The Tar Heels opened their 2010-2011 season on Friday night against Lipscomb, and for the 6th consecutive time, they did so with a victory. The Heels came out unexpectedly slow and trailed early, but from the first TV timeout on, they controlled the game fairly well and outscored the Bison 76-56. For those who missed it, official THF recap can be found here, but now that we have had time to digest what see saw on Friday, it is time to go inside the boxscore so we can extract a statistical breakdown of what happened, and why the Heels won.
In what will be a new feature to THF this year, after each game I will provide a review that goes beyond the basic boxscore and uses some of the more advanced metrics to provide an alternative view of what went right and, and in the case of losses, wrong for the Heels. Every recap will start with an examination of the “Four Factors” of the previous game and then discuss other statistical highlights and oddities for the Heels.
The Four Factors concept was developed by stats-guru Dean Oliver and is discussed in great detail on his blog, which can be found here . In short, the concept is based on the very simple (and obvious) idea that to win games you must score more points than your opponent, and that there are for major factors that determine a teams ability to do so: shooting well, maximizing your possessions, minimizing the impact of your misses, and getting to the foul line.
As is mentioned by Oliver, the fact that the Four Factors are presented together is not meant to imply that each of the the four factors carries the same amount of weight. As it applies to this game, the relative weights of each is moot because Carolina outplayed the Bison in every category: the Heels shot better, turned the ball over less, rebounded more of their misses, and went to the line at a higher rate. While UNC did hold an advantage in each of the Four Factors, it is the plateau they reached in the "Shooting Factor" that was most important in securing the win.
Friday night's game marked the 161st time under Roy Williams that the Heels had an eFG% (Definition: ((FGM + (0.5 x 3PM))/FGA) of 50% or greater. In those games, the Heels are 151 - 10 (0.938); in all others, they are a very pedestrian 46 - 44 (0.511). Quite simply, when the Heels shoot well, they win. Even last year's team was a robust 14-1 when they reached the 50% plateau. None of the other factors have a such a dramatic impact on Roy's teams, especially in terms of both winning percentage and likelihood of occurrence.
Looking at what was one of last year's biggest bugaboos, turnovers, the Heels did a fairly decent job of protecting the ball. UNC turned the ball over on 18.7% of their possessions, which would represent a nice improvement over the nearly 21% they averaged last season, and is a massive improvement over the 31.3% they turned it over in the first game last season. For reference, the Heels had a TO% of 17.6 in the first game of the 2009 season.
- There were 75 possessions in the game Friday night, which is just a bit slower than the usual pace for the Tar Heels' season openers under Roy (77.5). Then again, the only team to have more than 80 possessions in the first game of the season was last year's team (83), so maybe we shouldn't read too much into this.
- Only 40% of the teams' FG were assisted on. Some of this can be attributed to having guys like Barnes and Bullock, who can create their own shots, but with two 'pass-first' point guards, you would expect this to be higher.
- John Henson was an absolute terror on the defensive end. Henson posted a defensive rebounding percentage of 47.6% and a stunning block percentage of 32.9%. Just think about that: when Henson was on the floor, he blocked nearly a THIRD of all of Lipscomb's 2 point FGA. Based on this, and what we saw the second half of last season, one has to wonder if Brendan Haywood's single-season record of 120 blocks is in jeopardy.
- UNC's interior defense, led by Henson, did a nice job keeping Lipscomb's star, Adnan Hodzic in check. Hodzic had an offensive rating under 100 and was held under 20 points for the first time in 13 games.
- UNC's +/- leaders, based on Roland Rating (Player's (+/-) + Team's (+/-) when on bench), were Reggie Bullock (+32) and Kendall Marshall (+30). On the opposite end of the spectrum were Larry Drew (-30) and Harrison Barnes (-24).
"Beyond the Box" Player of the Game
Before naming the POTG for the Lipscomb game, let's first take a look at the top five ORtgs for the Heels (minimum possession percentage: 10%):
[table id=48 /]
While I am sure that the names at the top are of no surprise, I would be remiss if I did not take a moment to mention the contribution of McDonald and Knox. Both came in off the bench and were able to provide Carolina minutes and surprisingly efficient scoring. Getting this level of play consistently, especially from Knox, would be an enormous boost to this team.
As for the player of the game, normally a statline like then one produced by Kendall Marshall would make the decision easy. Not only did Marshall shoot the ball with extreme, and somewhat surprising, efficiency, he also had an amazing assist percentage (percentage of teammates' FGM a player assisted) of 70.5% and led the Heels with a 9.6% steal percentage (steals/(min % * team possessions)). However, this is somewhat complicated because Marshall played less than 30% of the game and John Henson was such a beast on the defensive end. But in the end, offense will almost always win out and Henson's ORtg of 72.0 is really too low to overlook, so with that, a hearty congratulations goes out to the first BTB Player of the Game: Kendall Marshall.