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NC State basketball is finding an unusual level of defensive success


NCAA Basketball: Auburn at N.C. State Nell Redmond-USA TODAY Sports

We know that NC State is good at scoring efficiently—Kevin Keatts is good at building effective offenses, and heck, the Wolfpack has been good at the offensive end dating well back into the Gott man’s tenure.

For a long time, though, this program has had a problem playing efficient defense. It’s a problem that has plagued every NC State head coach in this century. I dunno what the deal is with that, but it has been an identity of sorts for a while.

NC State finished last season ranked 108th in adjusted defensive efficiency, marking a third consecutive sub-100 finish on that side of the ball. When State has made the NCAAs lately, it has done so in spite of its defense.

But maybe this is changing? Things definitely have moved in the right direction—State’s defense ranked 81st in the preseason Pomeroy Ratings but has moved all the way up to 52nd as of Wednesday night. That’s a big leap, and if it this level of play holds up consistently in ACC games, it will be an encouraging indicator that the Wolfpack can do serious damage in March.

It’s funny, looking back at the numbers this century, just how low the bar is for “best defense in recent memory” at NC State. Mark Gottfried never had a team finish higher than 76th in defensive efficiency. Sidney Lowe hit 48 one year, and the rest of his defenses ranked well below 100.

This leaves Herb Sendek, who by comparison is a titan of defensive strategetation. He even almost had a top-25 defense one time! The 2002 Wolfpack finished 26th in DE, which stands as the best mark of the 21st century for NC State hoops.

I don’t know that the 2019 Pack has it in ‘em to reach that rarefied air, but I’m not asking for too much just now. They’ve taken a good step forward.