Yes, Nicholls (State?) is awful (KenPom rank: 336). And yes, the Heels should have beaten the tar out of them. But as anyone who watches college basketball knows, what a college basketball team should do on paper, and what said team does do on the court, rarely equate to the same thing. So congrats to the Heels for taking care of business (especially on defense)... and now it's on to our old buddy Rick Barnes.
What a difference 48 hours makes. When we last saw the Heels on the court, they were in the process of giving up more than 1.7 points per possession over the final 9 minutes of their contest with ASU. Not good, not good at all. Last night was the exact opposite of that: the Heels defensive output was spectacular. The 0.57 points per possession (Defensive Efficiency: 57.0) the Heels gave up was the second best raw DE in the Roy Williams' era (the 2006 team held UNC-A to 0.56 PPP). Certainly, the level of competition needs to be taken into consideration, but even if you adjust UNC's DE to account for Nicholls' (lack of) ability, it still comes out to an incredible 63.4. Perhaps the most impressive part of UNC's defensive performance was that they did it in all three phases. They challenged shots (eFG%: 32.9; BLK%; 15.7), they forced turnovers (TO%: 26.8; STL%: 15.1) and they pounded the defensive glass (DR%: 82.0). Do any two of those well, and you are going to be in good shape defensively. Do all three well, and the results speak for themselves.
Offensively, it was ugly, but still somewhat effective, as the Heels ended the game right at there season average for raw offensive efficiency (115.1). While the shooting was (really) off, especially in the first half (FG%: 40.4; FT%: 33.3), UNC was able to put together a reasonable output by dominating the offensive glass (OR%: 54.4), which led to a season's best floor% (scoring possessions / total possessions) of 69.4. Obviously, the free-throw shooting in the first half was abysmal, but the team had shot 70.2% from the line in the preceding 5 games, and rebounded to shoot 70.0% in the second half, so there is at least some reason to believe the first half performance was a bit of a fluke (especially considering Barnes/Zeller/Hairston/Marshall combined to go 4-13 from the line in the first half).
- UNC scored 90+ points 4 times in 37 games during the 2010 season. They did so 6 times in 37 games last season. Through 12 games this season, the Heels have now scored 90+ points 6 times (the 2005 and 2009 teams did it 16 times each; the 2008 team did it a remarkable 20).
- This was only the 3rd time under Roy that the Heels steal and block percentages were both over 15.0 (2005: at VaTech; 2008: Valpo).
- This is the first of Roy's Tar Heel teams to have two games in a single season with a raw DE under 65.0.
- After shooting 47.6% from behind the arc over the previous 7 games, UNC has hit only 6 of 29 (20.6%) during the last two. Obviously, the Heels were not going to maintain a greater than 45% shooting rate for the entire season, but if they can stay around their current 39.0%, then they will be more than okay.
Beyond the Box: Player Impact Ratings
[table id=153 /]
In a game that saw 13 Tar Heels score, 10 record an assist, and 9 get a steal, it should be no surprise that there were a season high 9 players reach double figures (all above 15) in P.I.R. John Henson led the way (again) with a solid 35.6, on the strength of terrific work on the defensive end (BLK%: 27.7; DR%: 30.4), but overall, it was a really balanced performance. Particularly impressive was the performance of Carolina's bench, as Bullock, Hairston, McAdoo all posted ORtgs over 130.0 while combining for 46 points and 26 rebounds and turning the ball over only twice. And perhaps most importantly, it was their insertion at the 16:25 mark of the second half that seemed to spark a 9-minute stretch that saw UNC turn a 23-point lead into a 46-point blowout.
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=154 /]