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NC State Offense Violently Trending in the Wrong Direction

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It's not the one throws; it's the two throws.

2-pointin' that'll make you TOB.
2-pointin' that'll make you TOB.
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

An intrepid message board poster mused after the Wake Forest loss that NC State would probably be 3-0 in conference had it made just 70% of its free throws. Said statement got me to wondering if that is indeed the case, so, always the thorough clownblogger, I've actually looked at each loss (all freakin' six of them) in terms of tossing in the freebies. While free throwing has certainly been an issue for the struggling Pack, it's been the precipitous drop-off in two-point success that has been the main culprit in the team's disappointing first half of the season.

The Pack are shooting 67.2% from the stripe on the season, a mark that ranks 235th out of 351 teams. That's bad, especially considering how often (in games not against Wake Forest) State gets to the line. The team is 18th nationally in free throw attempts. Howeva, the team drops from below average to downright atrocious when we peruse from ones to twos. State is hitting 45.4% of its two-point field goals, a percentage that ranks 307th in the nation. In conference play, the two-ing drops to 40.9%, which is 15th in the ACC.

The Pack does at least one thing very well on defense; for a second consecutive season they are excellent at defending the two. Unfortunately, State's own fortunes from two have alarmingly trended in the wrong direction, from 17th to 307th in four years, which more than negates the marked improvement defensively. "They gotta guard us too, pal" has become "they gotta rebound us too, pal" ... or something. Mark Gottfried's has become an ugly brand of basketball, as you can see below:

Season

NC State 2'n% (rank)

Opponent 2'n% (rank)

Difference

2015-16

45.4% (307th)

43.1% (37th)

+2.3%

2014-15

47.3% (211th)

43.6% (40th)

+3.7%

2013-14

51.5% (69th)

47.3% (132nd)

+4.2%

2012-13

52.8% (17th)

47.5% (188th)

+5.3%

No seriously, did I miss the memo where Leonard Hamilton took over this program?

As for the free throws, I did not mine the play-by-play data to see how many of these misses were front ends of one-and-ones. Nor is it possible to say for sure, with one exception, how more makes earlier in the game might have affected future play. The exception is the Virginia Tech game. As it was an overtime game, it's pretty safe to say that even one more make would have made the difference for the winless-in-the-ACC Pack. However, in the other five losses shooting 70% from the line would not appear to have made an appreciable impact on the final.

Against Bill and Mary, the Pack needed to hit two more free throws to be over 70%; those two points would have cut the margin to a mere 15. Against Arizona State, the Pack needed to hit one more free throw to get to 70%; one more point and you still lose that one by two. The Pack did shoot 70%+ against Michigan and lost by seven anyway. Two more makes would've put State right at 70% against the Ville; that's still three points short. One more successful free toss hits the 70% mark against Wake; that's still two points short.

It's the twos, mane. HONEST!

State shot below 40% from two in losses to Michigan, Virginia Tech, and Louisville. The team hasn't made better than 50% from two in any of its losses. Efficient offenses that excelled inside the arc were a hallmark of Gottfried's teams just two seasons ago. I don't know if it's the lack of a Scott Wood type to keep defenses honest, a lack of effort to get the ball inside, inefficient post players, less transition opportunities, personnel adverse to sharing the rock, or opponents figuring out how to stop the "UCLA offense," or a combination of all of the above, but the offense is broken in ways that making a couple more free throws can't fix.*

*(Though, to be fair, one more against the Hokies and State is 1-2 in the ACC with a chance to get to .500 at home Wednesday, which would change the perspective of the season so far a great deal. Nonetheless, free throws are perhaps the least troublesome of our many offensive woes. *Glances at three-point shooting; vomits.*)