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UNC Next Season: The Offense

Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

With the probability UNC returns everyone next season, the offense should be operating much closer to the expectations for a Roy Williams' team. That appeared to be true this past season as the average offensive efficiency bears out.

UNC 2014-15 Average OE

This chart shows the progression of UNC's offensive efficiency as captured by the "Tale of the Tape" posts which started with the game versus Butler in the Bahamas. UNC's efficiency actually started on the low side dipping to 106.2 after the loss to Butler before starting a steady progression up. It eventually peeked at 117.0 thanks to the offensive explosion versus Georgia Tech in Chapel Hill. Then the second NC State game happened and the number dropped off and eventually fell to 113.7 before slowly climbing again and finishing at 116.3. The 116.3 is the highest for a UNC team since 2009.

While the average offensive efficiency did show a nice progression there were games where UNC was inexplicably bad. On the offensive end.

UNC 2014-15 OE By Game

After operating at two extremes through the first eight games, UNC settled into a fairly reliable pattern of consistency when it came to offensive efficiency. After the ECU game which was the highest OE of the season, the Tar Heels rolled along between 100 and 120 with the notable exception being the Georgia Tech and NC State games in Chapel Hill. UNC went from being really good offensively to really bad on that end in a span of three days.

The disturbing aspect of UNC's offense is for a team ranked on the cusp of the top ten in offensive efficiency, the Tar Heels were susceptible to some really awful games. Three losses(Butler, Iowa and NC State) were direct results of the offense being well below par. In fact UNC was 1-5 when the offensive efficiency dipped below 100, 25-7 when UNC was 100 or better.

Looking towards next season, one key will be the offense finding game-to-game consistency and also raising the overall range in which UNC operates. The key to that could very well be the play of the backcourt, particularly Marcus Paige, Justin Jackson and Joel Berry.

In breaking down UNC's season, there final nine contests are separated out as the "Marcus Paige is healthy" portion of the season. Paige said the second win over Georgia Tech constituted his first pain free game in quite some time. It was also the game Joel Berry scored 15 points. Paige looked like the 2014 version in the following game against Duke and from there UNC appeared to be playing at a different level. During that span Jackson also played well and Berry seemed to find his footing after missing several games with injury. Here is what the backcourt trio did in the final nine games of the season.

Marcus Paige 9 36.2 16.0 4.7 2.7 2.8 0.1 46.1% 44.1% 96.0%
Justin Jackson 9 28.3 13.7 1.6 3.3 0.3 0.2 55.3% 43.3% 76.2%
Joel Berry 9 15.6 6.7 1.4 1.1 1.0 0.0 46.3% 50.0% 88.2%

There is probably an argument here for this being your starting backcourt next season. Over the final nine games of the season this trio shot 44.8% from three hitting 48 of 107 shots. A snapshot of the final nine games only tells part of the story. All three players were significantly better on the offensive end in the final nine games of the season than the previous 29(or in Berry's case 21) games.

Player Games PPG FG% FT% 3P%
Marcus Paige 29 13.4 39.8% 83.7% 38.0%
9 16.0 46.1% 96.0% 44.1%
Justin Jackson 29 9.8 32.0% 69.4% 24.2%
9 13.7 55.3% 76.2% 43.3%
Joel Berry 21 3.1 36.2% 65.0% 26.7%
9 6.7 46.3% 88.2% 50.0%

Jackson's numbers took an incredible leap forward during the final nine games which included facing Duke, Louisville, Virginia, Notre Dame and Wisconsin. All three players were 2-3 ppg better over the final nine games. Granted this is a small sample size but it could provide some insight into what next season might look like offensively for the Tar Heels. The Paige/Jackson/Berry trio effectively solved the perimeter shooting problem. If those three provides that kind of shooting out of the gate next season it can balance the offense and make the inside-out strategy more effective.

One key to avoiding offensive letdowns is to have multiple weapons that can score in a variety of ways. A healthy Paige and Jackson emerging helped with that. Berry getting more minutes along with progression from Theo Pinson and J.P. Tokoto operating with a very narrow selection of shots should give UNC enough options. The post game with Kennedy Meeks, Brice Johnson, Isaiah Hicks and Joel James should continue to be highly effective. Adding consistent perimeter scoring should make the Tar Heels one of the best offensive teams in the country.