Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Meet the Wolfpack

Thus far this season, NC State has beaten precisely the teams they should be beating, and has lost to the teams that should beat them. The Pack was highly competitive against Davidson, Marquette, and Florida, dropping those three games by a total of 10 points. But they still came away 0-3. ACC play has been no change from this pattern - losses to Clemson and Florida State, and only a home win over Georgia Tech (in overtime) on the plus side of the column.

On the inside, Brandon Costner and Ben McCauley have largely returned to their 2006-07 form. The presence of JJ Hickson clearly interfered with their play last year, and it's both to their discredit that they couldn't find a way to coexist and to their credit that they successfully bounced back. McCauley has had the better year - his offensive rating is an excellent 123.64 (120.14 in conference) and his passing skills continue to excel, leading the team in assists and assist rate. Costner has been more "prolific" - he's used 29.39% of possessions on the season and an astonishing (and league leading) 32.34% in conference. In ACC play, that high usage has not benefitted his team - Costner's offensive rating is just 90.43, and he turns the ball over on 27% of the (many) possessions he uses.
Off the bench, Tracy Smith has been notable in his high usage - 33.41% of possessions on the season, and he's the Pack's fourth (and almost third) leading scorer in just under 13 minutes per game.

In the backcourt, Courtney Fells got off to a hot start, but has been derailed by an injury that caused him to miss nearly 3 games and has slowed his production since. He leads the team in minutes in conference, but is only using 15% of possessions and his offensive production has greatly struggled. Injuries have been the story of the season for the Pack - Fells, Trevor Ferguson, and Javi Gonzalez have all missed time. Julius Mays has been pressed into point guard duty, and hasn't handled it well in ACC play, turning the ball over nearly 38% of his possessions. Farnold Degand (who's had his own injury history) has similarly been turnover prone at the point, with nearly 39% of his possessions used ending up in the hands of his opponents. Simply put, the NC State backcourt is turnover prone, and not the strong point for this team.

This NC State team is better than those of the last two years, but it has many of the same problems. They turn the ball over a ton, but don't take it away from opponents - -42 in turnover margin on the season and -13 in just 3 ACC games. They're relatively weak on the defensive glass. And they're poor at field goal defense. All these things have resulted in too many easy opportunities for opponents and too many wasted possessions on offense. Against Duke, at Duke, being turnover prone will be a huge problem.

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