That was a really, really good college basketball game (save for maybe the last 6-seconds, when things got a little "Pitt/Butler"). It was the kind of game where you (almost) wished that you didn't have a rooting interest, so you could just sit back and enjoy the game without the angst that comes from really wanting one of the teams to win. As John Gasaway (Basketball Prospectus, ESPN Insider) wrote during the game via Twitter: "These 2 shouldn't be seeing each other yet. Both clear 2nd weekend teams." But only one of those teams is moving on to the second weekend, and fortunately for us, it is the team we all root for. And yesterday's win did more than guarantee a trip to the Sweet 16; it also guaranteed that UNC would end the season with at least 20 more wins than they have losses. Considering that they struggled mightily just to get to 20 last year, that is a pretty remarkable accomplishment.
Again, this game was played on a really high level offensively, as both teams had an eFG% over 50.0 (UW: 52.8, UNC: 51.5) and made at least 50.0% of their three-point attempts (UW: 52.6, UNC: 50.0). The difference in the game ended up being the fact that the Tar Heels were able to squeeze out about two extra scoring possessions (UNC Flr%: 57.3, UW Flr%: 55.3) on the strength of a terrific TO% (12.1; 3rd best this season) and a dominant free-throw rate (UW: 9.7, UNC: 34.8). I am sure some will love to question such a discrepancy from the line, but this ignores the fact that 40.3% of Washington's FGA were either from 3 or occurred in transition, nor was this the first time UW had a FTR below 10.0 (9.1 in a win over Cal).
- After going 6 games in a row with an eFG% under 50.0 to close out February, the Heels have now been over the 50.0 mark in 6 of their 7 games in March.
- Washington broke a 10-game streak in which the Heels had out-rebounded their opponent, though the Huskies do rank 9th in the nation in RPG and 17th in OR%, so this is not entirely unexpected.
- For the 3rd time since becoming a starter, Kendall Marshall had an assist% over 50.0 (54.5). He did it 5 time coming of the bench, but to do it this frequency while logging starter's minutes is truly impressive.
- John Henson (+21) and Dexter Strickland (+19) were UNC's leaders in Roland Rating, while Justin Know had the low 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=110 /]
The phrase, "playing like you want to go home," often, especially around this time of year, has a pretty negative connotation associated with it. But that could not have been further from the truth yesterday, as Dexter Strickland was absolutely playing like an man who wanted to, "go home," and as a result, his teammates will be joining him on that trip, as they make their way to Newark. While Strickland was incredibly efficient on offense, with team's second best ORtg and a team leading eFG% (62.5) and Flr% (79.2), it was what he did on defense that really earns him the nod as the game's top player. Strickland led the team in DR% (17.6), but what will be most remembered is the fact that he completely took UW's star, Isaiah Thomas, out of the game. When the brackets were first announced, Tar Heel fans everywhere looked at this potential 2nd Round match-up (sorry, NCAA) with the Huskies and Thomas, and trembled as thoughts of Harold Arceneaux and other Carolina-killers of lore started flashing through their heads. Strickland rendered these fears moot, as he completely stifled Thomas, holding the Huskies'point guard to a paltry 2 for 12 from the field (Thomas was 3-3 from the field when Strickland was on the bench).
Oh, and did I mention that he did all of this with a torn meniscus in his knee?!
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.
[table id=111 /]
Note: For reference, a full stats glossary can be found at StatSheet.com.