The bottom-line for this week? The Tar Heels went on the road twice, against teams who, at the very least are fighting for their NCAA Tournament lives, and twice came away with victories. Was yesterday's offensive performance pretty heinous? You bet, but in the grand scheme of things, it means about as much as UNC's 48-46 win over B.C. did last year. Once UNC gets into the Tournament, they will not be facing teams who are as familiar with their tendencies or skill sets, which will make it far less likely that the Heels will encounter strategies that are as effective as that which Virginia used yesterday (e.g. UNC has won its last 6, and 11 of its last 12 NCAAT games played with less than 70 possessions).
Great defense or terrible offense? In truth, it was probably somewhere in the middle, though based on the last time the two teams matched up, it is likely that that middle leans towards great (or at least pretty good) defense. In two games versus the Cavaliers, UNC is now 3-24 (12.5%) from behind the arc; against everyone else, they are shooting 36.1%, which is not great, but is at least serviceable. And much like the Heels' last game against Virgina, this game was once again won on the boards and at the line. When the two teams played earlier in the month, UNC went wild on the offensive glass, grabbing 48.9% of their missed shots. Yesterday, while the Heels were not as active on the offensive boards (OR% 33.3), they were still effective; however, they were absolutely dominant on the defensive boards, grabbing 87.8% of UVa's misses, including a DR% of 90.5 in the second-half. Some of this, of course, is the result of a Virginia's tactical decision not to crash the boards, but regardless, 87.8 is still a huge number.
On the line, the story was exactly the same as it was two weeks ago, as the Heels enjoyed a huge advantage in terms of both the rate at which they went to the line (FTR: 45.1 - 10.0) and in their success once they got there (FT%: 78.3 - 50.0). The Heels have really been on an excellent run at the line lately. In the five games since the Duke loss (which was partly due to a failure on the line, despite shooting 70.0% for the game), UNC has hit 79 out of their 105 free-throw attempts (75.9%). If they are able to maintain that type of percentage for the rest of the season, then they will have turned one of their weaknesses into a potential strength.
- This was only the 3rd Tar Heel win during the Williams Era in which they had an offensive efficiency under 90 (OE: 88.5). The other two were the aforementioned B.C. game and the 2010 victory over Rhode Island in the N.I.T.
- Carolina's DR% of 87.8 was the second highest percentage against an ACC opponent under Roy Williams (2004: 88.5% against FSU).
- Is John Henson demonstrating another late season improvement at the line? Hitting 16 of 21 (FT%; 76.2) over his last 5 games suggests that the answer might be yes.
- While they were non-existent on the offensive end, some credit should be given to Harrison Barnes and Reggie Bullock for their work on the defensive glass. Each player had more rebounds off of Cavalier misses (Barnes 7, Bullock 6) than the entire Virginia team.
Beyond the Box: Player Impact Ratings
[table id=190 /]
North Carolina had three starters, all of whom had minute percentages of 80.0 or better, finish the game with ORtgs under 50.0... and won. While this certainly says something about the defense that UNC played against Virginia, it says a lot more about the impact John Henson and Tyler Zeller had on the game (with small, but not insignificant, contributions from James Michael McAdoo and P.J. Hairston, both of whom were quite efficient in limited minutes).
While John Henson was a force during the game's second 20 minutes (11 points, 6 rebounds, 1 block), his position at the top of the P.I.R. scoreboard is really the result of Tyler Zeller losing minutes to minor foul trouble. Zeller was instrumental in getting UNC off to a good start, scoring the team's first 10 points, en route to building an early 9 point lead, and when he was on the court, it was clear that he was the only viable, if not dominant, offensive option (for either team). Zeller was extremely efficient on offense (ORtg: 141.6, eFG%: 63.6, TS%: 72.2), including scoring on nearly 70 percent of his possessions (FR%: 69.6). This becomes even more impressive when UNC's team floor% of 46.8 is taken into consideration. And, of course, it can't be overlooked how badly Zeller outplayed the league's other top candidate for ACC Player of the Year, Mike Scott (ORtg; 44.7, FR%: 22.3, eFG%: 23.0, TS%: 23.0). In a year in which the POY vote is likely to be very close, a game like this could (and perhaps should) be the tipping point.
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=191 /]