Here’s the deal. UNC-Raleigh is really bad at basketball this year. The Tar Heels have proven to be very good at basketball. These two indisputable facts were reinforced last night, as UNC walloped the Wolfpack 97-73. Games like last night’s are fun, but they don’t always tell you a lot about your team. Fortunately, last night’s game still had some lessons for the average fan.
Don’t sleep on Luke Maye
Luke Maye left Raleigh with a career high 13 points. He scored from behind the arc, and in the paint. He even scored on a shot fake, one dribble, two-handed dunk. It was glorious. It was awkward. It was beautiful. It is just one more step in Luke’s maturation and development, as a complete all-around player. His seven rebounds were a nice bonus as well.
At the beginning of the year, if anyone told you Luke Maye would have comparable stats to Theo Pinson’s sophomore year, you may have considered taking them to a mental institution. While I acknowledge numbers can be tricky, Maye has proven to be similarly productive as Theo was last season. In some cases, despite averaging over 5 fewer minutes on the court per game than Pinson did last year, Maye is out-performing his teammate.
In 13.3 minutes per game, Maye is averaging 5 points, 3.6 rebounds, and 1.2 assists. As a sophomore, in 18.7 mpg, Pinson averaged 4.5, 3.2 rebounds, and 2.9 assists. If those don’t persuade you, then consider that Luke Maye’s ORtg is 110.4, while his DRtg is 97.4. Pinson’s ORtg and DRtg were 111.7 and 102.8.
Overall, there is an argument to be made that Maye’s sophomore campaign has been slightly better than Pinson’s was. It certainly has been a pleasant surprise, and with the unfortunate loss of Kenny Williams, there just might be more of a need for a stretch-4 who can also rebound.
Theo enters the starting line-up
Speaking of Pinson, for the first time all season UNC fans were treated to the starting line-up that had them salivating during the off season. Theo joined his Tar Heel brothers at the shooting guard position, and promptly produced 12 points and 4 rebounds in 24 minutes of action.
Pinson scored his points on an array of drives and short-range jump shots, while shooting an efficient 75% from the floor. Often using the glass in a stylish display of old-school fundamentals, he provided an element that Kenny Williams and Nate Britt often have not this season - attacking the paint and rim.
Aside from Justin Jackson, the UNC guards have often been too willing to shoot from the perimeter instead of attacking the opposition. Pinson, who is not the most consistent outside shooter, understands his limitations and his strengths. Theo’s length and athleticism now adds some extra explosiveness to the starting lineup. It was on full display last night, and should continue to provide matchup problems for opponents.
UNC’s Player Development
Much has been said and written over the past few years about the supposed lack of elite talent that has entered Chapel Hill. Often, one of the complaints is that “elite” recruits don’t want to come to UNC because of its reputation as being unable to develop talent. Last night should help provide more ammunition to debunk that asinine myth.
I submit the curious cases of UNC starter Kennedy Meeks and N.C State reserve BeeJay Anya.
Four years ago, both graduated high school. Both were 4-star recruits. Meeks was ranked 59th on the ESPN100 list, while Anya was 67th. Both players were listed at 6’9 and 275 lbs. Both were headed to the Triangle to play college basketball.
After the Heels squeaked out an overtime victory in Raleigh in February of 2014, I was pumped to see these two players battle it out in the paint for three of four years. Meeks finished that game with 8 and 10. Anya finished with 10 and 4, punctuated by some yelling and flexing. By all accounts these two players should have had one of the most memorable four year rivalries that the Triangle has seen this century.
God, I was so naive and stupid. Fast forward to last night.
One player finished last night with 17 points and 8 rebounds in 25 minutes. The other plays for N.C. State, and finished with 0 points in 10 minutes.
One player is averaging 12.3 points and 9.2 rebounds in 23.5 minutes a game. The other wears red and white on game nights, and averages 3.1 points per game.
One player has made a concerted effort to lose 15 pounds while restructuring his body to handle the rigors of athletic competitions. The other....officially has gained 45 pounds. The unofficial weight is anybody’s guess.
It’s always fun to use draft picks, championships, and All-ACC or All-American selections as evidence when arguing the development that UNC provides its players. Last night, we legitimately were given photographic evidence of what UNC develops, compared to what (some) other programs don’t develop.
I’m really going to miss Coach Gott.