Last season N.C. State made 45.8 percent of its field goal attempts. In a year of stunning leaguewide shooting inefficiency, that was second-best, behind only the .459 accuracy of the first-place Tar Heels.
Amazingly, UNC's field goal percentage was the lowest to lead the league since 1960, when Wake Forest converted 44.8 percent of its shots. Perhaps slightly less amazing, virtually no one noticed. Carolina's accuracy ranked 68th among Division I squads in 2012.
Things are rather different this year. For N.C. State, anyway.
Through games of December 22 the Wolfpack hit at a 53.4 percent clip from the floor. The Pack made fewer than half its shots only twice in their first 11 games -- a loss to Oklahoma State and a win over UConn.
Nearly half the teams in the ACC are more accurate so far this season than the '12 Heels; that doesn't include this year's Carolina squad.
The percentages likely will decline as league play begins and the lineup of weakling nonconference opponents recedes in the rearview mirror. Even so, this appears to be an unusually efficient Wolfpack squad offensively.
The last time an N.C. State team made more than half its field goal tries was 1989, at 50.1 percent. That also was the last time the school finished atop the ACC standings.
Interestingly, the '89 squad featuring Rodney Monroe, Chucky Brown, Brian Howard, and playmaker Chris Corchiani recorded assists on 60.4 percent of its baskets.
So far the current group featuring C.J. Leslie, T.J. Warren, Richard Howell, Scott Wood, and playmaker Lorenzo Brown notched assists on fewer than half its field goals (49.2 percent). Only Virginia Tech and Clemson are less adept at setting up teammates via pass.
Yet N.C. State also ranks fifth in the ACC in assists. The four teams with more assists all rely on passes to set up better than 60 percent of their made field goals.
That odd Pack profile is explained in part by remarkable individual accuracy, most of it achieved close to the basket. Warren is first among official ACC marksmen at 68.1 percent, Howell second at 64.4, and Leslie fourth at 60.4.
The trio is responsible for more than half (55 percent) of N.C. State's converted field goals. Between them they've attempted a mere 14 3-pointers. That's less than five percent of their shots, indicating an interior strength that's going to be difficult for opponents to contain.
By the way, the N.C. State record for team accuracy is 52.1 percent, set in 1982, Jim Valvano's second year as head coach.
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