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Addressing The Defense Problem...Again

Austin wrote a piece about the Wolfpack's defense on Friday that's tough but spot on:

But the slide hasn’t been as sudden or as it appears on the surface. The Pack’s offense was playing well enough to mask the rest of the problems, particularly when the 3-pointers start falling. Any gameplan that involves shooting 60 percent from the floor or 50 percent from behind the arc to succeed isn’t a gameplan, its wish-casting.

The truth is in the defense. And the Pack defense has been on a steady downhill slide since ACC play picked up. Virginia shot 43 percent, Florida State shot 46 percent, Clemson shot 49 percent. The Pack bucked the trend briefly when it forced the Blue Devils to shoot 39 percent from the floor. But it was back to business as usual when Maryland shot 53 percent and the Tar Heels shot 51 percent.

Overall, opponents are shooting 46 percent in conference play and over 36 percent on 3-pointers. A far cry from what the Pack had been able to do early in the year, when it could force less athletic teams into bad shots. Combined with all the troubles the Pack has had creating turnovers and getting defensive rebounds and you end up with the worst defensive team in the conference.

The defensive picture was different in a good way through the first four conference games; State had allowed conference foes to score 1.06 points per trip--that's bad, but not the sort of holy-crap-bad we've seen throughout the Lowe era.  Now?  Welcome back to holy-crap-bad.

NCSU Def_Eff ACC Avg Def_Eff
2009 111.0 104.1
2010 111.1 100.8

(conf games only)

Right back where we were last year.  Worse off, actually, when you consider how much further away we are from the conference average.  All four factors have been sliding in the wrong direction since that first glance a couple of weeks ago; eFG% D has ballooned north of 50%, TO% is back down around where it was in '09, and opponents are grabbing almost 37% of their missed shots.  Unlike Lowe's previous teams, this one does not keep opponents off the free throw line.  The decline in that particular area is astoundingly severe.  The in-conference defensive rankings look like this: 11th in eFG%, 10th in TO%, 7th in DR%, 11th in FTR.

Opponent Avg Off_Eff in ACC Play Off_Eff vs. NCSU
Wake 98.8 97.1
UVA 104.6 109.4
FSU 96.3 111.0
Clemson 93.9 112.3
Duke 108.2 105.7
UMD 108.6 131.3
UNC 100.0 116.7


The turnover percentage is a problem without an answer.  I've accepted that much.  It seems like the Pack should be better on the defensive glass, but here we run into the Dennis Horner problem.  Howell, Vandenberg, and Tracy Smith are the team's best defensive rebounders.  Horner, with a DR% in conference play of 6.7, is barely visible. (Which is nothing new.) In a lineup with Javi, Degand, Wood, and Smith, Horner is the worst defensive rebounder on the floor.  Suffice it to say we could use just a tad more from the guy at the 4-spot, especially since offensive demands require that he play a lot.  I'd still like to see Vandenberg get 10+ minutes a game just for the hell of it, just to see what happens.  That reflects my new philosophy, which is: let's get crazy with it.  I want to see every single basketball defense that's ever been invented, one after the other. Let's kitchen sink the hell out of some people.  We play worse, big deal, nothing changes.