NC State Vs. UConn Preview: The Pack Kinda Really Really Needs This One

David Butler II-US PRESSWIRE

UConn @ StatSheet
2012 Stats
2013 Roster
2013 Schedule

UConn Offense 11-12
Four Factors Percent Nat'l Rank
eFG% 50.0 135
Turnover Rate 18.9 91
Off Reb Rate 37.0 24
FTA/FGA 34.6 2

UConn Offense 12-13
Four Factors Percent Nat'l Rank
eFG% 47.3 188
Turnover Rate 16.3 19
Off Reb Rate 26.9 291
FTA/FGA 41.9 84

UConn finished in the top 25 nationally in offensive rebounding percentage in each of the 10 seasons prior to Jim Calhoun's retirement, and then suddenly... poof. The Huskies are maintaining their Calhounness at the defensive end--blocking a lot of shots, keeping opponents' 2FG% low--and it's not as though this turned into a team of midgets, so what happened? It seems like this would have to be an indicator of some sort of philosophical change in approach.

In general, though, UConn's offense is holding up well considering the losses the program sustained between last season and this one. While the Huskies have looked iffy at times (2OT win over Quinnipiac), they also have a quality win over Michigan State, and they only lost by six to New Mexico, which isn't a bad loss by any means. This early-season resume makes it difficult to know what exactly to expect, but NC State should be concerned about a team led by guards who can get the ball to the rim.

I'm always terrified by teams that protect the ball exceptionally well, because that's strength on NC State defensive weakness, and that means we're more likely to be subject to the whims of shooting percentage. NC State should win the rebounding battle, but if a team can count on getting a shot at the basket on 84% of its possessions, well, that's no bueno. State simply isn't going to force teams into a bad day in this particular area very often--opponents with a good overall turnover rate should probably expect a rate lower than their season average against NC State.

UConn is not interested in pushing tempo, and it isn't going to be easy for NC State to generate transition opportunities, even if it does dominate the defensive boards.

Starters:

Ryan Boatright (6-0, 160) -- Boatright won't necessarily score the ball efficiently, but he's good off the dribble, and we all know how NC State handles that sort of thing. His free throw rate may be inflated by the early-season schedule, but there's no denying that he's good at breaking down defenses and drawing contact. His assist rate is good, and he takes care of the ball.

Shabazz Napier (6-1, 171) -- Napier's assist and turnover rates are way down from the last two seasons, which points to a guy that moved into more of a two-guard role after running the offense his first two years. Which is not to say that he is less involved in the offense--quite the opposite, actually. He leads the team in scoring, and he's been a solid shooter inside and out.

Omar Calhoun (6-5, 192) -- Calhoun, a freshman, is taking on a secondary role this season, and rightfully so. Now fetch me my laundry, rookie! Omar. What the hell kind of name is that. Sounds like a girl scout cookie. The three-point shooting isn't there yet, and he's turning the ball over too often, but he is scoring effectively inside the arc and doing a nice job of getting to the free throw line, where he is a 75.7% shooter.

DeAndre Daniels (6-8, 195) -- I see these sad stories all the time. Guys who fly just a little too close to the sun. Daniels is taking 23% of the shots while he's on the floor, which is rather hefty. He is shooting 43.2% inside the arc and 28.6% from three. Dude can block some shots though.

Tyler Olander (6-9, 225) -- Olander, noted tall person, hasn't made more than 45.5% of his twos in a single season. He is below 40% this year. He has no business shooting as often as he does, much like Daniels. His block rate is fantastic, and vastly improved from the last two years, which means UConn has either been up against a bunch of small opponents this year or he discovered flubber.

Bench:

Niels Giffey (6-7, 205), Enosch Wolf (7-1, 245), R.J. Evans (6-3, 210). Evans, a graduate transfer from Holy Cross, is expected to be a game-time decision because of a shoulder injury. At Holy Cross, he was the epitome of the quantity-rather-than quality scorer, and one thing is clear--he has no range whatsoever. NC State should make him put the ball on the floor at every opportunity (if he plays, of course), and he's pretty garbage at the free throw line too, so hack away.

Giffey shouldn't factor much into the scoring, but he is an inside-outside threat, and not a bad offensive rebounder.

As for Wolf, well, it's tough to criticize a guy with that name, especially a German seven-footer who attended Max-Planck Gymnasium in Germany. He can probably tell you all about quantum theory.

UConn Defense 11-12
Four Factors Percent Nat'l Rank
eFG% 44.6 19
Turnover Rate 17.0 319
Off Reb Rate 34.7 276
FTA/FGA 25.3 5

UConn Defense 12-13
Four Factors Percent Nat'l Rank
eFG% 42.6 40
Turnover Rate 22.4 119
Off Reb Rate 38.4 319
FTA/FGA 34.9 145

Jim Calhoun's teams never were very good at forcing turnovers or grabbing offensive boards, but some of it was by design--it was simply the nature of Calhoun's Big McLargeHuge defensive stylings. His teams finished in the top three nationally in block percentage nine times from 2003 to 2012. That includes a run of five consecutive seasons at No. 1; they were blocking a fifth of opponents' two-point attempts on a regular basis. His defenses never finished lower than 14th in 2FG% defense from 2003 to 2012.

The aggressive shot-blocking cost his team some boards, but UConn rarely put teams on the line, which made for a damn fine combination. Opponents weren't exactly lighting it up from three, either. So the Huskies could afford to give up some extra effective possessions and some extra second chances. They turned the paint into a house of horrors, and that made it very difficult for opponents to score efficiently.

As I mentioned earlier, they're still distinctly Calhoun at this end in some respects--they're blocking plenty of shots, and opponents' 2FG% shooting is suffering as a result. The turnover and free throw rate categories are interesting, though--those both are the highest figures a UConn team has posted since at least 2003. Is Kevin Ollie amping up the pressure this year? But regardless of that, what in the hell is up with the defensive rebounding? This is a team that ranks 25th in Ken Pomeroy's effective height metric (size adjusted for playing time).

The Pomeroy Predictor likes NC State by three.

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