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UNC vs. UVa: Beyond the Box

61 - 36. UNC started, perhaps predictably, fairly slowly yesterday, which included allowing Virginia to hit on seven straight field goals at one point. But from about the 12-minute mark in the first half, through the final buzzer, the Tar Heels completely dominated the game, outscoring a team that had yet to lose by more than 3 points by 25. It was exactly the type of response I assume most Carolina fans had hoped for, but maybe it should have been more expected than it was. Since the insertion of Kendall Marshall into the starting lineup following the debacle in Atlanta, one thing this team has done very well is respond to a loss:

Jan 2011 - lose at GT: Won 5-straight, the last 3 by 20+.

Feb 2011 - lose at Duke: Won 9-straight, including beating Duke by 14.

Mar 2011 - lose to Duke: Won 3-straight, and played well in the NCAAT.

Nov 2011 - lose at UNLV: Won 10 of 11, most wins by 20+ and the only loss was at Kentucky by 1.

Jan 2012 - lose at FSU: Won 5-straight, first four by double figures.

So here we are again, in the days following a Tar Heel loss. And while UNC has responded well to their previous losses, the one thing that they have yet to do, the thing that is the hallmark of a Championship team, is follow up a loss with a streak of 10 or more wins. If they continue to play like they did yesterday, then such a streak is certainly possible.

Four Factors

As was mentioned in the intro, Carolina started the game slowly... really slowly.  At the 12:24 mark in the first half, UNC had an offensive efficiency (OE) of 50.0 and a defensive efficiency (DE) of 114.3.  It was at the point that the Heels' bench came in and, coincidentally or not, the game changed.  From that moment on, UNC's OE shot up more than 70 points (123.4) while their defense completely stymied the Cavs (DE: 70.6).  The two biggest differences between the first 8 minutes, and the last 32, were the way Carolina took care of the ball on offense and challenged Virginia's shots on defense.  For the game, UNC was pretty consistent when it came to shooting (they were really bad, with an eFG% of 36.0) and rebounding (they were really good, with an OR% of 48.9 and DR% of 78.4), but when it comes to turnovers and defensive stops, the differences were stark.  UNC had 4 of its first 14 possessions end in turnovers during  the first 8 minutes (28.6%).  Over the game's final 51 possessions, the Heels also had a total of 4 turnovers, which equates to an incredibly low TO% of 7.8.  Protecting the basketball is always important, but when a team is struggling with their shooting as much as Carolina was yesterday, it becomes absolutely critical.  The fact that UNC was able to produce an OE over 120 (which is outstanding) during the last 80% of the game while shooting less than 40.0 from the field is a testament to this.

On the defensive end of the court, the Carolina turnaround was just as impressive.  The Heels looked pretty lost during the game's initial minutes, allowing UVa to hit seven of their first 12 shots (58.3%).  However, from that aforementioned insertion of the Carolina bench on, Virginia was rendered completely impotent on offense, as they shot only 31.0% and turned the ball over on 23.8% of their possessions.  Some of this change may rest on Virginia, but there is no doubt that the bulk of it should be a credit to Carolina's defensive ability.

Statistical Highlights

  • This was the 7th game this season win which the Heels had a Steal% and Block% both over 10.0, tying the 2007 team for the most during Roy's tenure.
  • Coming into this season, UNC was 4 - 12 under Roy when they had an eFG% under 40.0.  This season, they are 2 - 0.  In both games, UNC has had Steal% and Block% over 10.0, an OR% over 40.o and a DR% over 70.0,  shot better than 75.0% from the line and turned the ball over in less than 12.5% of their possessions.
  • This is the first time that any of Roy's UNC teams have made only one three-pointer in back-to-back games.  Unfortunately, it looks like the team's biggest preseason question mark may be back in play.

Beyond the Box: Player Impact Ratings

[table id=181 /]

Before getting to the business at hand, I would be remiss if I failed to note the contribution to the game that was made by the Tar Heel bench.  After providing next to nothing in the game that we are no longer speaking of (combined P.I.R. = 17.0), the Carolina reserves (while down a player) rallied to nearly triple their impact against UVa (49.6), and as was mentioned earlier, all three were on the court when the game turned in Carolina's favor.  Much will be written about James Michael McAdoo's performance (9 points, 7 rebounds, season's best 26.6 P.I.R.), as well it should, but the 26 minutes played by Justin Watts and Stillman White were every bit as important.  And at this point in the season, any game in which Kendall Marshall's playing time can be kept to under 35 minutes is a huge bonus for the Heels.

Now, as for that aforementioned business: Tyler Zeller is as deserving a candidate for ACC Player of the Year as there is in the league (if not the most), and he did nothing yesterday to disprove this notion.  Zeller was absolutely brilliant yesterday, posting the highest single-game P.I.R. that any Tar Heel has had this season against an opponent who happened to have the player many have tabbed as the current POY front-runner (Mike Scott).   Zeller was not only the Heels only dominant scoring weapon (ORtg: 137.3, Floor% 70.0), but he also contributed in nearly every way possible, leading the team in Assist% and steals, while chipping in 9 rebounds and a block.

And as impressive as Zeller's game was yesterday, there really is not a lot that differentiates it from the other nine games he has had in ACC play; he has been that good.  Through 10 conference games, Zeller has the following statistical ranks:

PPG: 2nd
RPG: 1st (tie)
oRPG: 1st
dRPG: 2nd (tie)
BPG: 3rd (tie)
ORtg: 3rd
Floor%: 1st
FG%: 2nd
TS%: 2nd
eFG%: 7th

Of the statistical categories listed above, Mike Scott ranks ahead of Tyler Zeller in exactly ZERO.  Some will point out (correctly) that UVa plays a much slower pace than UNC does, which hurts Scott's overall numbers, but ORtg and the shooting percentages are all 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 at least somewhat neutered.  And I know that the writers won't use P.I.R., but Z has as many 50+ P.I.R. games in ACC play as the rest of the team (combined), has all season.

The question of Tyler Zeller's candidacy for ACC POY really boils down to a determination of the importance of one's play within the conference.  If it turns out that is ACC play is weighed more heavily (or entirely), then there really is no question.  Tyler Zeller is the ACC's Player of the Year.

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=182 /]