What a difference a year makes. 2010 was a year that Tar Heel fans won't forget soon enough, as the calendar year saw the basketball Heels go a completely mediocre (which for UNC equals terrible) 18 - 18. The year 2011, after a bit of a tumultuous start, has been much more fun, and has seen UNC improve its cumulative record to 32-6. And if last night's domination of the Elon Phoenix is any indication of things to come, then 2012 may turn out to be a year that Tar Heel fans never forget. (Mayan "end of the world prediction" notwithstanding...)
This edition of the "Four Factors" is only going to focus on the first half, as the second stanza really amounted to nothing more than a nationally televised practice. Fueled by UNC's longest run since the 2008 team ripped off 25-straight to bury N.C. State (h/t Jones Angell), the Heels first half performance was a work of art, particularly on the defensive end. When UNC wasn't stealing the ball from Elon (Steal%: 18.2), they were doggedly contesting the Phoenix's shots (2P%; 25.0; 3P% 13.3; missed 26 of their last 29 shots in the 1st half) and cleaning up the mess afterwards (82.3). The end result was a 1st half defensive efficiency of 43.2, which needless to say, is truly outstanding. And it is hard to call this a fluke, as UNC has now held its last 3 opponents under 25 points in the first half. High powered offense will almost always be the hallmark of a Roy Williams' team, and there is no question that this group has some high-level offensive talent. But the length and athleticism possessed by this roster might be the best of any team Roy has ever had, and their effects are starting to be seen consistently on the defensive end.
- UNC's team TO% now sits at 16.6, which is terrific. It is possible that they could join the 2009 team as the only of Roy's teams at Chapel Hill to end the season with a TO% under 17.0.
- In the first 11 games of the season, Kendall Marshall had 11 steals. He has had 8 in the last 3. As important as the point guard is in Roy's offense system, it may be even more important in his defensive system.
- Over the last 8 games, Tyler Zeller is a remarkable 36 of 39 from the line (92.3%).
- John Henson and Tyler Zeller are on pace to become the first pair of UNC teammates to collect 300 rebounds (each) in a single season.
Beyond the Box: Player Impact Ratings
[table id=157 /]
It's no surprise to see the "Best Frontline in College Basketball" on top of the P.I.R. list, as they were all outstanding last night. But what is a bit surprising is that all three produced a P.I.R. over 30 (only the 2nd time all season) despite playing a combined 58 minutes, underscoring just how outstanding they really were. In those 58 minutes, the trio combined to score 53 points (FG%: 53.8, thanks in large part to a spectacular array of dunks) and grab 24 rebounds, all while essentially closing off the paint to Phoenix scorers (Elon had 8 points in the paint in the 1st half). The Big Three are currently averaging a combined 45.9 points per game, but as conference play approaches, and their minutes correspondingly increase, it is certainly possible that that average will move into the low-50s. If it does, and the Heels make a deep run in March, then it is possible that they could join 1998 teammates Jamison, Williams and Carter, as the only UNC trios to combine for 2000 points in a single season.
The cumulative impact ratings for each player can be found below. A player’s average P.I.R., both for the season and the last five games only considers games in which the player officially logged at least 1 minute of game time. The C.V. is a measure of variation; the smaller the percentage, the more consistent the player’s performance has been. While it is not technically correct to use in this instance, because P.I.R. is an interval scale (it can go into the negative), it still has some value for the top-tier players, who will likely have a positive P.I.R. in every game.
[table id=158 /]