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NC State heads to UNCG for matchup with defensive-minded Spartans

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It’s another opportunity for some revenge.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: NOV 30 UNC Greensboro at Georgetown Photo by Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It shouldn’t be necessary anymore to explain that UNC-Greensboro has a good program these days, not after the Spartans went to Raleigh and won a couple years ago. NC State has its chance Sunday to get even, though it doesn’t figure to be easy.

Greensboro has won 44 SoCon games over the last three seasons and will again be one of the best teams in that league. The Spartans made the NCAAs in 2018 and came up short in the league tournament title game last year. They’re looking at a third consecutive season finishing in the KenPom top 100. You could argue Wes Miller’s program is on more stable footing than Wake Forest’s.

That’s no small feat considering that Miller’s first UNCG team finished at No. 280 in the Pomeroy Ratings.

UNCG Offense

2020 Spartans Off_Eff (rk) eFG% TO% OR% FTR
2020 Spartans Off_Eff (rk) eFG% TO% OR% FTR
Offense 99.6 (186) 47.4 (229) 16.6 (38) 32.6 (65) 23.2 (321)

The Spartans lost a couple of excellent three-point shooters to graduation in 2019 but this has not stopped them from taking even more threes this year, despite not having nearly the same depth of shooting talent. Over 46% of UNCG’s field goal attempts this season are threes, but the team has made only 29.2% of them. This is not a good outside shooting team, and that’s not an early-season fluke.

Fortunately, the Spartans have taken care of the basketball and rebounded well at this end; they’ve also hit their twos at an above-average clip. All of that helps quite a bit since their outside shooting has been a liability more often than not this season.

Starters

Isaiah Miller (6’0, 180) — I about did a double take when I saw that Miller leads the country in workload, and holy crap does this guy handle a lot. He is taking 41.2% of UNCG’s shots while he is on the court, averaging 24 FGAs per 40 minutes. Basically he does the work of two guys at the offensive end. He’s always been a high-workload guy, but this year he’s gone to plaid.

I’m always fascinated by players who own so much of the offense like this—how necessary can it possibly be to do this much? It’s true that Miller doesn’t have a ton of scoring punch around him, but even so, ... I dunno, man.

Miller is an oddity in a number of ways: he is a career 53.8% free throw shooter and a career 54% shooter on twos. Both are unusual numbers for a short guy. This year he’s 17-42 from the charity stripe. I can only imagine the kinds of roller-coaster games this dude has.

Malik Massey (6’3, 195) — Doesn’t shoot it often, which is a good thing for UNCG. He’s average from beyond the arc and way, way worse than average inside of it.

Angelo Allegri (6’7, 205) — The promise he showed as a freshman hasn’t been there in year two—he’s been ice cold from three, making just 8 of 35 attempts. He’s not much use in any area that doesn’t involve shooting, so this is a problem.

Kyrin Galloway (6’8, 215) — Speaking of oddities, here’s another: Galloway has attempted 58 three-pointers and just seven twos. Last year, that balance was 106-136. Galloway is a career 64% shooter inside the arc, and not on an insignificant number of shots, so the near disappearance of those shots in 2020 is weird. Galloway also is one of the best shot blockers in the country. How many three-point specialist types have a top-40 block rate to boot?

James Dickey (6’10, 215) — Dickey has been an elite shot blocker throughout his career, and he rebounds well at both ends, too. He should probably get more looks at the offensive end given that he’s shooting 62.5% from the floor, but that may not happen what with Miller dominating the ball so much.

Bench

Keyshaun Langley (6’1, 165), Michael Hueitt (6’3, 170), Bas Leyte (6’10, 220), Mohammed Abdulsalam (6’9, 255). The bigs don’t figure to shoot too often, while Langley and Hueitt have combined to attempt 68 threes and 24 twos. Both are below 30% on those threes.

UNCG Defense

2020 Spartans Def_Eff (rk) eFG% TO% OR% FTR
2020 Spartans Def_Eff (rk) eFG% TO% OR% FTR
Defense 91.6 (42) 44.6 (41) 26.9 (7) 27.3 (147) 40.0 (298)

The Spartans’ defense is good enough to keep them in games against just about anybody, and their interior defense in particular has been outstanding: they are 24th in 2FG% defense and rank fifth in block rate. Toss in their impressive turnover rate and you’ve got a real tough nut to crack. The only glaring weakness is that free throw rate—they’re a little handsy in their attempts to be disruptive, which is leading to a lot of fouls.

They’ve also been fortunate that opponents have hit only 58.8% of their free throws, and that ain’t gonna last. But this defense is good regardless.

The Pomeroy Predictor likes NC State by two.