NC State vs. St. Louis preview: Absolutely positively no long two-point jump shots, men

St. Louis @ StatSheet
2014 Stats
2014 Roster
2014 Schedule

St. Louis Offense 13-14
Four Factors Percent National Rank
eFG% 49.7 161
Turnover Rate 18.6 191
Off Reb Rate 29.2 245
FT Rate
40.6 163

St. Louis lost only five games during the regular season, and three of those were to teams ranked in the top 15 of the Pomeroy Ratings. From early December to late February, the Billikens reeled off 19 consecutive victories, in the process looking like a legitimate threat to win a couple games in the NCAAs.

They've only won once since then, which you've probably heard about 100 times already this week from various talking heads, making NC State a trendy upset pick in this spot.

The Billikens didn't rely on their offense to build that 19-game streak, but they didn't need to, either--this was an elite defensive club during the season, limiting all but one opponent to fewer than 1.1 points per possession. NC State has given up 1.1+ PPP 12 times (and lost 10 of those).

Not surprisingly, it was a faltering defense that led to SLU's late-season slump. The offense couldn't sufficiently compensate for the team's suddenly pedestrian D, leading inevitably to a bad finish. As I mentioned in the Xavier preview, State's offense is cookin' right now, and that's gotta be alarming for the Billikens given the way the last couple of weeks have gone for them.

Starters

Jordair Jett (6-1, 215) -- Jett can give SLU a little of everything at the offensive end, though he's never been a particularly efficient scorer. He is hardly a threat to score from outside, while his free throw shooting hovers around 62% for his career. The latter number is extra costly since the ball is in his hands a lot and he draws a lot of fouls. He is an effective scorer inside the arc (52.3% shooting on twos), making State's efforts to keep him from doing damage off the dribble a big key.

Mike McCall (6-0, 180) -- His attempts are split about evenly between twos and threes, which is consistent with his career numbers. St. Louis doesn't have an obvious oh-noes-this-dude-scary three-point shootery type, but it does have several potentially worrisome options, including McCall, who's at about 35% this year.

Jake Barnett (6-5, 205) -- Barnett was a heavy-usage guy as a freshman at Toledo in 2010, attempting 169 two-pointers along with 192 threes. But that Rockets team was dreadful, and in two years with St. Louis, he has not only seen his workload cut in half, he's almost totally stopped shooting twos. Four out of every five FGAs this season have been threes, but he's just a 30% shooter from outside.

Dwayne Evans (6-6, 230) -- Like Jett, he won't be shooting much from outside, if at all. He's also a dude State will have to worry about getting to the line, where he is a 74.4% shooter. He is likely the biggest threat to crash the offensive glass on a team that doesn't do that too often.

Rob Loe (6-11, 245) -- Heh, Rob Loe.

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Bench

Austin McBroom (5-9, 165), Grandy Glaze (6-6, 235), John Manning (6-11, 240). McBroom is shooting 35.5% from three as a sophomore after hitting 42.1% as a freshman. He ain't shy about shooting when he's on the floor, which is fine for SLU if we're talking about threes, but not so good if we're talking about twos.

Glaze is putting up outstanding rebounding numbers at both ends in limited minutes. Beyond that ... *shrugs*.

St. Louis Defense 13-14
Four Factors Percent National Rank
eFG% 44.0 11
Turnover Rate 21.0 33
Off Reb Rate 29.1 68
FT Rate
34.3 53

St. Louis is two seasons removed from the loss of Rick Majerus, but in true Majerusian fashion, the Billikens are still sucking the life out of opponents along the perimeter. Much like Duke, SLU does a fantastic job of suppressing three-point tries--opponents have been limited this year to about one three-point attempt out of every four field goal attempts, a proportion that places the Billikens' defense eighth nationally in opponents' 3FGA/FGA. SLU has been in the top 20 of this particular category in each of the last six seasons, leading the nation in 2011.

St. Louis is also limiting the opposition to 29.1% shooting from three-point range; the Billikens have turned three-point land into a wasteland of sadness. As Luke Winn outlined a couple of years ago, SLU is one of the best at luring players into taking long two-point jumpers, which is a terribly inefficient shot in general.

Majerus has a few key points of emphasis, the first being in transition, where he sends three players back -- but not all of them into the paint. "A lot of times they go to the three-point line," he said, "and then identify guys we want to make bounce it." Certain elite shooters are given an absolutely-no-catch-and-shoot designation, with penalty of benching for allowing it to happen.

On screen-and-rolls with a dangerous shooter, Majerus is willing to concede the drive-to-midrange option as opposed to giving up the long-range shot. He has the Billikens defend the pick-and-roll seven different ways based on his studies of current and former NBA coaches he admires -- Don Nelson, Del Harris, George Karl, Tom Thibodeau and Gregg Popovich. "A lot of college coaches have a condescending attitude toward the NBA," Majerus said. "I do not. I think the NBA guys actually do a lot better job than we do at defending in critical situations."

The Wolfpack doesn't need three-pointers to be successful; we're well used to getting jack diddly squadoodle from outside at this point. If somebody other than Ralston Turner hits a couple threes, it's like Christmas. The concern is with those long twos, because we have some guys who have been happy to settle for 18-footers this year. If State falls into that trap and starts relying too heavily on scoring from that part of the floor, it plays directly into the Billikens' hands. I wouldn't feel too good about the outcome under those circumstances.

The Pomeroy Predictor likes SLU by two.

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