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NC State is playing its best field goal defense since...?

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Given the difficulty of comparing disparate eras of play, one might say it is the best ever. It is certainly the best in a very long time.

Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

There are three main components to playing efficiently on defense: field goal defense, defensive rebounding, and forcing turnovers. NC State is embarrassingly incompetent at the latter, ranking 339th of 351 teams by collecting miscues on just 13.7% of opponents' possessions. The Pack are much more competent, if not particularly great, in the defensive rebounding realm, where they are grabbing 73.2% of their opponents' misses, good for 96th.

Where NC State is very good, in fact historically the best it has been in decades, is in field goal defense. After Florida State was held to 37.3% shooting in Tallahassee Saturday, Pack opponents are now shooting just 39.2% on the season. There tends to be a decent amount of luck involved in the opposition's three-point marksmanship year over year, but teams do exert a good deal of control over the percentage of two-point buckets successfully converted, and this is where NC State has taken a huge step forward. Opponents' two-point accuracy is down nearly five percentage points from last season. Overall, the 39.2% mark is the best field goal defense for the Pack program since 1967-68 (39.0%). (Exclamation!)

Stats breaking down field goal percentage between two and three-point tries only goes back a few years on the interwebs, but I took to the painfully difficult to navigate online media guide to extrapolate data back to 2000-01. It's not a pretty picture (or table, as it were); before this year, State held the opposition to less than 45% on two pointers just once in the last 15 seasons:

Season

Opponents' FG%

Opponents' 2ptFG%

Opponents' 3ptFG%

2014-15

39.2%

42.7%

31.6%

2013-14

42.6%

47.3%

32.1%

2012-13

41.9%

47.5%

30.2%

2011-12

41.5%

45.7%

33.2%

2010-11

42.4%

46.3%

32.0%

2009-10

42.3%

46.3%

30.9%

2008-09

43.2%

47.1%

33.4%

2007-08

42.4%

44.6%

36.8%

2006-07

44.1%

47.6%

36.6%

2005-06

41.3%

46.2%

31.0%

2004-05

43.2%

47.0%

34.7%

2003-04

42.2%

47.5%

31.3%

2002-03

44.0%

48.8%

33.8%

2001-02

44.2%

49.6%

31.4%

2000-01

44.0%

47.2%

36.2%

Fortunately, there is a good explanation for why NC State has the 39th best two-point defense, so we do not have to grab our collective ankles and wait for the inevitable regression. If you are thinking a wingspan reference is coming, go ahead and drink. The development of long-armed BeeJay Anya and Kyle Washington, to a lesser but still effective degree, as shot botherers has keyed State's defensive improvement. Anya boasts a 15.2 block percentage while Washington checks in at 7.1% after four swats against Florida State. Anya blocked at an impressive 12.6% rate last year but in condition-limited minutes, while Washington was much less of a factor in this regard with a 3.1% rate. Add in athletic wing Cody Martin (4.6%) and fellow freshman Malik Abu (3.3%) to the 2014-15 version of the Pack and you get a shot-bothering bunch that is blocking over 10% of opponents' field goal attempts, good for 14th in the nation.

The good news is that two-point defense has held up so far in the rigors of ACC play, ticking up to just 43.9%, a mark good for third in league play. The bad news is that, due largely to the Pack's inability to force turnovers, KenPom remains unimpressed, ranking State as just the 106th best defense in college basketball. I think, as usual, KenPom is selling us short, but it is probably safe to assume that NC State will need to generate more turnovers without sacrificing field goal defense in order to make a sustained run in March.*

(*Yes I just boldly proclaimed that this team will be in the NCAA tournament, which is totally safe because I have absolutely no history of internet jinxes.)