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Rather than ascending to an elite title-contending level, NC State is basically right where it was last season. On this date last year, State was No. 48 in the Pomeroy Ratings, and this year it's No. 45. So why the stagnation? The defense is the easiest thing to point to: the Pack's defensive efficiency is down 80 spots in the rankings from a year ago.

I think we're seeing what happens when you trade three upperclassmen for three freshmen. C.J. Williams was a good perimeter defender, and for all of Painter's faults, he at least could rebound at the defensive end and bother some shots, neither of which T.J. Warren is doing. Warren's DR% is lower than Tyler Lewis', for god's sake. And Alex Johnson was undersized like Lewis, but clearly the better defender.

NC State's offense is better this season, but for some surprising reasons. I think we all expected Lorenzo Brown and C.J. Leslie to build off of 2012 and "level up," so to speak (hence Leslie's preseason POY selection), and that hasn't happened.

ORtg %Poss %Shots eFG% Ast% TO% FTR FT% 2FG% 3FG%
Brown 2013 104.5 25.2 21.6 46.4 35.0 22.6 40.9 78.4 46.4 31.1
Brown 2012 104.5 23.6 20.1 48.6 35.0 23.2 42.2 72.9 47.6 35.1

ORtg %Poss %Shots eFG% Ast% TO% FTR FT% 2FG% 3FG%
Leslie 2013 102.0 25.2 22.3 55.0 7.6 21.4 63.3 64.0 55.3 25.0
Leslie 2012 102.1 26.4 25.9 53.0 8.7 19.6 51.4 59.6 53.4 28.6

Can they find a groove down the stretch? Let's hope so, because that will take pressure off the freshmen to contribute and lead to more consistent team performances. These guys are going to have to be the leaders in the post-season if State is to make anything out of this year.