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William & Mary’s roster is almost entirely new, but the results not so much

Maybe it’s the headbands.

NCAA Basketball: William & Mary at Pittsburgh Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

NC State returns to action Tuesday night against a William & Mary team that is new and enhanced and still in mourning over the death of the Queen. Well, two of those three things are true.

The Tribe brought in five freshmen and five transfers after losing like four transfers out, plus graduates, off a team that won only five games last season, and had zero wins against a D-I opponent before Christmas. That unfortunately low bar has already been cleared, as the Tribe have recorded wins over Army and Radford. Look at them go!

Their outlook is better, to be sure, but it’s still not great.

A Tribe Called Blech

W&M in '23 Adj OE/DE (rk) eFG% TO% OR% 2FG% 3FG%
W&M in '23 Adj OE/DE (rk) eFG% TO% OR% 2FG% 3FG%
Offense 98.1 (243) 47.9 (240) 17.1 (84) 31.9 (103) 45.8 (284) 34.9 (126)
Defense 109.9 (334) 55.1 (314) 18.1 (212) 32.3 (286) 52.3 (252) 39.3 (330)

William & Mary has played a couple of ACC teams already, losing 94-77 and Virginia Tech and 80-64 at Pittsburgh.

The Tribe’s leading scorer is forward Ben Wright (6’9, 220), who as a third-year player in the program serves as a rare beacon of continuity. He’s the team’s highest-workload player by a wide margin and takes 29% of the shots while on the court. That’s put a dent in his shooting efficiency, but he’s still making a respectable 51.7% inside the arc. (He has yet to attempt a three this season.)

Wright has been an excellent offensive rebounder throughout his career and he’s pretty good at drawing contact as well. His big problem is that he tends to get into foul trouble. He fouled out of seven games last season, for example.

The Tribe’s other two primary contributors have been impressive to start the year offensively. Point guard Anders Nelson (6’1, 172) is currently fourth nationally in assist rate and has at least five assists in every game he’s played this season. He’s also off to a 7-18 start from three after struggling from the perimeter in 2022.

Wing Gabe Dorsey (6’6, 215) just really, really needed a change of scenery, apparently. At Vanderbilt last year, he shot 2-27 from three. With the Tribe, he is 19-37. He’s very much a three-point specialist so it helps when the jumpers are going in. Otherwise he is not gonna be too visible out there.

W&M is a decent outside shooting team overall but doesn’t rely on that shot nearly as much as it once did. The Tribe rank just 288th in three-point attempt rate, which frankly just feels wrong. Also doesn’t seem to be working out too well.

The William and Mary defense has been severely limited by its inability to defend the paint: the Tribe don’t force misses, don’t block shots, don’t rebound well. I’d imagine we’ll see zone from them at times, and they’re going to want to slow this game down as much as they possibly can.

KenPom likes NC State by 21.