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UNC vs. Appalachian State: Beyond the Box

As THF mentioned in the post-game write-up, UNC really wasn't as rusty as is common after a week-off for exams. And while the score was certainly closer than most would have expected (or liked), as will be discussed on the other side of the break, the final totals don't exactly tell the entire story.

Four Factors

Looking at the game's final boxscore, it is very easy to come to the conclusion that UNC's defense was terrible, as they ended game with with their 3rd worst defensive efficiency (DE) of the season (112.3).  However, if you go a little beyond the box, you will see that UNC's overall defensive numbers are massively, and perhaps unfairly, skewed by the last 9 minutes of the game.  Over the first 31 minutes, UNC's DE was a decent 90.1, as they held ASU to 37.0% from the field and turned them over in 16.7% of their possessions (not great, but livable).  The last nine minutes, on the other hand, were awful.  ASU scored 33 points over their last 19 possessions (UNC DE: 173.7), shooting 64.3% from the field and turning the ball over only once (TO%: 5.3).  The Mountaineers also made 12 of their 13 free-throw attempts over the last nine minutes (FTR: 92.9), after taking only 4 over the first 31 minutes (FTR: 7.4).  Clearly, UNC's defensive numbers appear to be more a result of letting their foot of the gas (some of which can probably be attributed to looser substitution patterns) than a game-long lack of intensity.  How big a deal this is can certainly be debated, but it's not something that we haven't seen before with other UNC teams.

Offensively, despite a few quiet stretches, UNC did pretty much whatever they wanted.  For only the second time all season UNC had an offensive efficiency (OE) over 130 (132.3).  Unlike their first game over 130 (TSU), in which the Heels had a remarkable shooting night (eFG%: 70.5), last night's efficiency was built on solid shooting (eFG%: 56.1) and spectacular protection of the basketball (TO%: 9.6).  This was the first game that UNC had a TO% under 10.0 since they beat up Michigan State in the 2009 Title game and it was only the 5th time during the Roy Williams-era.  For the season, UNC has a TO% of 16.8, which if it holds, will be only the second time that the Heels have been under 17.0 under Roy (2009: 16.4%).

Statistical Highlights

  • Bucking a somewhat worrisome trend of struggling from the floor in the second half, against ASU, UNC saw their 2-pt. FG% jump from 57.5 in the 1st-half, to a fantastic 65.2 in the second.
  • P.J. Hairston had an absurd individual FTR of 600.0 (12 FTA, 2 FGA).  Hairston is obviously a great 3-point shooter, but he is also a terrific FT-shooter, so it would be great to see him attack the basket more like he did yesterday as the season moves forward.
  • UNC has now had an OE of 100.0 or better in 10 consecutive games, after failing to go more than 7 games in a row in either of the previous two seasons.  It is getting close to the time where preseason questions about UNC's offense should be put to bed.
  • Roy's jacket gets a 9.5 out of 10 on the "CM-Style Scale".

Beyond the Box: Player Impact Ratings

[table id=150 /]

Welcome back, Mr. Zeller.  Zeller's performance was nothing short of dominant, as he scored on 13 of his 16 possessions (Floor%: 86.6) and had a season-high OR% of 23.3, leading to a P.I.R. of 57.5, which is the highest of any Tar Heel this season.  Perhaps most importantly, the rest of the Heels appeared to recognize that Zeller was feeling it, and fed him through out the night, as his Shot% (34.9) and Possession% (33.7) were season highs and led the team by a significant margin.  Much has been made about Zeller's slow start to the season, but a quick glance at his numbers show that his overall production is now almost identical to last season.

[table id=152 /]

Given the improvement/emergence of John Henson on the offensive side, it is probably too much to expect that Zeller is going to significantly improve his overall scoring numbers from last season, but a team can win a lot of games if it gets about 30 points and 20 rebounds a game from its two low post players.

Season P.I.R.

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=151 /]