I almost didn't post this simply because I can only imagine the kind of chaos that will consume the comments section. Alas, what can you do but toss one of the hot button issues among UNC basketball fans out there for discussion.
SI.com's Luke Winn posted his weekly power rankings which included some analysis via Tobacco Road Blues' UNC statistical guru Adrian Atkinson(who can be found on Twitter as @Freeportkid and is worth a follow for his constant tweeting of statistical nuggets about UNC) Winn draws out a couple of significant observations from numbers such as it appears John Henson is even better on defense than he was last year. Yeah, that's freaking scary. In addition Winn noted some interesting conclusions about Reggie Bullock and Harrison Barnes on the defensive end.
1. Sophomore shooting guard Reggie Bullock, whose injury-limited '10-11 numbers we left out of the magazine study due to small-sample concerns, has emerged as a fabulous perimeter defender. He has a team-high stop percentage of 71.8; for context, the highest stop percentage in SI's preview study belonged to Florida State's Bernard James, at 64.6. Bullock is allowing opponents to shoot just 16.1 percent on three-point attempts, and Atkinson also calls him the best ball-denial defender on the team.
2. Sophomore small forward Harrison Barnes, who was a middle-of-the-pack defender last season, has regressed to the point that he has the worst stop percentage of any rotation player (50.6). He's allowing opponents to shoot 49.0 percent on three-point attempts, and his defensive rebounding percentage has dropped from 12.6 as a freshman to a non-factor-level 7.4. Barnes needs to be a more engaged defender if he plans on leading UNC to a national championship.
So, I know what you're thinking. If Bullock is UNC's best perimeter defender and clearly a better three point shooter than Dexter Strickland then why in the name of Bill Guthridge's alphabetical starting lineup rotation is he not starting? Well, I am not sure there is a good answer for that other than Roy Williams has his reasons. One of those reasons might be to keep some offense on the bench to rotate into the game so there is no offensive drop-off when rotating the starters off. There is also the fact Strickland is quicker and gives UNC a different dimension in transition than maybe Bullock can provide. I doubt any of these reasons hold water with most folks but whatever. As noted multiple times, starting is not nearly as consequential as people might think. Roy has shown in at least two games his willingness to go with Bullock over Strickland at the end of games which is a far more important portion of the game than the beginning. Not to mention, let's not act like UNC's offense has been suffering which is to say, as long as Bullock gets a fairly even split in minutes with Strickland(much like the split between Marcus Ginyard and Danny Green in 2008) the question of who starts is sort of moot.
The tidbit about Harrison Barnes is really interesting as is ESPN's Chad Ford asserting that Barnes' draft stock might be slipping. Ford's concern is with Barnes' offensive game where the sophomore is really only effective as a jump shooter. Barnes is not scoring at the rim and his handle hasn't really improved over last season(To% is 3% higher this season.) In addition to the concerns about the well rounded nature of his offensive game, Barnes has not been as effective on defense. The stop percentage aside, it doesn't take much of an eye to see Barnes is not rebounding the ball as much as he did last season. The difference in DR% from last season to this one is pretty stark and it would help UNC tremendously if Barnes could improve on that number going forward.
The encouraging note is Barnes hit his stride once ACC play got rolling. If he does that again(along with Zeller) this team will take a huge leap forward to where they need to be for a national title run.