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Another Look at FG% Defense and Close Games

That Wake Forest game ain't doing us any favors.

Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

A month ago we checked in on the historically good field goal defense offered up by NC State this year and, predictably, the team subsequently rattled off a 1-5 stretch that saw said field goal defense trend in the wrong direction. Most embarrassing in the stretch was allowing Wake Forest to hit over 60% from two in Winston-Salem; overall, opponents made 47.2% of their twos during a six-game run that would have all but buried the team’s postseason hopes save for Trevor Lacey’s overtime heroics against Georgia Tech.

Then a little trip to Kentucky happened. Given the stakes and the opponent, the Pack’s holding the Ville to 29.5% from two-point range has to go down as the team’s most impressive defensive effort of the season thus far. The road win vaulted the Pack to not just back in the conversation, but likely in the tournament if it began today.

But it does not begin today. If State’s opponents make around two of five of their twos from here on in, things should work out quite well. If it’s closer to one of two, welcome back to sweating things out.

Here’s a look at the field goal defense at this stage in the season (with how much the percentages have increased since the FSU game in parentheses):

Overall Field Goal Defense

2-pt. Field Goal Defense

3-pt. Field Goal Defense

40.0% (+0.8%)

43.1% (+0.4%)

33.2% (+1.6%)

Opponents could also stop with the increased making of the threes thing. Even with the ice cold shooting afternoon from two, the Cards made 41.2% of their threes, and four of State’s last seven opponents have hit on 39% or better of tries from the bonusphere, including two at an even 50%. That’s probably just bad luck. I hope that’s just bad luck. Be luck. Luck, is it really too much to ask to, you know, be on our side?

Speaking of luck, we also took a look at Mark Gottfried’s record in close games. Before this season, Gott had won 57% of games decided by five or fewer points, a mark that does not suggest anything resembling incompetence in coaching the close ones. After the Notre Dame debacle, his record this year was a lowly 1-5. It could easily be 1-8 if not for the aforementioned Lacey heroics, but sits at 2-7 after the win at Tech and narrow losses to Wake and Virginia.

If the Pack was 5-4 in close ones, more closely mirroring Gott’s career mark, we would not be sweating out selection Sunday regardless of where those three extra wins came from. But, not surprisingly because we are NC State, luck has not been on our side.

So, we are where we always seem to be under Gott: heading down the stretch in position to make the NCAAs but with little margin for error. The mostly luck stats—like teams’ recent three-point accuracy and the tendency this year to lose more than a wolf’s share of the close ones—suggest that State is better than its record. But we know better than to sit around and wait for our luck to even out. If the team that showed up at the Yum shows up for the rest of the season, even bad luck won’t stop this team from making a fourth consecutive trip to the dance. Do defense, fellas. And for Chrissakes, box out!