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Hoops: Is There Any Hope For The Interior Defense?

There wasn't much to beating NC State's passive defense last season, and most ACC schools were well-equipped to do it.  Get the ball into the paint, force the Pack to stop you with forwards that are undersized, underskilled defensively, or both.  If you don't score the first time around, chances are that you'll have a second opportunity.

Everybody understood this, which this piece from SCACCHoops illustrates.  Forty percent of NC State's opponents' field goal attempts last season came from within three feet of the basket, one of the highest proportions in the league.  Just over 21% of opponents' shots were threes, the lowest proportion in the ACC. 

It's not all bad, though.  One of the effects (perhaps) of our opponents' single-minded focus on the interior was a lot of mid-range shots.  Those shots, between 10 and 20 feet from the basket, are the lowest-percentage shots in college basketball.  So NC State's defense was doing something right, but it wasn't enough to make a big difference. 

A big, scary question heading into this season: do we have enough pieces to make opponents think twice about pounding the paint?  Our 2FG% defense was the ACC's worst in conference play last year, and if there is to be any hope at all of fielding an overachiever, we'll need Vandenberg, Howell, the Animalizer, and the Macrowave to correct that inadequacy in a big way.  With so many untested kids in the mix here, it's hard to be optimistic about that.  It sounds like Painter has the length necessary to change shots, and Howell has the kind of bulk that could make it tough for opponents to lower their shoulder and back their way into easy buckets.  That's a start.  They're going to need to refine their footwork and off-ball positioning in a hurry, though.  And rebound, rebound, rebound.

I hope Sid gives Vandenberg 8-10 minutes per game in the early going despite raw offensive skills that may not call for that sort of playing time, if any at all.  If the 7-footer can be a disruptive defensive specialist, I think his play could prove a net gain for the team even if he contributes nothing at the other end.  He should get enough time to answer that question one way or the other.  Might as well give him a shot.