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Breaking Down Seventh Woods’ Resurgence

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The junior point guard has quietly become a stabilizing force for success.

NCAA Basketball: North Carolina at Wofford Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

It’s becoming increasing clear that UNC has an elite point guard on their roster. Unfortunately, you’d have to mesh Coby White and Seventh Woods into a single player to find him. The two guards’ skillsets arguably complement each other, but both have noticeable strengths and weaknesses.

Last week, we gave a quick breakdown of Coby White’s strengths and weaknesses. That was before the Kentucky game, where many of the attributes we listed were on full display. It’s now time to turn the attention to Seventh Woods.

Woods is a completely different player. His understanding of the offense makes him better the secondary break and half-court offense, but his inconsistent decision making has proven costly in transition. This has led to frustration and a perception that he’s not been effective.

On to the video*.

*.Gifs, because we have a tiny budget and video programs are not cheap.

Full disclosure: This is a longer breakdown than Coby’s. White’s game, in relation to the team, is pretty straight forward. Due to Seventh’s history and general perception, I felt a deeper examination was important. For a more individual assessment of Coby, check out Brian Geisinger’s early season review.

Woods in transition

Woods has been a mixed bag in transition. He is best when a teammate is running with him. If he recognizes a better option for a bucket, Woods is completely unselfish. Three examples:

Transition #1 - Assist to Maye vs Tennessee Tech

Thanks to Woods’ defense, Tenessee Tech commits a turnover. Maye picks it up and kicks ahead to Woods on the wing. Maye keeps running down the middle and Woods returns the pass for an easy lay-up. Simple. Effective. Unselfish.

Transition #2 - Assist to BRob vs Tennessee Tech

Off the miss, Woods receives the outlet and turns up-court. Brandon Robinson fills in the lane and a pinpoint bounce pass hits him in stride. These may seem like obvious plays, but how many can you really think of from this season?

Transition #3 - Assist to Cam vs St. Francis

Ok. One more. He gives a quick pass to Cam for the three, but it’s what Woods does after the pass that is so important. He steps in front of the defender, setting a screen for Cam within the run of play. Woods has done this multiple times this season, showing a understated craftiness that has started to define his game.

Unfortunately, Woods is just as prone to indecision and being unable to finish the play. Here’s an example against Kentucky and Stanford.

Transition #4 - Steal and bobble vs Kentucky

Woods makes the read off of the trap and has an open court. Kentucky gets back to turn a 2-on-1 situation into a 2-on-2 dilemma. Woods gets too deep without committing to a pass or shot. A mid-range pull up, attempting one of his patented explosive dunks, or a kick out to Luke or Coby (both trailing) would’ve been a better decision.

Transition #5 - Forced shot vs Stanford

Against Stanford, Woods had a similar situation. Off a miss, he pushes the pace. Stanford has three defenders in and around the paint. Woods gets stuck too deep and puts up a half-hearted shot that’s easily rejected. Both Brandon Robinson and Cameron Johnson were open for a kick-out three. This was actually charged as a turnover.

These turnovers are different from White’s. Woods actually assesses the defense and in an attempt to “be aggressive” still decides to take on multiple defenders. By contrast, Coby is still learning how to read the defense. This difference often gives White the benefit of the doubt.

Woods in Secondary Break

Pick a game – any game – and you’ll find Woods running an efficient secondary break and half-court offense. The reason for this? Woods tries to feed the post like it is his only mission in life. This ability to run the secondary and half-court has him at 36 assists and 15 turnovers, an impressive 2.4:1 ratio.

Secondary #1 - Assist to Maye vs Tennessee Tech

Maye puts the defender on his hip and Woods doesn’t hesitate. Simple and effective, even if the competition is of a lower caliber.

Secondary #2 - Assist to Brooks vs Tennessee Tech

Similar to Maye’s easy lay-up, Brooks brushes his defender into the paint. Woods sees the defense is overplaying the ball reversal at the top of the paint. He finds the passing lane to Brooks and picks up another assist.

Secondary #3 - Lob to Nassir vs St. Francis

Against St. Francis, Woods lets the backdoor lob develop for Nassir Little. Not as explosive as other alley-oops this season, it was another example of Woods continually looking to get the ball down low.

Woods in the half-court

Woods has also been successful in the half-court. Considering the trouble the Heels just had with Kentucky, I picked two half-court possessions in the second half of that game to show Woods has been effective against top-tier competition as well.

Half-court #1 - Kenny drives vs Kentucky

Woods subbed in for White at the 17:32 mark of the second half — earlier than normal. This was his first possession after entering the game. (Not pictured: An initial pass from Woods to Brooks, who reversed it back to Maye at the top of the key.)

In total, four players touch the ball. An entire offensive set is run without any dribbling, until Kenny attacks the rim. The end result is Kenny Williams finding an open lane and an offensive put back by Brooks.

Half-court #2 - Cam turnover vs Kentucky

The second half-court possession after Woods entered in the second half. This was a baseline out-of-bounds, also called a “BLOB”. Patience and a post entry led to a wide open lane for Cam, who cuts down the middle after an off-the-ball screen, Great execution, except for Cam’s slippery hands. Again, zero dribbling. Just constant movement with and without the ball.

There is some success of this with Coby, but he’s still learning when and how to run through multiple options. As a result, the team is more disheveled with him running the offense — especially if the threes aren’t falling.

Lazy Turnovers

Unfortunately, the amount of time Woods spends in a secondary or half-court setting makes his turnovers more frustrating than Coby’s. As we mentioned last week, Coby’s turnovers are often ones of aggression and inexperience, so are often more acceptable. By contrast, Woods’ turnovers have the appearance of being caused by mental mistakes and laziness.

A few examples from Stanford and Gonzaga.

Turnover #1 vs Stanford

Woods initiates the secondary break, but the Stanford defender is denying the ball reversal. The ball reversal to the trailer is a staple of the UNC’s secondary break and is often overplayed. Lazy passes are ripe for steals.

Turnover #2 vs Gonzaga

It’s been a season long problem. Here it is again against Gonzaga. When we talk about UNC’s turnover problems, most of them are of this variety. Slippers hands, lazy passes, and lack of concentration. After three years in the system, Woods should know better. A few backdoor slips by the trail man, and the defense will stop overplaying this option.

He has been just as prone to sailing passes over the head of their recipient, hitting the rim on alley-oops, and poor post entry passes. Though, with just 15 turnovers on the season, he is exceeding most preseason expectations. I already showed 20% of them in this analysis.

What’s Next?

None of the above highlights point out the difference in Woods and White’s defense. Heading into the upcoming Davidson game on December 29th, Woods has a DRtg of 93.7, good for third on the team behind Caleb Ellis and Sterling Manley. White is trending downward at 101.3. Only KJ Smith has been worse defensively. Woods is also averaging 1.3 steals in just 16.2 minutes per game.

He’s not flashy or sexy, but there is a case that Woods has been the better option for this particular UNC team. This tweet from Adrian Atkinson, who does some analytics for Inside Carolina, confirmed those thoughts. These numbers were before the Kentucky game:

Prior to last Saturday, UNC scored 1.28 PPP (points per possession) with Woods and 1.17 PPP with White. That is not a small gap and wasn’t largely impacted by Kentucky. It’s also hard to know if there is a heavy skew between competition, because Woods missed both contests against Texas and UCLA when White had his best offensive performances of the season.

I have no qualms saying that I have been on the 7-Train since the summer, so I may have a slight bias. This is the version of Seventh Woods I expected to see last season before a stress fracture derailed his sophomore campaign. The team is more efficient and runs more smoothly with him on the court.

Woods individual efficiency rating is +15.8 and White’s at just +10.9. For reference, Sterling Manley’s efficiency is +10.1. Their ORtg are surprisingly similar with White at 112.0 and Woods at 109.5. As fellow THB writer Al Hood pointed out over the weekend, outside of Las Vegas Coby has been very....average. I can admit, however, that Seventh has not done anything to truly separate himself from White for more minutes.

Coby’s individual ceiling is higher and his scoring ability is enticing. If he (and possibly the team) are going to reach their maximum potential, White needs as many minutes as possible to develop. Woods also doesn’t play with the tempo Coach Williams loves so much. There are tradeoffs. Keeping White in the starting lineup is easily explained, defensible, and understandable.

All that said, the gap between the two just is not as wide as the general public thinks. It certainly is not unreasonable to have a conversation if Woods should get more playing time.

That’s not a bad problem to have.