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UNC vs. Wisconsin: Beyond the Box

While the Big "Ten" may have won the ACC/B1G Challenge for the third straight year, it was not enough to end the Tar Heels' recent ownership of the conference. UNC has gone 15-3 against the "Leaders and Legends" since Roy returned to Chapel Hill, including wins over two of the league's better teams this season. As for the game itself, well, let's just say that I am relieved that I don't do BTB for a Badgers' blog. It is obvious that when it comes to playing entertaining basketball, the Honey Badger don't care...

Four Factors

You have to give Wisconsin credit, they forced the Heels to play exactly the type of game they needed it to be.  A 60-possession brawl with no regard for esthetic appeal.  But in the same breathe, you also have to give the Heels as much, if not more credit for beating the Badgers at their own game.  While it certainly wasn't Carolina's finest offensive performance, they were able to eek out an offensive efficiency of 100.0, the first against a team that had been holding its opponents to under 0.7 points per possession.  And in the second half, despite having their 2PT FG% drop to a paltry 31.2%, the Heels still produced a respectable OE of 112.9 by dropping their TO% to a livable 19.4%, hitting 3 of 6 from beyond the arc, and making a living on the foul line (FTR: 81.8; FT%: 88.9).

On defense, Carolina was just as impressive, holding the Badgers to under 1.o points per possession for the first time all season (UNC DE: 95.0).  And that doesn't really tell the entire story, for over the first 39 minutes, UNC held Wisconsin to a remarkable 0.76 points per possession.  The Heels obviously did a much better job challenging Wisconsin's shooters (3P%: 28.6) then they did against UNLV, but just as important, they did so without fouling (6 FTAs) and did a terrific job on the defensive glass (DR%; 76.2).  As for that last minute  of the game (13 points in 5 possessions; DE: 260.0), well it certainly wasn't good, but the Heels had a fairly workable margin, and in truth, at least two of the shots the Badgers made were somewhat fluky.

Statistical Highlights

  • Isaiah Thomas (U. Washington), say hello to the newest member of the "Strickland Shut Me Down" club.  In the second half, Dexter Strickland held Jordan Taylor to 1 - 6 from the field  and 0-3 from deep.
  • For the first time all season, UNC failed to assist on at least 50% of its field goals (AST% 47.4).  This, combined with the Heels season-worst TO% (23.2), resulted in an A/T ratio of 0.64.  UNC had lost its previous 13 games with an A/T less than 0.7, a streak dating back to January of 2009 (at FSU).
  • This was only the 5th time that the Roy Williams-led Tar Heels have been held to 60 possessions or fewer.  Contrary to conventional wisdom, they have won all 5 games.  I really hope Roy ignores this.
  • The Heels limped through last November with a 4-3 record, producing an offensive efficiency (OE) of 104.7 and a defensive efficiency (DE) of 95.0.  This season, UNC sits at 6-1, with an OE and DE of 112.9 and 92.7, respectively.  They may not be playing at their ultimate level, but they sure are a lot better than the were a year ago.

Beyond the Box: Player Impact Ratings (Glossary)

[table id=142 /]

Harrison Barnes and Dexter Strickland will get a lot of attention for their performances yesterday, but in terms of overall impact, none were bigger than John Henson.  Seventeen rebounds and five blocks is an enormous game in any scenario, but to do that in a 60-possession game is really somewhat mind-boggling.  And while his scoring was neither prolific (9 points) nor efficient (ORtg: 94.4), he literally impacted the game in every other facet possible.  It takes a special talent to be able to amass assist, block, offensive and defensive rebounding percentages all over 15% while playing more than 30 minutes, but that is exactly what Henson did, and his P.I.R. of 57.1 is by far the largest we have seen this season (post-reduction of Blk%-weighting).

As for Barnes, his game yesterday in many ways described his season to date: he scored well, but didn't really impact the game in any other areas.  For the season, Barnes on the strength of significantly improved shooting from the field (FG%: 48.9) and from behind the arc (3P%: 38.9) is averaging almost 18 ppg (17.7; up 2.1 from last season) and has been remarkably consistent, scoring at least 15 points in every game this season. (It took Barnes 24 games to get his 7th 15-point game last season.  Think about that...)  However, his per game averages in rebounds, assists, and blocks are all down by more than 20%.  Given the struggles that last year's team had scoring, and the make up of the current starting roster, this is probably a trade off that Carolina fans would willingly make, but if/when Carolina really takes off, I imagine it will coincide with Barnes becoming more of a presence in other areas of the game.

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=143 /]