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Conference check! NC State in ACC games

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Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Since we've got a little basketball vacation goin' on, it's as good a time as any to take stock of the Pack's performance in ACC games. NC State has lost four out of five in conference play, but even so compares favorably to last year's team. Here's a look at the reasons for that.

NCSU Offense -- ACC Games Only
OFF_EFF (ACC Rank) eFG% TO% OR% FT Rate
2013-14 104.4 (9) 47.9 (10) 16.9 (7) 34.2 (5) 39.1 (6)
2014-15 107.7 (6) 50.7 (4) 16.2 (8) 32.7 (8) 27.7 (12)

This is a good reminder, if anybody needed it, that NC State in 2014 was all T.J. Warren, with varying (and typically below average) shooting contributions from everybody else. Aside from Warren, BeeJay Anya and Jordan Vandenberg were the only Pack players to post an eFG% above 50 in league games. And those two shot so sparingly, it had little impact on the bottom line.

Cat Barber shot just 36% with the third-highest workload on the team, so that hurt quite a bit. Ralston Turner was only a 33% shooter from beyond the arc. Let's all take another moment to marvel over Warren, who hit 56.5% of his twos and 34.5% of his threes against ACC foes. He was State's most accurate three-point shooter.

This season, State is getting 50+ percent shooting from multiple key contributors--Lacey, Turner, Kyle Washington (!), and Cat Barber, whose recent hot streak from beyond the arc has him up to 54.1%. The Pack has also shaved off a few turnovers here and there.

So the offensive production overall is above the league average offensive efficiency of 104.6. (Last year, the league average was 105.2.), and the Pack has picked up around three points per 100 possessions. Making more shots fixes a lot--it doesn't even matter that State is grabbing fewer offensive boards or drawing fouls a lot less often.

NCSU Defense -- ACC Games Only
DEF_EFF (ACC Rank) eFG% TO% OR% FT Rate
2013-14 109.7 (12) 49.1 (10) 17.1 (10) 37.8 (13) 45.6 (14)
2014-15 105.2 (9) 48.1 (7) 15.9 (10) 32.7 (10) 39.6 (14)

The 2015 Wolfpack ranks dead last in steal rate at 6.2%, or six steals for every 100 defensive possessions, if you prefer.

When I was nine years old, I played in a rec league where it was illegal to steal the ball. Steals would still happen--from errant passes, namely--but you weren't allowed to try to pick somebody's pocket while they were dribbling. This NC State team plays like that's the rule in college basketball. If the Pack wasn't one of the best shot blocking groups in the league, who knows what its turnover rate would look like.

Fortunately, that shot blocking ability has in part made State's interior defense better this season (opponents are hitting 45.8% inside the arc), and the Pack has been a lot better on the defensive boards. Its defensive efficiency is a smidge below league average but far from a nightmare--Wake Forest game excluded.

State's +2.5 efficiency margin (107.7 OE - 105.2 DE) suggests this is essentially a 9-9 or 10-8 team. And the math says State should be 6-5 rather than 5-6 right now, but we don't need no stinkin' math to know that. That's why the damn games are played on the court and not on paper. (Note to self: lobby ACC for games to be played on paper, since in this case we would all be slightly happier about the season.)

That +2.5 is considerable improvement from the -5.3 margin State posted in 2014. That team had more of a tendency to get beaten badly, which dragged that margin down, but still, State was probably fortunate to finish at .500.

The Pack's underlying performance has been better this year, it just doesn't often feel like it--especially lately. Its efficiency margin is the sixth-best in the league, and while I would not go around proclaiming that this is actually the sixth-best team in the ACC, that number is one piece of optimism to cling to. If you're so inclined.

It doesn't change the fact that it may be too late for this edition of the Wolfpack to make the NCAAs, or the fact that shit is gonna happen.

(On a side note, a good rule of thumb for bracket-pickin' purposes is to be wary of teams that finish with efficiency margins below +10 in league play. They tend not to go very far. Notre Dame, after the Duke game today: +4.1. UNC is +7.4.)