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NC State's 0-4 ACC start a mix of poor play and bad luck

Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

I apologize up front since there are sad numbers ahead. A couple happy numbers! But mostly sad numbers. Sorry. NC State is 0-4 in the ACC for two rather obvious big-picture reasons: the Wolfpack can't shoot, and the Wolfpack can't defend anybody. Those are problems, very large problems, and I wish they weren't there, but they are there, and since they are there, I might as well accept that they're there, rather than pretending that they aren't there. There.

Hmm? Oh right.

Here's how NC State stacks up through four ACC games:

NC State in ACC Games eFG% (ACC rank) TO% (ACC rank) OR% (ACC rank) FTR (ACC rank)
Offense 42.5 (15) 15.2 (5) 41.8 (1) 40.6 (6)
Defense 51.4 (10) 13.8 (11) 36.0 (13) 37.0 (10)

Here's a jarring statistic for you: NC State is making 41.8% of its two-point attempts in league play. NC State's conference opponents are making 42.6% of their three-point attempts. If you want to sum up this messed-up season, that would be a good place to start.

And here's the thing with those numbers: obviously, State has been pretty bad at matriculating the basketball through the metal danger-circle. Real bad. Exceptionally bad. But NC State has also been hilariously unlucky. Including all games, the Pack's opponents are shooting 38.4% from three. League play has been a sadistic continuation of what was already an astounding parade of bullshit.

There is a lot of noise in three-point percentage. I am not here to argue that NC State's perimeter defense is good--it is not good. It's just that randomness is much more of a factor the farther away from the basket you go. You can play good defense and have dudes stick shots in your face; you can completely lose track of your guy and watch him miss wide-open attempts. In any single game, volatility can rule the day.

Louisville hit seven of 13 three-point attempts in Raleigh last week. In the two games since, the Cardinals are 4-34 (11.8%) from three. Sometimes you catch an opponent at the right time, and if you're the 2016 Wolfpack, more often you catch them at the super wrong time.

My point here is that NC State's demoralizing start is to some degree no fault of the Pack's, despite its obvious shortcomings. There is a lot outside the team's control, like this stupid universe, and traitorous rims (remember that FSU three-pointer that caromed almost straight up, chilled in the upper atmosphere for an hour, then fell through the basket?), and inescapable happenstance stupid randomness crap-related crap.

So we got that workin' against us, and then there are the fundamental problems. State is not doing anything well at the defensive end, save deterring two-point attempts. The defensive rebounding is not holding up under the duress of ACC talent, which is a huge problem. If you aren't going to force turnovers, you have got to compensate on the glass. NC State is not doing that.

The result is ACC opponents averaging 1.13 points per possession. That's pretty tough to overcome even if you have a good offense, and so far it's been impossible for State to counter. The optimistic portion of this post goes as follows: ACC opponents ain't gonna continue making nearly 43% of their three-pointers. Regression is inevitable. (Uh, probably.)

But that can only help so much, and the Wolfpack needs to find answers in other areas; history, and Mark Gottfried's track record, suggest this is unlikely.

With the defense an ongoing liability, there's continued pressure on an offense that is pretty good in three of the four factors, but terrible in the one that matters most. This is how a team ends up winless through the first quarter of conference play.