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What makes the NC State women’s basketball team so good? Let us count the ways

NCAA BASKETBALL: MAR 23 Div I Women’s Championship - First Round - Maine v NC State Photo by Michael Berg/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

What we’ve been yearning for on the men’s side for, well, decades now, Wes Moore has accomplished with the NC State women’s basketball program. The Wolfpack Women are a top-20 program routinely capable of reaching the second weekend of the NCAAs and competing for ACC championships. They’ve been to the Sweet Sixteen two years running and figure to make it three in a row.

The 2020 team is 11-0 after a clean sweep through non-conference play that includes a win over a top-10 Maryland group, so let’s have a look under the hood to see what’s made them so successful.

Wolfpack Offense

2020 Wolfpack Off_Eff (rk) eFG% TO% OR% FTR
2020 Wolfpack Off_Eff (rk) eFG% TO% OR% FTR
Offense 106.5 (19) 52.2 (23) 17.3 (65) 36.8 (74) 28.5 (115)

Last year’s NC State team was limited by a bizarre rash of ACL injuries, but now the Pack is only getting healthier as the year progresses and the players lost in 2019 continue regaining form. That’s a frightening prospect.

The Pack has been a good shooting team up to this point, ranking 23rd in 2FG% (51.0) and 34th in 3FG% (35.9). It’s a perimeter-oriented attack that keys off of Elissa Cunane’s dominant presence in the post.

The injuries last year provided an opportunity for Cunane to get a lot of minutes, allowing her to develop more quickly than she otherwise might have. She was an impact player by the second half of 2019 and has only gotten better as a sophomore. Not only is she shooting 65.7% on twos, she is a dominant rebounder at both ends.

Wolfpack Defense

2020 Wolfpack Def_Eff (rk) eFG% TO% OR% FTR
2020 Wolfpack Def_Eff (rk) eFG% TO% OR% FTR
Defense 73.7 (13) 37.0 (14) 17.5 (269) 22.1 (1) 11.6 (14)

NC State’s interior defense has been exceptional, and led by Cunane, this is the best defensive rebounding team in the country. Cunane’s defensive rebounding percentage is an absurd 30.8: basically, she accounts for three out of every 10 NC State defensive rebounds when she is on the floor. Cunane ranks 10th nationally in that category.

Opponents have made only a third of their two-point attempts this season and have been intimidated away from even trying those shots. State’s opposing three-point rate is 39.3%, which is the third-highest in the country. Opponents know they aren’t going to get much in the paint, so they’re settling for a whole bunch of jumpers.

Shutting down the interior and cleaning up the glass is a great recipe for success and they are so good in this regard that it’s likely to carry them through games even when opponents are shooting an unlikely number from deep.

At both ends of the floor, State can be effective in diverse ways, and that’s the sign of a really good team. The best of the best don’t need to rely heavily on just one area in order to win games and don’t simplify things for their opponents by providing just one obvious thing to account for.

NC State has evolved to that point under Wes Moore, and after a couple of good years, maybe the Pack is ready for the next step.