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Looking Ahead: The Defense Question

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In Conf Play OFF_EFF DEF_EFF Margin ExpW-L ACC Avg O/D
2005 112.0 (4) 110.5 (11) +1.5 9-7 105.0
2006 110.2 (4) 107.3 (9) +2.9 9-7 104.8
2007 101.1 (11) 111.4 (11) -10.3 4-12 105.4
2008 100.9 (10) 114.1 (12) -13.2 3-13 104.5
2009 105.1 (7) 110.9 (12) -5.8 6-10 104.1
2010 98.1 (9) 105.0 (10) -6.9 5-11 101.0

 

If nothing else, this season proved a major indictment of the Fells/Costner/McCauley-"led" teams.  Despite inferior talent, this year's team performed comparably to last year's, and considerably better than the '07 and '08 teams.  The offense fell off a cliff, but the D improved in both raw and relative (to the league average) terms.  The D finished in especially strong fashion, as previously mentioned.

Encouragingly, it's not much of leap to 8-8.  Improve by three points at both ends and they're there.  The offense is a good bet to improve--the Macrowave will be doing his thing, Howell and the other freshmen will mature, and of course there's the incoming kids to bolster the backcourt.

The big question: what about the defense?  Is the performance we saw down the stretch evidence of real improvement, or are we in danger of attaching too much significance to it simply because of when it happened?  Basically: is that late-season performance in any way sustainable?

History says no.  I really have no idea what to expect.  Here are some things to ponder...

Fluke!

1.) The late-season schedule was laden with teams that were not exactly Ft. Knox in terms of ball security.  A large jump in turnover pecentage--from 18.2 to 23.3--was one of the primary reasons why the defense was so much better over the last eight games.  And it's not like there was a major systemic overhaul we can point to here.  Lowe's teams have never shown an ability to turn opponents over, those last eight games excepted.

2.) Our eFG% D improved because opponents stopped making threes.  Opponents' 2FG% actually went up a bit.  Wolfpack fans certainly don't need to be told that three-point shooting can be fluky, especially when we're talking about a small sample.

Realish!

1.) Defensive rebounding improved down the stretch, which matches a year-to-year trend.  As we get further and further away from a Princeton-optimized lineup and closer to a more traditional one, this should hold.  Richard Howell should see more minutes next season, which can only help.  If the Macrowave can improve from a passable defensive rebounder to a good one, we'll be in excellent shape.

2.) Effort is no longer in doubt.  This has to be taken in good faith, but I think we saw enough this season to trust that we won't have to worry about lackadaisical play going forward.  It'll be nice to get back to taking effort for granted.