Basketball Notes: Cap'n and TJ Makin' Shots

Now that is a high percentage shot. - Grant Halverson

Except for those pesky, wide open 15 footers. (And let's hide the little thing about the defense at the end because, you know, it's defense.)

It's time to heap even more praise on Mr. Howell (click here for the originally heaped praise) and his new homey too.

Richard "Captain Dickbeard" Howell and N. C. State have one very impressive statistic in common; both rank second in the NCAA in field goal percentage. Howell is shooting a remarkable 68.1% from the floor so far and is obviously a big reason why the Wolfpack have made 52.1% of their shots as a team. Freshman T. J. Warren is putting the ball through the cylinder at a 67.1% clip, which ranks fifth in the NCAA, so he is also doing his part to make the Wolfpack offense both high scoring and efficient. State's 77.8 points per game average is 37th in the NCAA and their offensive rating, which measures the number of points a team would be expected to score per 100 possessions, is 112.5, which ranks 26th.

Not surprisingly, Howell and Warren both show well in terms of individual offensive rating. Howell's rating is 132.6, a huge increase from his 106.2 mark from his junior season, and he has boosted his performance despite a slight increase in usage (22.9 to 24%). Howell posted 3.5 win shares in 2011-12 but is on pace for at least six win shares this season, which would be the highest total posted by a Wolfpack player since Julius Hodge in 2003-4.

Howell's effective field goal percentage, which incorporates a player's three-point shooting, is also 68.1% since he does not venture behind the arc. That percentage ranks 10th in the NCAA. Warren, due to hitting five of his nine three-point attempts, gets an effective field goal percentage boost to 70.7%, which ranks fifth in the NCAA. Not bad for a freshman.

The one chink in the armor for both of these gentlemen is their tendency to clank from the charity stripe. Warren is just 11-for-23 from the line (47.8%), though a shooter of his caliber should raise that number as he gets more attempts. Howell, never a sure thing at the stripe, is shooting 56.8%. That stat is particularly troubling since he is averaging about two more free throw attempts per game this year than previously in his career; hopefully he can raise his percentage well over 60% (he is a career 61.7% shooter) as the season progresses.

Howell and Warren's struggles at the line contribute to one of N. C. State's greatest weaknesses. As a team the Pack are converting on just 63.4% of their freebies, which ranks 279th in the NCAA. State needs to make its own and somehow improve its free throw defense; opponents are cashing in at 75% rate, putting the Pack at 328th in the nation in free-throw D. Someone needs to get to work on more effective cardboard cutouts.

Other issues for the Pack include the closely related stats of steals and turnovers. N. C. State is -6 in steals and -4 in turnovers for the season. Spread out over eight games that is fairly insignificant, but even though the Pack has played a strong non-conference schedule so far, one would like to see them doing better in these categories. In addition to rarely turning opponents over, the Pack do not bother shots particularly well. Scott Wood (!) is tied with Calvin Leslie for the team lead in blocks with seven, and State ranks 204th overall in blocks by team. Unfortunately this is not a team that can rely on its defense when its shots aren't falling, and that can make a deep run in March rather improbable.

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