Through the first six weeks of the college basketball season, NC State has evolved into one of the nation’s top offenses. The Pack 13th nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency, per KenPom, and fifth in effective shooting (58.6 eFG%). At some point this season, this team’s three-point efficiency will dip some, but for now, State ranks No. 6 in three-point percentage (41.1 3P%).
According to Synergy Sports, NC State has been one of the top half-court offenses this season, too: 0.99 points per possession (56.2 eFG%). On non-post-up attempts at the rim this season, NC State is 125-of-218 (57.3 FG%), per Synergy — 1.18 points per possession.
Open Real Estate
Regardless of opponent, NC State’s half-court offense wants to spread the floor with three or more shooters and play pick-and-roll basketball. It’s what they do best. In the win over Auburn, the game plan was no different; however, that screen-roll activity came with an added bonus.
Auburn center Austin Riley is one of the best shot-blockers in the nation; he’s rejected nearly 20 percent of opponent two-point attempts while on the floor this season (5.3 blocks per 40 minutes). That’s a monster number. With pick-and-roll conductors like Markell Johnson and Braxton Beverly — both of whom can shoot from deep off the dribble — NC State can put serious pressure on the defense. (Devon Daniels also did some good work in this action against Auburn.) You have to respect their three-point gravity, which can draw opposing bigs away from the rim.
Against the Tigers, NC State went 18-of-31 (58.1 FG%) on field goal attempts from inside the arc — with plenty of that work done at the rim.
Kevin Keatts likes to clear out space and target one of his players on a dive into that real estate. (This was something I touched on after the loss at Wisconsin.) Now, let’s take a look at another way NC State leverages that vacant space around the rim.
No Big Seal
Late in the first half, Beverly and Funderburk run a simple pick-and-roll; the sophomore guard dribbles left. Auburn doesn’t switch or use a hard hedge here, but Wiley shows and stays in front of Beverly for a dribble of the basketball as Funderburk rolls to the paint.
Keep an eye on NC State’s floor spacing. Four players are outside of the arc with Daniels and Blake Harris in opposite corners. Auburn’s defense is lifted with Wiley’s corral of Beverly. What happens next is really smart basketball. As Wiley recovers, Funderburk seals and Beverly swings the ball to Jericole Hellems, which creates a better passing angle. With no available help defenders because of the floor balance, this is an easy catch and finish for Funderburk.
Thoughts on DJ Funderburk and Wyatt Walker
The departure of Omer Yurtseven was significant for NC State; to have a 7-footer that can dive to the rim and shoot three-pointers is a serious weapon. Without Yurtseven, though, Keatts has received outstanding production from two transfer bigs: Funderburk and Walker.
As close to 100 percent of this team’s center minutes are split between these two dudes; so far, it’s worked rather well. The other floor spots are usually occupied with a ball handler and a couple switchy wings. The Pack have used plenty of dual point guard/combo guard lineups this season, too.
Working in tandem with Johnson, an outstanding screen-roll decision-maker, both have had serious success. According to Synergy, both Walker (65.6 eFG%) and Funderburk (71.4 eFG%) are scoring 1.35 points per possession as rollers this season.
Walker is a skilled screen-setter. Watch him play; he’s like a Diet Cody Zeller, if you are aware of the Charlotte Hornets center. He knows how to use angles and flips to deceive pick-and-roll defenders and get Johnson downhill. The other half, Funderburk, has a wild skill set. He’s bouncy and plays with excellent energy; plus, he has some stretch to his game (3-of-6 3PA). Both guys are shooting over 62 percent on two-point attempts, too.
With these two guys playing at high levels, NC State is once again getting outstanding production from the center position under Keatts.