Needless to say, there is a lot going on right now. With everyone either knee-deep in brackets, or digesting the impact of the NCAA infractions, going back and rehashing the ins and outs of a loss that means very little in the grand scheme of things seems a little pointless, so the purpose of this post is just to update the season-long P.I.R. standings and provide a very general recap of the Heels' weekend in Atlanta.
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Looking at the rankings, three things jump out. First, Tyler Zeller has taken over the lead in the season standings. Granted, this is largely due to the fact that John Henson missed most of the tournament with an injured wrist (Henson still holds a small lead in per game average), but a large a large requirement in making an impact is staying on the floor, and given the injury issues that Zeller dealt with early in his career, the fact that he has not missed a game in the last two seasons should not be glossed over.
The second thing that jumps out is that Kendall Marshall now sits in the third position, surpassing Harrison Barnes thanks to a terrific 3-day run. While Zeller slightly edged out Marshall for the overall tournament P.I.R. title, Kendall was by far the most consistent, tallying scores of: 37.1, 38.8, and 38.1 over the 3-day tournament, all of which were significantly higher than his season average. Perhaps most importantly, Marshall showed that the scoring ability he demonstrated against Maryland and Duke at the end of the season is something that the Heels' can potentially count on in the coming weeks. In Marshall's first 67 games as a Tar Heel, he had back-to-back, double-figure scoring games exactly once. He has now reached double figures in four straight games and is averaging 15.0 ppg over that stretch. Remember, each of Roy's National Championship teams had 5 players who averaged at least 10.0 ppg; this team won't match that, but they now at least appear to be a threat to have five (or more) guys who could be in double figures on any given night. Defense is nice, but recent history has shown that you usually have to score your way to a Title.
And the last thing that jumps out is the way the other Tar Heels stepped up after the loss of Henson. With Henson out, and Zeller the sole focus of opposing defenses, UNC really needed the rest of his teammates to step up, and for the most part, that is exactly what they did. Kendall Marshall's impact (+8.5 per game) has already been discussed, but Justin Watts (+0.5), P.J. Hairston (+0.8), Harrison Barnes (+2.4), Reggie Bullock (+6.8), and most notably, James Michael McAdoo (+10.8), all deserve a lot of credit for answering the bell. Perhaps the most telling stat to describe the effort to make up for the loss of John Henson are the Heels' defensive rebounding percentages. Minus one the best defensive rebounders in the country (Henson ranks 27th in the NCAA and #1 in the ACC in DR%), UNC's DR% in each of its three games (73.2, 77.8, 76.9) were all above its season average of 72.3. North Carolina may have lost the ACC Tournament, but in the process it (re)gained a bench (while still earning a #1-seed), and in the long run, that could prove to be a very beneficial trade for the Heels.