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UNC Basketball: Leaky’s defensive impact

Leaky Black is known for his defensive prowess, but in the last five games, his defense has become a force multiplier.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament First Round-Marquette vs North Carolina Chris Jones-USA TODAY Sports

Leaky Black is on an incredible run of form defensively for UNC. Over the last five games, he has primarily defended a “Who’s who” of offensive threats across the ACC, and most recently, against Marquette’s Justin Lewis. Hubert Davis is fortunate to essentially have a chess queen piece that he can move around the board to guard a variety of offensive styles and positions. Leaky’s size and athleticism allow him to ably cover any guard and most forwards on the floor in a college game. Over this period, he has guarded small forwards, shooting guards, and a 5’10” point guard.

Let’s take a look at the cart below. It shows the most recent five Carolina games and the player that Leaky primarily guarded. The blue column shows that player’s season scoring average (ppg), the orange column shows how many points they scored against UNC while primarily being guarded by Leaky (head-to-head), and the line graph shows the net negative scoring trend that those players experienced while being shackled by Leaky.

The trend line shows a clear rise in Leaky’s effectiveness. It might have been more pronounced were it not for Kihei Clark, but as previously noted, Leaky’s defense against the Virginia point guard did more than limit one player’s scoring, it suffocated the Cavalier offense.

Hubert Davis has done an excellent job identifying and selecting key nodes in opponent offenses to employ Leaky against. AJ Griffin scored 27 against Carolina in the home defeat against Duke on February 5. In Coach K’s finale, he only scored 5.

Once freed from Leaky’s kung-fu grip, shooters have had scoring explosions in their next games; Buddy Boeheim scored 30 against Miami after Syracuse’s overtime loss to UNC and Hunter Cattoor famously went three-crazy, scoring 31 against Duke after Virginia Tech’s win over Carolina, where the shooting guard only scored 3 points. Unfortunately for Marquette, Justin Lewis will be unable to further test this scoring phenomenon.

With Baylor running a three guard offense, and Brady Manek improving exponentially as a one-on-one defender, Hubert Davis has more flexibility on where to employ Leaky. Against Baylor, I’d assess that Leaky will split time between 6’9” Matthew Mayer, who scored a career-high 22 against Norfolk State, and 6’1” point guard James Akinjo, who averages nearly six assists per game, and had 10 against the Spartans.

For those who agitate about Leaky’s lack of offensive punch, I would suggest patience and perspective. If Leaky isn’t scoring in bunches, more often than not, neither is the other team’s best scorer.

Coach Davis echoes this sentiment: