If you scroll to the UNC page on ESPN you will discover that North Carolina is ranked third in scoring and first in assists and those statistics alone may make you scratch your head as did I when I first looked at them. How can this be? Weren’t the North Carolina Tar Heels doomed as the world was proclaimed to be by the Mayans? Do not worry pessimistic fans screaming at the television for Roy to do something we will break down these numbers to show you why there is more to the game than the ESPN stat sheet.
North Carolina leads the nation in assists with just offer twenty per game, but how can this be? First of all the out of conference schedule is misleading when looking at a 9-3 team that is ranked 19th in the country. That ranking may not exist come early this week after the exhibition or lack of one was displayed in Austin. In North Carolina wins the Tar Heels are averaging over twenty three assists per game and conversely the Tar Heels are dishing out only ten in their losses. Butler, Texas and Indiana applied pressure to UNC’s back court and Marcus Paige struggled in each of those games.
We cannot put the sole blame on Paige because the veterans all struggled with ball movement and turnovers in each loss. Of course assist numbers are going to decrease a little when competition increases, but to drop fifty percent raises a red flag. The North Carolina defense must improve to help jump start the transition game. An area that I have watched is where Marcus Paige is receiving outlet passes to fuel the break. Many times he is catching them under the three point line and if you look back at film with Marshall, Lawson and Felton they were masters at catching the outlet pass just a few feet before the timeline especially on defensive rebounds. Paige will improve in this area as he becomes more comfortable in the offense.
The other glaring statistic is North Carolina is third in the nation in scoring at 84 points per game. With all of UNC’s offense woes how can this be? North Carolina loves to beat up on the little guys right now scoring over 90 points a game in their wins, but when the big boys come calling the tar Heels are squeaking out only 65 points per contest. Their defense has not been very good in these games to fuel the break and the three point opportunities are not wide open looks that have seen in wins. UNC lacks a player that can just create their own shot whenever they need and has to rely more on ball movement and screens to have efficient offense. These two areas have been absent in the losses.
What do these numbers tell us about the 2012/2013 North Carolina Tar Heels? For one they are not the third best offensive team in the land, and secondly it tells all of us to read between the statistics. As Bill Parcels used to say you are what your record is, but at 9-3 I am not positive we know who the Tar Heels are. Do they have the talent and ability to compete in the ACC? Absolutely, but if they don’t start increasing their effort on defense this 9-3 start could be a beginning toward playing in the NIT.