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NC State in ACC play: Comparing the 2017 Pack to the 2016 Pack

Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

NC State currently occupies similar territory in the Pomeroy Ratings as it did a season ago, and as far as KenPom is concerned, this Wolfpack group is headed to another 5-13 finish in ACC games. That may end up being the case--no doubt the aggregate numbers through six games support such a conclusion.

However, the UNC game carries heavy weight in State's evaluation since we're only talking about six games, and since that is a massive outlier (y'know, probably), NC State's offense probably isn't getting as much credit as it deserves for its performance in league games.

First, here's NC State's statistics--including the UNC game--compared to how the Pack performed in ACC games last season.

NCSU Offense -- Four Factors eFG% (conf rank) TO% OR% FT Rate OFF_EFF
2016-17 in ACC play 51.1 (12) 21.5 (14) 31.1 (7) 27.1 (10)
99.5 (14)
2015-16 in ACC play 48.6 (11) 17.0 (8) 35.8 (3) 36.3 (4) 108.0 (7)

The 2017 Pack are shooting better but doing everything else worse--of particular note, the increased turnover rate. If State can't take better care of the ball, it's going to be difficult for this unit to be consistently above-average going forward. Being consistently above-average over the last 12 games is kind of essential.

Anyway, so with the UNC game stats included, NCSU's offense is averaging a shade under a point per trip, which is ugly and markedly worse than last year.

Exclude the UNC game, though ...

NCSU Offense -- Four Factors eFG% (conf rank) TO% OR% FT Rate OFF_EFF
2016-17 excluding UNC 52.9 (5) 19.4 (14) 33.0 (4) 29.0 (10)
107.5 (7)

NC State's still turning the ball over a bunch and having trouble drawing fouls, but the rest of the picture looks quite a bit healthier. Suddenly the Pack's 2017 offense is basically on par with last season, with top-five league ranks in shooting and rebounding. I'm not saying this is the "true" NCSU offense, but this picture may be a little closer to reality. As always, schedule caveats apply. These are all raw numbers.

Regardless, State's gotta do something about these turnovers. Malik Abu's turnover rate, for whatever reason, has skyrocked this season. And this Wolfpack backcourt is far more turnover-prone than its 2016 counterpart.

To the defense! I am not going to do the same UNC/non-UNC game breakdown, since State's defensive performance (they allowed 1.26 PPP), I would argue, was no outlier.

NCSU Defense -- Four Factors eFG% (conf rank) TO% OR% FT Rate DEF_EFF
2016-17 in ACC play 55.1 (14) 17.3 (11) 30.2 (6) 33.5 (8)
112.1 (13)
2015-16 in ACC play 52.7 (13) 13.8 (15) 31.3 (5) 32.4 (6) 113.9 (15)

We're slightly better! NC State's deeper and more athletic backcourt has at least helped to deliver more turnovers, and I'm not going to complain about being sixth in defensive rebounding. I'll take that number the rest of the way. NC State's 2FG% defense is a bit better at this point, but here's the thing: opponents have hit all of the dang threes.

The first six opponents have hit 43.4% from three, which is partly the result of poor defense and partly the result of randomness, not to mention that we've seen plenty of good shooters already. NC State's luck in terms of 3FG% defense--however you want to define that--was mostly good during the non-conference portion of the schedule. Now, not so much.

Shooting at this incredible rate probably will not continue. Out of 358 D-I squads, only two are hitting better than 43% from three. UCLA leads the nation at 43.3%. So it is unlikely that our opponents will in aggregate continue to shoot like UCLA. If they do, well, hey, sometimes it just ain't your year.