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A tricky diagnosis

"What's wrong with the Tar Heels?"

This question has occupied pundits and fans alike and has generated a variety of possible answers as Carolina has stumbled in three of its last four games. But as C. Michael has demonstrated in his excellent work on guard play, turnovers, and defensive efficiency, it is hard to pinpoint a single reason or even a few reasons.

Personally, I am of the belief that the answer to UNC's perceived woes is rebounding and reducing turnovers, but the numbers don't always bear that out either. In Carolina's six losses, the Heels actually average a +2.3 rebounding margin, and were only destroyed on the boards against Texas. In their 12 wins, however, UNC is +11.4 in rebounding margin.

Likewise, as it relates to turnovers, in its six losses, UNC is averaging 17.6 turnovers per game. In the 12 wins, the turnover average is 16.4. An improvement, but a difference of only 1.2 turnovers per game is not the reason this team has lost six games out of eighteen. Thus these two indicators are practically negligible from a statistical standpoint.

There are two stats that are substantially disparate in UNC's wins vs. losses: assists and field goal percentage. In Carolina's 12 wins, the team has averaged 20.6 assists per game, but only 13.5 assists in the 6 losses. While this is not a precise measure of efficiency, it does give an idea of the fluidity and success of the team on the offensive end of the floor. When the offense is in sync, the ball is being distributed well and the assists go up. When the offense is struggling, assists go down.

Field goal percentage also shows a large discrepancy between the wins and losses. In Carolina's 12 wins, the team has averaged 52.7% shooting from the floor, and only 4 times have the Heels won shooting less than 50%. In the six losses, UNC has averaged 40.8%; in 4 of the 6 losses, Carolina shot less than 40%. Field goal percentage defense also shows the same variation, as UNC's opponents have shot 45.7% in the losses and 38.8% in the wins.

So what does all this mean? Basically, when the Tar Heels shoot well and keep the opponent from shooting well, they are statistically more likely to win. (In other breaking news, the sun comes up in the east) But it does show that there is no one simple answer in what it will take to snap the current skid.