As you might imagine, your crack writing staff here at Tar Heel Blog exchange a fair number of emails about a wide range of topics. One such exchange over the weekend covered everything from Harrison Barnes production to Tyler Zeller's ACC POY chances.
Brian: Here is an interesting question. Does Barnes really "disappear" as people say or does UNC's other offensive options like Tyler Zeller simply consume the possessions and score the points leaving Barnes to defer at times? It seems like people think Barnes should be taking 25 shots a game but in reality he is taking what the offense gives him and playing within the team. There have been times he has played big, especially in the 2nd half versus Virginia Tech and Duke. And yes he could afford to finish around the basket better than he does but I am not convinced how much he "disappears"
Chris: That's the thing: as I said yesterday on Twitter, any possession in which Zeller does not touch the ball is a bad possession for the Heels. So if Barnes "disappearing" is really just the result of Tyler getting more touches, than I have no worries about his game. And he did have 11 rebounds yesterday and a 112 ORtg, so he was hardly terrible.
Doc: I think part of the "disappearing Barnes" issue is that he tends to score his points in bunches (thus the "Barnesbot acitvated" tweets nearly every game) or he will blow up on one half or the other. It's not like he's scoring every 4th or 5th basket for UNC throughout the game. So when all of the sudden he catches fire, it seems as if has reappeared. Quite frankly, UNC's offense is not designed to flow from the wings so if it appears Zeller is much more consistent it probably has to do with the fact that, as Chris pointed out, Carolina wants him or Henson to touch the ball every play.
Which leads to a secondary point: how valuable has Zeller been to UNC, particularly during the ACC season? Henson's offensive game, which was big in December, has largely vanished. Carolina's wings have had trouble hitting water if they fell out of a boat (not to mention the "Free Reggie" crowd has discovered it is harder to launch 3-bombs when actually having to guard someone - and Bullock has done a good job defensively, BTW). Zeller has essentially carried UNC through sluggish first halves until Barnesbot can activate. Admittedly I am biased, but I don't see how he is not the ACC POY at this point.
Chris: We all may be biased, but the numbers, at least since the start of conference play, clearly favor Zeller. As I wrote in the last BTB, Zeller ranks in the top- 3 in nine statistical categories, and of those stats, Mike Scott ranks ahead of him in exactly ZERO categories. Some will point out (correctly) that UVa plays a much slower pace than UNC does, but ORtg and the shooting percentages are tempo neutral, and if we are talking about possessions, Mike Scott actually has a larger possession % than does Zeller (27.8 - 24.8), so that argument is somewhat neutered. And I know that the writers won't use P.I.R., but Zeller has as many 50+ P.I.R. games in ACC play as the rest of the team, combined, has all season. I don't think it is necessarily wrong to make a case for Mike Scott as the POY, but to do so without giving Tyler Zeller at least a strong consideration certainly is.
Brian: Two issues will hurt Zeller.
1. Some voters will use overall stats and not ACC only. Scott is ahead in overall stats and the ACSMA does not set a guideline on which should be used.
2. The "MVP" vote. At least one local media guy said Scott is POY because UVa would not be ranked without him.
Then again would UNC be ranked without Zeller? Maybe, maybe not.
Chris: Agreed, and I do agree that Scott is a worthy candidate. I think the biggest factor will be how the next 6 games play out. If UNC ends up 14-2, which will include 2 wins against UVa, then it is going to be very hard to go Scott over Zeller.
Doc: I do think the value factor is overrated. Clearly UVA would not be ranked without Scott. But that's why I made the point about Zeller carrying UNC for at least the last 3 games until the cavalry could arrive. Zeller may be hurt by the fact he has more weapons around him. And frankly, I think there is the lingering perception that Zeller is not even the best player on his team - Harrison Barnes is, or at least should be. No one would argue that Barnes is having a POY season, but I wonder if people are unconsciously feeling they cannot vote for Zeller as POY when he isn't even UNC's best player.
I think it comes down to this: If Zeller averages 20 and 8 for the last 8 and UNC wins 7 of 8 or more, he will be hard to ignore.
Chris: And if we're going to view ACC POY as just the "most valuable," then anyone who votes for someone other than "Kendall Marshall" hasn't been paying attention.
Brian: It is important to remember that when Ty Lawson won ACC POY in 2009 he wasn't the leading scorer on the team nor was he really the first offensive option. He was the best player when UNC was on the floor and carried the team in crucial moments such as the second half at Duke. Zeller has carried this team in stretches even in the FSU debacle which gets lost in 33 points and 14.2 seconds.