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Interesting statistics from the 2016-17 UNC Basketball season

Some numbers from the national championship season might surprise you

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round-North Carolina vs Texas Southern Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

The 2016-2017 national champions made everybody notice them not only because of how good they were, but also because they were slightly unorthodox compared to many of their peers at the top of college basketball. While most of the top teams in college basketball were very good from behind the arc, the Heels shot at the relatively average rate of 35.5%. Additionally, their proportion of three-point shots taken was much lower than that of most of their peers; UNC was first in the nation in two-point shots attempted. But these are the kinds of statistics that most would expect from a Roy Williams-coached team. Some of the numbers that UNC put up, however, were out of the ordinary even by Carolina standards. Here are a few examples, and what, if anything, they might mean:

  • Luke Maye, by the end of the postseason, was simultaneously UNC’s best three-point shooter (40.0%, minimum 30 attempts) and UNC’s worst free throw shooter (58.7%, minimum 30 attempts). That’s not a combination you often see, and it’s fair to wonder if one of those stats is going to regress, whether it’s positively or negatively, closer to the other. Based on this, though, I’m fairly confident it won’t be the three-point shooting:
  • To many Tar Heel fans’ frustration, Isaiah Hicks was never quite as adept at rebounding as one would expect given his size and athleticism. He improved somewhat in this regard for his senior year, with a career-high defensive rebounding percentage of 16.8. This came out to fifth on the team among regular rotation players. Three of the players ahead of Hicks in this statistic were among those you would expect: Kennedy Meeks, Tony Bradley, and Luke Maye. The fourth might be a little bit of a surprise: freshman backup point guard Seventh Woods, who amassed a very respectable 17.1 DRB%. If Woods can keep this up in a potentially expanded role next season, this bodes very well for what projects to be a lineup that will need all the rebounding help it can get.
  • Speaking of Woods, he comes out near the top of a surprising number of rate-adjusted and per-40 statistics. In addition to being 4th in DRB%, Woods led regular rotation players in Assists/40, Steals/40, and Free Throw Rate, and was second in Defensive Rating. On the other extreme, though, he also led his teammates in Turnovers/40 and was the team’s worst shooter from both inside and outside the arc. While it was clear to most watching that Woods needed some time to mature before really being effective, his positives should have fans excited over his four-year potential.

Also, he can do this:

ESPN, ReBorn HD Highlights
  • As I touched on during the season, Nate Britt, through one month of conference play, had more total steals than turnovers. I am happy to report that he maintained this particular imbalance throughout the season, finishing with 41 steals (second on the team) and only 37 turnovers, at a 1.8 TO/40 rate (second best on the team among regular rotation players). Britt had his defensive struggles throughout the season, many of them size-related, but was consistently able to use his speed, agility, and quick hands to make up for those shortcomings while being a good facilitator and showrunner. Joel Berry, who averaged 2.5 turnovers per 40 minutes (similar to Britt’s junior mark of 2.3), will look to emulate this aspect of Britt’s senior season as he takes the reins for UNC one last time. Berry’s steal:turnover ratio, incidentally, was 53:71.
  • Kenny Williams led his team in 3PAR, or Three-Pointer Attempt Rate, meaning that a higher proportion of his field goal attempts were three-point attempts than anybody else’s on the team. This is unsurprising, given Williams’ role as a shooter, though incidentally, his 52.5% two-point percentage is nothing to sneeze at. More eyebrow-raising is the name at second place in 3PAR, Joel Berry. Berry was the only player other than Williams to attempt more three-pointers than two-pointers over the course of the season, despite his ability to absorb contact and his very good mid-range game. It worked out for him, as he led all guards in True Shooting Percentage, but it did seem at times that Berry was settling for jump shots, or not attacking the basket enough. It will be interesting to see what happens if/when UNC moves to a more perimeter-oriented lineup for Berry’s senior year. With (hopefully) a higher number of capable shooters around him, Berry may be able to create looks for others that he may have taken himself last year, and focus on attacking the basket and putting opponents in foul trouble at a higher rate.

Another interesting tidbit about this statistic: Theo Pinson had a higher 3PAR than Luke Maye, despite a much, much worse success rate on three-pointers. Pinson’s jump shot has been what can charitably be described as “a work in progress” since he arrived in Chapel Hill, and though he looked to have started to fix it before his injury, he returned with a jumper as broken as it had ever been. It remains to be seen whether he can regain the ground he lost.

  • And finally, I’ll leave these here, as a farewell to UNC’s departing players:

They will all be missed.

All statistics from