UNC Hoops: Inside The Numbers Part II


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Now that we’ve had a taste of ACC conference play.  Let’s take a look inside the numbers at Carolinas first 17 games.  Today I’ll take a look at the Tar Heel defensive numbers through the first seventeen.  Click HERE for Part I: Inside the Numbers look at the Carolina offense.  

Any objective look at the Tar Heels defense this season must note that the most concern stems from the Heels hitting the snooze button against lesser opponents.  The Tar Heels are all over the board when you look at the national rankings on the defensive end.

A look at the numbers confirms what we’ve seen on the court.  Carolina is a great rebounding team, and they have some real trees inside swatting and altering shots.  On the perimeter, they may be a little worse than I thought.  With 131 steals this season UNC ranks just 68th in the nation.  In past championship seasons the Heels were master thieves.  Those Tar Heel teams were able to rely on two avenues to initiate the offense.  And that’s what the defense in Carolina is all about, getting the offense out on the break.

So where are all the numbers?  After the jump

First let’s get rid of an ugly rumor regarding the Tar Heels three-point shooting defense, or lack thereof.  I’ve heard a million times this year (and even written a few) that UNC is vulnerable to teams that can hit from deep.  To put it simply, it’s just not true. But, it’s an assumption that’s easy to run with.  Carolina has held opposing teams to 126 three point-field goals this season, which ranks their opponents 313th in the nation.  The illusion is that UNC can’t defend the three because they make a few less than their opponents as UNC has made 36 fewer threes with 90 on the year.

Still the Heels have held opponents to 30.1% shooting from deep on their 419 attempts, while connecting on 36.9% of their own 244 attempts.  Another factor that plays into the illusion is that only 18.3% of UNCs total points come from beyond the arc.  In contrast, 33.8% of Tar Heel opponents scoring comes from deep.  In reality, it’s not that Carolina can’t defend from deep, they’ve dominated elsewhere so much that’s all you see other teams doing.  Opponents are shooting a bunch of threes and connecting at a below average rate.

As I pointed out earlier, the most important part of Carolina’s defense is to initiate the offense. Creating turnovers and dominating the boards are key staples to Roy’s system. And UNC has excelled at both, 95 blocked shots this season rank the team 15th in the nation.  Led by John Henson, one of the best shot blockers in the nation who averages three per contest and has already notched 51 on the season.  What’s most amazing about Henson is that he only commits 1.6 fouls per game!

The most dominating part of UNCs game is its utter dominance on the boards. The Heels rank first in the nation in total and defensive rebounding. Perhaps most amazing, UNC has a +204 differential in total rebounding, snatching 794 to its opponents 590.  On the defensive glass, the Heels post another stellar differential of +133.  They rank third in the nation in offensive rebounding with 271 on the year while surrendering only 200 to its opponents.  Henson is again among the best in the nation averaging 10.1 boards per contest.  Tyler Zeller who is averaging 8.8 boards on the year has pulled down 10.6 per game over the last seven games.

But we can’t talk about the best part of the defense without outing the worst. the fact that UNC has some issues defensively on the perimeter is no myth.  Just ask Long Beach State’s Casper Ware (29 points), Mississippi Valley State’s Brent Arrington (33) and UNC Asheville’s J.P. Primm (23) who have all legitimized this theory.  That’s why you heard all the chatter about Roy’s worries going into the match up with Miami. Dexter Strickland and Kendall Marshall put a cork in that for at least one night, holding  Hurricanes guards Malcolm Grant and Durand Scott to 6-for-20 combined shooting. For all the grief Marshall gets thrown at him for his defense, he is averaging a respectful 1.2 steals per game, second on the team to Dexter’s 1.4 per night.

Coming Soon: Inside the Numbers Part III where I’ll take a look at the one number that must improve if the Heels want to cut down the nets.

Keep It Heel!

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