UNC Basketball: Why Theo Pinson is the Tar Heels X-Factor

CHAPEL HILL, NC - FEBRUARY 12: Theo Pinson /

Here’s why Theo Pinson could be the X-Factor for UNC as they enter tournament play

Joel Berry and Luke Maye may be featured on promos for ESPN, are members of the All-ACC First Team, and the most prolific scorers on the team, but the engine that makes UNC go has been Theo Pinson.

Pinson, the do-it-all forward,  is currently first on the team in assists (4.7 per game), second in rebounds (6.1 per game), and fifth in points (9.9 per game).

His length and passing ability have been an asset since his sophomore season, but with his increased minutes and injury-free (sans the game at Clemson) season, Theo has truly been able to flourish.

So why would a senior starter be an X-Factor for a deep tournament run? The statistics really break it down.

Let’s start with the losses.

Of the eight losses (removing the NC State game; the outlier where Pinson had 22 points and 15 rebounds in a loss), Theo has averaged 6.9 points, 4 assists, 3.8 rebounds, and 2.8 turnovers per game.

This is a pretty pedestrian stat line, and much lower than his season averages. These numbers are quite similar to his junior year stats (6.1 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 3.7 assists), where many times he was on the court to focus on defense and was left open so the defense could double Meeks/Hicks/Bradley in the post.

In winning efforts, the numbers jump to 10.5 points, 5.2 assists, 6.5 rebounds, and turnovers decrease to 2.2 a game.

The disparity between wins and losses may not knock you off your seat, but they are certainly meaningful. When we factor in five of UNC’s losses are by 5 or fewer points, we can definitely see how important Theo playing well can be.

It’s no secret the Tar Heels have had plenty of both ACC Tournament and NCAA Tournament success in the past few seasons. The most impressive part about it for UNC has been how although many of the players have been the same, the torch of leading has been passed.

In 2016, it was Brice Johnson and Marcus Paige’s team, last year was the senior bigs with Justin Jackson and Joel Berry help carry the weight. This year, when the team is really clicking it is a three-headed monster of Berry, Maye and Pinson.

While Pinson may not fill up the stat sheet with points, the things he does that don’t show up in the box score are important. He can guard in the post and on the perimeter giving UNC a swiss army knife type of player.

Next: Luke Maye named to SN All-American Team

If the Heels want to make another Final Four run, Pinson will need to be at his best both on the offensive and defensive ends of the floor.