Yesterday was a milestone win for North Carolina. For the 5th time in the last 8 seasons, UNC reached the 30-win plateau. That is the same number of 30-win seasons as UNC had in the previous fifty seasons! Granted, it wasn't until 1980 that teams consistently played (well) over 30 games a season, but regardless, the run that UNC is currently in the midst of is truly one of the best in school history.
This game was really defined by Carolina's defense, which was outstanding. UNC held UVM to an anemic offensive efficiency (OE) of 82.7, limiting the Catamounts to an eFG% of 42.1 and a TS% of 43.4, while forcing them into turnovers in 28.2% of their possessions. Importantly, most of the turnovers that UNC did force were "live ball," as UNC had a season's best steal percentage of 19.7, more than double their season's average (9.7) and the best effort by any Tar Heel team since the '09 Champs took out Valpo in December of 2008. Carolina's ability to take the ball away from Vermont was especially important in this game, as it helped offset one of their poorer rebounding games of the season. While the rebounding totals are somewhat skewed by the fact that Vermont grabbed the game's last 7 rebounds against UNC's deep bench, the team's main rotation still should have found a way to rebound more that 64.7% of the Catamounts' misses during the games' first 37 minutes.
On offense, it really boils down to the fact that UNC missed too many easy shots. UNC missed eight layups, five of which resulted in a non-scoring possession. Fortunately for the Heels, they were able to counter-balance this by once again limiting their turnovers (TO%: 15.5) and capitalizing at the line (FTR: 36.9, FT%: 75.0). This is not the first time this season that UNC has missed a lot of bunnies, and one does have to wonder if it will cost them some time in the next three weeks. Then again, as we saw against Duke, this team does have the ability to make shots at a high rate, and when they do, they are almost impossible to beat.
- UNC had a 2.5-minute stretch in the middle of the 2nd half in which it scored 16 points in 6 possessions (OE: 266.7). It is spurts like this that remind us that this team does have some significant offensive weaponry.
- In the first 23 games of the season, UNC shot 70.0% or better in only 8 games. It has now done so 10 times in the last 12 games (total: 75.3%). This is a fairly remarkable turnaround.
- UNC's TO% for the season is now down to 16.1, three-tenths of a percent lower than the 2009 teams' record (Roy Era).
Beyond the Box: Player Impact Ratings
[table id=214 /]
Ho hum... another game, another monster performance from Tyler Zeller. The senior center once again topped the 50-point P.I.R. plateau (7th time this season) with a quintessential stat sheet-stuffing performance. Zeller may not have shot particularly well (eFG%: 44.4), but he more than made up for it in the other areas of the game, going to the line 10 times (FTR: 111.1; FT%; 90.0) and producing a "tempo-free" quadruple-double with a 32.8 DR%, 20.2 OR%, 12.3 BLK%, and a 12.9 AST%.
While seeing Zeller at the top of the P.I.R. standings is nothing new, seeing James Michael McAdoo there is, and it is a very welcome sight. McAdoo, like Zeller, was able to make a significant, positive impact despite struggling from the field (eFG% 42.8) by leading the team in OR% (21.3) and most impressively, STL% (9.8). If there was one downside to McAdoo's aggressiveness in the defensive passing lanes, it was that it often took him out of defensive rebounding position (DR%: 4.5; way too low for a post), but overall, it is still hard to find too much fault in a game like this, especially from a player making just his 3rd career start.
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=215 /]