Nearly half the teams in the ACC are doing an impressive job suppressing opponentsâ field goal accuracy. But itâs awfully early to take such numbers seriously, particularly as several of those squads are among the leagueâs weakest. The competition is about to get a lot tougher, as the Bethune-Cookmans, Shawnee States, and Stetsons are replaced on the schedule by conference rivals.
That said, after watching N.C. State thoroughly throttle George Washington, then 12th-ranked and undefeated, one would do well to pay close attention to what is an exceptional defensive unit, as its early field goal percentage defense attests.
Best Field Goal Percentage Defense By ACC Teams Since 1964,
When League Began Reporting Both Teams' Statistics
|* Through games of January 1, 2006|
|# Reached Final Four|
More and more, this appears to be the best team of Herb Sendekâs nine-year tenure at Raleigh, despite the coachâs protestation it âwould be reckless of meâ to make such an observation a dozen games into the season.
Others are less reticent.
âTheyâre capable of winning the national championship,â said GW coach Karl Hobbs, whose teams made 30.5 percent of its shots and scored 26 points below its average at Raleigh on Dec. 30. âThey play great team defense. Theyâre always in help position, and this is the thing: They really do trust each other defensively, and thatâs a hard thing to teach.â
Fifth-year senior Ilian Evtimov said that aptitude reflects the character of the squad -- a more cohesive unit, perhaps, now that Julius Hodge is gone. âI just think the unselfishness of this team makes it better than any team Iâve been on,â Evtimov observed. Sophomore center Cedric Simmons said the avid defensive commitment also arises âbecause coach gets on us so much in practice.â
The squadâs overall quickness and versatility is amply augmented by the emergence of the long-armed Simmons, a genial post player with a tattoo on his forearm exclaiming, âOnly God Can Judge Me.â
Simmons is second to Dukeâs Shelden Williams in blocks per game despite playing significantly fewer minutes (5.7 an outing), and sixth in the ACC in defensive rebounds. His presence already has a game-altering effect. âI donât think Iâm intimidating yet,â said the product of coastal North Carolina. âIâm only getting four (blocks) a game.â
Thereâs plenty of offensive balance, and perhaps the leagueâs best post tandem in Simmons and classmate Andrew Brackman. But itâs defensively that the Wolfpack shines.