And so it ends. I don't know how anyone can think this was a good season, I mean last year's team was still playing at this point in the season!
Obviously, I am kidding.
This was a tremendous season, especially when you consider that from December 1st on, UNC went 25-5. Was it as ultimately successful as some of Carolina's past seasons? No, but in many ways, it was more fun to watch, as we got to see a collection of individual of talents grow into a collective unit that may be on the precipice of greatness. Whether they ever reach that level (or get to attempt to reach that level) will be answered in the weeks and months to come, but for now, the only real disappointment in this season's end is the fact that we will now have to wait another 8 months to see this team play again.
The biggest difference between this game and the first match-up between these two teams? Free throws. In the game in December, UNC had an FTR of 63.8% and made 26 free-throws. On Sunday, those numbers fell to 24.2% (FTR) and 12 (FTM). A big reason for UNC's drop in FTR can be traced to Tyler Zeller's statline. In the game in December, Tyler Zeller lead the team with a possession % of 26.3 and a FTR of 92.3. On Sunday, his possession % fell to 19.3 (third on the team) and his FTR fell to a paltry 25.0. UNC simply did not do as good a job of making Zeller the focal point of the offense, and as a result, their FTR suffered. If UNC had just reached their season average FTR of 37.9, then at the 80% clip they shot for the game, they would have had an additional 7 points. Pretty obvious as to how 7 more points could have changed things. And while there is no doubt that Kentucky shot incredibly well, and it is difficult to win when you give up an eFG% of 58.9, the Heels did beat Clemson when they had an eFG% of 59.1, and had the Heels found a way to get Zeller a few more possessions, they very easily could have done it again.
- This was only the second time all season that the Heels had a steal percentage over 10.0 (13.8) and lost (Vanderbilt). For the season, they were 11-2 when they got a steal in 10.0% or more of their opponent's possessions.
- With zero blocks, John Henson snapped his incredible 21-game streak of blocking at least one shot. For the season, Henson had at least one block in 32 of UNC's 37 games.
- Justin Watts (+19) led the team in Roland Rating, albeit it was only in 6 minutes of game time. Justin Knox (+9) led those who played at least 10 minutes. John Henson had the lowest score on the team, at -23.
Beyond the Box Player of the Game
Before getting to the POG, 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=115 /]
No player really stood out enough to warrant being named the Player of the Game, but there were two who were close.
Tyler Zeller had an extremely efficient game offense, once again posting a team leading ORtg, along with team bests in eFG% (75.0), TS% (78.2) and Floor % (70.2), en route to his 4th straight game with 20+ points. Had Zeller had a more significant possession %, he likely would have been a clear-cut choice for POG, and while much of this fault belongs to his teammates, he did not help matters with an OR% of only 6.1.
The second player who stood out was Dexter Strickland. Strickland put together a classic stat-stuffing line of 11 points, 4 rebounds, 3 steals, 2 assists, ZERO turnovers, and finished second on the team in both ORtg (128.0) and Floor % (66.6). And on the defensive side of the court, while Brandon Knight was able to score 22 points, Strickland was still able to harass him into a 7-18 shooting performance and 3 turnovers. Like Zeller, Strickland is ending the season on a streak of arguably his four best games. With the confidence, and understanding of role, gained from these performances, and a full off-season to heal and improve, it is possible that the Strickland we saw in the NCAA Tournament is just the tip of the iceberg of what we will see next season.
Beyond the Box Player of the Year
The final rankings will be revealed in the year end "Beyond the Box."
Note: For reference, a full stats glossary can be found at StatSheet.com.