
NC STATE’S #6 RANKING AND WHERE WE ARE HEADED
The good news is that NC State is right on track with where she left off last season. We are shooting decent enough, having a few hick-ups along the way, and lagging behind on defense. Could additional defense be the difference between looking like a #6 team and a #25 team? Maybe, but that’s nothing short of a philosophical argument. What we can say with certainty is that NC State has not taken a step back from last season. We are just as good this year as we were last year. We need to pick it up on defense and keep our opponents from posting numbers in the 70′s, but that is something that will come with experience. Let’s all keep in mind that 3 out of our 7-man rotation are freshmen. By anyone’s standards, that is a young team that will make some mistakes and will need to develop some confidence on defense.
Prediction? NC State, offensively, is strong and keeps “clicking” more and more as we move along. From the OSU loss, NC State has improved dramatically against a dramatically better Michigan team, and was able to hold UConn to 65 points, more akin to what it was doing at the end of the 2011-2012 season. As our 3 freshmen grow some confidence, the defense is likely to sure up and our perimeter game is just as likely to feel more comfortable at range.
Feel people seem to be down, but I think everyone has been a little concerned about the harsh realities that we might not be ready for #6 kudos quite yet. We’ll get there, but you can’t expect it over night.