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Western Carolina begins a new era with countless problems to solve

Well, I could probably count them, but what am I, a guy who likes counting things?

Cougar Cubs Celebrate The Holiday Season Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

NC State is back at it Wednesday night in Reynolds against Western Carolina, and the Catamounts, shall we say, have been in a bit of a funk for a while. That probably has something to do with the school’s decision to part ways with long-time coach Larry Hunter.

WCU has endured four consecutive losing seasons, finishing below 300 in the Pomeroy Ratings in each of the last two. There’s a bit of rebuilding to be done here, suffice it to say.

That task now belongs to Mark Prosser (the late Skip Prosser’s son), who has his first college head coaching gig after biding his time as an assistant at Wofford and Winthrop. Prosser is an unknown at this point, and so is a lot of his roster. What’s certain is that the program isn’t about to shake the doldrums straightaway.

The Catamounts are shooting the ball at a decent clip so far, but they have been plagued by an incredibly turnover-prone rotation—they are committing a turnover on a quarter of their possessions, a rate that ranks 350th nationally. That sort of shortcoming tends to negate a lot of positives, and there are few of those anyway. Western Carolina isn’t good at rebounding offensively or getting to the free throw line.

But Prosser has brought a bombs away approach to the program, which at least can make the offense interesting on occasion. A shade under 48% of WCU’s field goal attempts this season have been threes, a three-point rate that ranks 20th nationally. Remorseless jump shooting!

Sometimes that strategy is a wise one, like when you have a short lineup and you’re getting a terrifying percentage of your two-point attempts blocked. Like Western Carolina. It’s somewhat amazing that these guys are able to turn the ball over THIS much while being so perimeter-oriented—which I figure means fewer possessions with the ball in traffic—but they are dedicated.

The Catamounts’ leading scorer is junior college transfer forward Carlos Dotson, who at 6-7 is a rather husky 265 pounds. Also he has just a tremendous stat profile and I love him already. For example, he’s making 60.8% of his twos but only 47.9% of his free throws. He is so exceptionally turnover prone that his offensive rating is well below 100 despite such a solid field goal percentage. The dude does use his circumference to good effect on the glass—he has been excellent at both ends.

The other two guys averaging double figures are both guards—Matt Halverson and Kameron Gibson are the embodiment of the remorseless jump shooting mentality. Which is working out great for Gibson, who is 22-50 (that’s ... hang on hang on ... let’s see, carry the one ... ah, 44%) from deep. Halverson has made a third of his 66 attempts, which is not so good, but he has the edge in remorse rate. He is also incredibly allergic to two-pointers, having attempted only 13 in eight games.

Despite being three-heavy scorers, both of these guys are turning the ball over at a high rate. I do not understand what sorcery this is and I look forward to seeing how they make it happen. Kevin Keatts probably is too.

The less said about Western’s defense the better, and man do these guys have glaring problems. The root is their overall lack of size, as opponents are absolutely pounding them in the paint and having a lot of success doing so. Western Carolina also ranks dead last—that’s 353rd—in block rate. Opponents are making 56.2% of their twos. The Catamounts ain’t bothering a thing.

The Pomeroy Predictor likes NC State by 25.