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Early conference check: NC State’s 2018 so far

Not the prettiest of pictures but it could be worse.

NCAA Basketball: Clemson at North Carolina State Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

NC State is off to a reasonable start to ACC play in Kevin Keatts’ first season—at least when it comes to results—but what about the team’s underlying performance relative to last season? It’s early, but we may as well have a quick look-see.

Conference Stats Only

NCSU Offense 2018 2017
NCSU Offense 2018 2017
OFF_EFF (lg rk) 99.7 (11) 102.8 (12)
eFG% 45.6 (12) 51.5 (11)
TO% 16.8 (7) 19.3 (14)
OR% 33.2 (5) 29.6 (8)
FTR 25.3 (12) 29.8 (11)

Important note: These numbers are not adjusted for strength of opponent. Keatts’ team has played the most difficult league schedule in the ACC so far, per the Pomeroy Ratings. Last year’s Wolfpack team had the third-toughest league schedule.

NC State is not producing as effectively in terms of points per possession this season—a significant dip in shooting percentage will do that—but relative to the rest of the league, it’s a smidge better than it finished last season, which is pretty impressive after those garbage performances on the road.

The Wolfpack is doing a better job taking care of the ball and grabbing offensive boards, and it’s a good thing it can rely more on those factors since it is missing a lot more shots.

NC State is shooting only 45.1% inside the arc this year, down from 51.4% last season (which ranked 4th in the league). Dennis Smith’s absence is definitely felt here, since he took a lot of shots and also hit nearly 54% of his twos in ACC play. There isn’t a guard on the current roster capable of replacing that production.

Conference Stats Only

NCSU Defense 2018 2017
NCSU Defense 2018 2017
DEF_EFF (lg rk) 114.5 (15) 118.4 (15)
eFG% 56.9 (14) 56.5 (15)
TO% 19.9 (5) 15.2 (14)
OR% 31.8 (9) 32.1 (11)
FTR 36.5 (13) 32.4 (8)

NC State’s defense once again ranks dead last in the ACC—it’s like putting on an old, dependable pair of shoes, ain’t it. But that’s okay. The Pack has played four games against top-five ACC offenses, including a Duke offense that might be historically good.

We’re seeing some of the effects of Keatts’ system, namely in the turnover category, where State is proving much more disruptive than the Gott man’s turnover-indifferent defense-type substance.

This year’s team is getting killed in the paint to the tune of 55.9% two-point shooting by opponents, but there’s only so much that can be done there with this frontcourt.

Also, NC State’s free throw luck has not improved, as ACC opponents have hit over 80% from the line so far. That’ll probably go down. Probably.