There has been a lot written about North Carolina's win over Duke last night, but one important thing that has not been mentioned, at least in this regard, is that last night was UNC's 7th straight win, their longest streak of the season. So what is so important about winning a 7th straight game? Well, each of the last 10 National Champions has had at least one win-streak of seven or more games prior to entering the NCAA Tournament. Am I suggesting that the Tar Heels are now a serious contender to win crown this year? No, like the 1997 and 2007 teams, I think they are still too young and inexperienced to be considered "likely" to win it all. But also like those teams, these Heels are talented enough to do so, and at least now we have proof that they can be consistent enough to put a long win streak together.
This was a really impressive performance by North Carolina. Duke is a very good defensive team (raw Defensive Efficiency; 90.9), and yet, the Heels were basically able to do anything they wanted to do on offense. UNC posted an offensive efficiency of 115.7 and if they had shot free-throws like they had over the previous 6 games, they would have had an OE over 120. While UNC did shoot well from behind the arc (3P%: 44.4) they did an excellent job of being selective of when the did hoist a three and ended up getting a remarkable 71.6% of their points off of 2-point field goals.
On the defensive end, UNC was just as impressive, holding the Blue Devils to an OE (95.7) nearly 20 points below their average and their second lowest eFG% (40.3) of the season (at FSU: 40.2). Carolina did not get a lot of steals (STL%: 4.3) or blocks (BLK%: 1.6), but they were able to hold down the Duke offense by forcing the Devils into a lot of bad shots and cleaning up the defensive glass (DR%: 71.4). And Duke's starting front line was especially abused, going a combined 4-25 for the game.
- UNC's efficiency margin for the game (20.0) was their highest since their February shellacking of Florida State, and was the first time that they have had an EM of 20.o or greater over Duke since the 1998 team ran all over the Blue Devils.
- After the BC game, UNC had fallen to #72 in KenPom's rankings of adjusted offensive efficiency. Over the last 4 games, UNC has posted a raw OE of 109.4 and they are now ranked #39.
- This was only the 6th game all season, and 3rd in the ACC, in which the Tar Heels had a FG% over 50.0.
- In his first start of the season, Justin Knox led all Tar Heels with a +26 Roland Rating. Somewhat surprisingly, John Henson was the low man, with a score of -14.
Beyond the Box Player of the Game
Before getting to the POG for the Duke game, let’s first take a look at the top five ORtgs for the Tar Heels (minimum possession percentage: 10% or minimum minutes percentage: 80.0):
[table id=94 /]
It may have been Senior Night last night, but it was the freshmen who ended up stealing the show. Kendall Marshall was brilliant, posting another terrific ORtg (183.8) to go along with 11 assists (more than the entire Duke team) and an incredible A/T ratio of 5.5. Marshall's game was in many ways reminiscent of the way Ty Lawson dominated the Blue Devils, as Duke was entirely helpless in trying to prevent Marshall from going anywhere he wanted to on the floor.
Harrison Barnes was just as good, putting together the type of statsheet-stuffing performance (18 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals) that has become commonplace over the last 10-15 games. While his offense certainly gets the lion's share of the attention, Barnes has quietly become a very effective defender, and it was especially evident last night. Barnes absolutely shut Kyle Singler down, holding the popular preseason-NPOY pick to an ORtg of 62.3 and an awful eFG% of 21.4. And in what is now typical Barnes fashion, when the team was most in need of a play, it was the "Black Falcon" who swooped in to make it, putting together a personal 4-0 run to squash any momentum Duke might have been gaining coming out of halftime.
So Kendall Marshall and Harrison Barnes will share the final BTB POG of the regular season, and in some ways this is absolutely fitting. UNC started the season ranked in the top-10, primarily because of the potential play of the incoming freshmen, and UNC will now end the regular season in the top-10, primarily because of the actual play of the freshmen.
Beyond the Box Player of the Year
The BTB POY is based on a points system in which a player gets 10 points for being named the POG and 3 points for having a top five ORtg, with a 2 point bonus for having the top ORtg. What follows are the updated standings through the close of the regular season.
[table id=95 /]
I will continue to update the standings for as long as the Heels keep playing, so there is still plenty of time (hopefully) for Henson, Barnes, and/or Marshall to make a run at Tyler Zeller's stronghold on the POY crown.
Note: For reference, a full stats glossary can be found at StatSheet.com.