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NCAA Tournament 2015: A Closer Look at the NCSU Wolfpack via Advanced Stats

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A brief statistical analysis on what to expect from NC State

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Villanova's victory over Lafayette on Thursday has secured a matchup with North Carolina State Wolfpack (21-13, 10-8 ACC) on Saturday.

Here's a statistical analysis to know what to expect from the Wolfpack.

Good wins: Syracuse (71-57), @ UNC (58-46), @ Louisville (74-65), Duke (87-75)

Bad losses: @ BC (79-63), @ Wake Forest (88-84), Clemson (68-57), @ Miami (65,60), Wofford (55-54)

After last night’s formality of a first round, the Villanova Wildcats moves on to play 8th seeded NC State. NC State is overrated in seed for those who study in the Church of KenPom, as he has them ranked 40th in the country overall. They are a young team that experienced a roller-coaster type season that has become all too familiar in the Gottfried era. As seen above, for every good win they had (in a maybe-sort of-definitely overrated ACC), they had a head-scratching loss to offset it. The Wolfpack have shown signs of having a good squad, but have fallen short of expectations overall. Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough data in Corollary’s shot-chart generator to create a large enough sample size to create a meaningful visual. So let’s pop the trunk with the help of our buddy KenPom and hoop-math.com and take a look what makes this Wolfpack team... go?

Offense

Name FGA TS% eFG% % shots at rim FG% at rim %assisted at rim % shots 2pt J FG% 2pt Jumpers %assisted 2pt J %of shots 3pt 3FG% %assisted 3s FTA/FGA FT%
Lacey, Trevor 393 0.564 53.40% 18.80% 52.70% 15.40% 35.10% 45.70% 14.30% 46.10% 39.80% 48.60% 30.30% 73.10%
Turner, Ralston 353 0.559 52.70% 7.40% 65.40% 52.90% 26.30% 39.80% 29.70% 66.30% 37.60% 92.00% 21.50% 82.90%
Barber, Anthony 'Cat' 289 0.544 49.10% 37.00% 56.10% 18.30% 42.20% 37.70% 6.50% 20.80% 40.00% 66.70% 48.80% 73.00%
Washington, Kyle 199 0.485 46.20% 13.10% 69.20% 38.90% 80.40% 40.60% 52.30% 6.50% 46.20% 83.30% 17.60% 71.40%
Abu, Abdul-Malik 161 0.494 48.10% 52.20% 61.90% 71.20% 44.70% 33.30% 54.20% 3.10% 20.00% 0.00% 50.30% 51.90%
Martin, Caleb 144 0.487 43.80% 29.20% 50.00% 47.60% 15.30% 27.30% 0.00% 55.60% 30.00% 87.50% 38.90% 71.40%
Freeman, Lennard 100 0.453 43.00% 56.00% 55.40% 38.70% 44.00% 27.30% 75.00% 0.00% --- --- 43.00% 53.50%
Anya, Beejay 99 0.602 60.60% 78.80% 69.20% 57.40% 21.20% 28.60% 16.70% 0.00% --- --- 61.60% 55.70%
Martin, Cody 59 0.485 47.50% 62.70% 59.50% 45.50% 25.40% 40.00% 16.70% 11.90% 0.00% --- 28.80% 52.90%
Lee, Desmond 49 0.494 33.70% 51.00% 48.00% 33.30% 28.60% 21.40% 0.00% 20.40% 10.00% 100.00% 93.90% 80.40%
Wallace, Patrick 8 0.335 31.20% 25.00% 50.00% 0.00% 0.00% --- --- 75.00% 16.70% 0.00% 25.00% 50.00%
Battle, Staats 8 0.5 50.00% 12.50% 100.00% 0.00% 0.00% --- --- 87.50% 28.60% 100.00% 0.00% ---
Cannon, Chase 5 0.336 40.00% 60.00% 66.70% 0.00% 0.00% --- --- 40.00% 0.00% --- 40.00% 0.00%
Corchiani, Jr., Chris 4 0.25 25.00% 25.00% 0.00% --- 25.00% 100.00% 0.00% 50.00% 0.00% --- 0.00% ---
Brickhouse, Chris 4 0.5 50.00% 100.00% 50.00% 100.00% 0.00% --- --- 0.00% --- --- 0.00% ---
OWENS,GARLAND 0 0 0.00% --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- ---
Total 1875 0.529 49.60% 30.20% 58.70% 41.90% 37.40% 38.30% 30.10% 32.40% 36.10% 73.50% 36.20% 68.30%

(per: hoop-math.com | Scroll Left <->Right )

By NCAA tournament standards, NC State has quite literally an average offense. According to KenPom, they rank 32nd overall in adjusted efficiency, and have no stats that jump off the page. Arguably their best strength is not allowing steals, which they accomplish at a clip ranked 55th nationally. They do not excel at getting to the line (222nd in FTA/FGA), and when they do they don’t shoot them well (68.4%, 211th). They take an average volume of threes (32.5% of shots), and finish them at a similarly typical rate (35.5%, 113th). Their biggest weakness is passing, as evidenced by assisting on only 46.5% of field goals made (307th IN THE NATION). This is not a team that thrives on ball movement and playing together. You don’t become an eight seed by accident.

Diving a little deeper in, one place that NCSU does excel is put backs. They are very active around the rim, and have the athletes to make some noise and turn bad shots into easy twos. Freeman (23), Anya (23), and Abu (21) all had 20+ put backs on the season. This suggests Villanova needs to focus on weak-side defensive rebounding and finding a guy to box out. This has been a focus for the Wildcats all year.

The best metric for a team’s offensive proficiency is how they perform in the half court after an opponent scores. In this situation, on a possession that lasts 11-35 seconds (as is the norm), the Wolfpack shoot 37.1% from 2 point range, 33.1% from 3, and 57.5% at the rim. This is good for a 47.5% eFG%, which is trending towards BAD range. Villanova is built upon getting back on defense and forcing the opposition to beat them in the half court. This is not good news for NCSU.

It’s obvious that a team as athletic as NC State tries to get out and run in transition. Offensive numbers typically spike in this situation, as the offense can attack a defense (sometimes a man or 2 up) before they settle into their set. In transition, NCSU’s eFG% jumps to 54.1, and they rely more heavily on the 3 (41.4% of shots at a 35.6% clip). These numbers aren’t great, but do emphasize the need to get back on defense against them on turnovers.

Overall, NC State has an offensive history that looks... exactly as you’d expect from an 8 seed.

Defense

Start of Poss % of initial attempts eFG% % Shots at rim FG% at rim % Shots 2pt Jumpers FG% 2pt Jumpers % Shots 3pt FG% 3pt
Rebound, 0-10 s 12.40% 54.60% 34.20% 61.20% 23.50% 45.70% 42.30% 36.10%
Rebound, 11-35 s 23.10% 45.80% 25.20% 51.10% 41.60% 37.50% 33.20% 34.70%
Score, 0-10 s 6.80% 41.60% 30.80% 57.60% 29.00% 38.70% 40.20% 20.90%
Score, 11-35 s 40.20% 41.10% 28.90% 39.70% 40.20% 32.80% 30.90% 35.50%
Steal, 0-10 s 5.50% 59.80% 65.50% 63.20% 13.80% 58.30% 20.70% 33.30%
Steal, 11-35 s 1.80% 46.60% 31.00% 55.60% 51.70% 46.70% 17.20% 20.00%
Transition 24.60% 52.20% 40.30% 61.10% 22.80% 44.90% 36.90% 31.20%

(per: hoop-math.com | Scroll Left <->Right )

NC State has a similarly typical defensive history, as they rank 88th nationally in adjusted efficiency. They are 42nd in eFG% (45.5%), and defend the perimeter fairly well (33.2% from 3, 113th). Their size and verticality is seen in their block %, which at 13.3% is 37th in the country. However, by far their biggest flaw is an inability to generate turnovers. The ability to do so is incredibly important in college basketball, as it compensates for a stagnant offense with easy buckets in transition. However, NCSU creates turnovers at the 343rd highest rate in the country. This is not good. All of the little things that Villanova fans now take for granted (active hands, predicting passing lanes, and seamless defensive rotations) are nonexistent for this squad. Expect a high assist to turnover ratio.

Opponent’s shot selection against NC State is pretty evenly cut in thirds between 2 pointers, 3 pointers, and shots at the rim. As mentioned before, they are good around the rim (51.6% shots made, 18.5% blocked) and defend the perimeter well.

Their defense, like most, is at its best after they score and the opponent takes 11-35 seconds to shoot. In this situation, they allow a meager 41.1% in eFG%, which is actually quite good. In transition, this eFG% jumps to 52.2%, in which case opponents get to the rim 40.3% of the time.

Overall, NC State’s defense is solid in the half court in terms of shooting percentages, but much of that can be attributed to how bad they are at ‘risking’ generating turnovers. A good passing team feasts on this type of opponent.

Coaching/Summary

This is not your father’s Jimmy Valvano-coached NC State Wolfpack. They are headed by Mark Gottfried, who is a player’s coach in that he's technically responsible to coach players. Gottfried employs an ‘inmates run the asylum’ type philosophy, which isn’t exactly equipped for something already called ‘March Madness.’ This is reflected in their inability to do two of the most important things in college basketball: pass on offense, and generate turnovers on defense.

They are not a team that does the little things: diving on the floor, making the extra pass, and taking the charge. NC State is the St. John’s of the ACC, minus the toughness and redeeming chip on their shoulder. I guess that makes Gottfried a member of Steve Lavin’s ‘Used Car Salesmen Lampooning as a College Coach’ brethren. This is exactly the type of loosely-bound roster that plays right into Villanova’s hands.

'Nova has established themselves as one of the most clockwork-like teams in the country; they make the occasional mistake but overall are a finely-tuned machine. In stark contrast, NC State is as erratic a team as you'll see in the round of 32. There is almost no chance that NCSU can go forty minutes playing mostly-perfect basketball, and that is what it takes to defeat these Wildcats.

Conclusion

It is important to acknowledge that NC State did not do everything they could to get out of the first round. Instead, the LSU Tigers did everything they could to go home. The Tigers had countless open looks (NCSU changed nothing schematically in-game despite being down big at halftime) yet did not make a field goal for the last 10 minutes and missed their last SIX free throws (two of which were the front-ends of a one-and-one). NC State was handed this game on a silver platter, and did the bare minimum to limp their way into the second round.

Villanova awaits, and it will take a completely out of character, mistake-free, Herculean effort by the Wolfpack to still be in the game by the second half. Villanova has earned every bit of their one seed, and as the statistics show, NC State similarly 'deserved' their eight seed and stumbled into the second round. Have faith in the stats, Nova Nation: Villanova is very much in the driver's seat, and NC State is merely a speed bump.

March 22 Post-mortem

As youngBUCK posted to Backing the Pack