Previewing The North Carolina Tar Heels

UNC @ StatSheet
2012 Stats
2012 Roster
2012 Schedule

UNC Offense 10-11
Four Factors Percent Nat'l Rank
eFG% 49.1 169
Turnover Rate 18.3 68
Off Reb Rate 36.9 27
FTA/FGA 37.9 167
UNC Offense 11-12
Four Factors Percent Nat'l Rank
eFG% 51.6 81
Turnover Rate 17.3 21
Off Reb Rate 40.6 9
FTA/FGA 39.7 93

If there is one thing that Roy Williams knows, it's offensive rebounding. His teams have never finished outside the top 30 in offensive rebounding percentage since he's been at Carolina, and this is one area that really killed State's chances against the Heels in recent years. There was the whole talent differential thing and stuff, but it's no coincidence that the one time Lowe was able to beat the Heels, his team took care of the defensive glass. When a team shoots well and has better talent, losing the rebounding battle becomes an untenable situation.

Fortunately, State has become a good defensive rebounding team under Mark Gottfried. Energy can be as important as anything else, but Gottfried has the tools at his disposal and actually knows how to implement them. This is going to be a crucial aspect in this matchup again this season. The Heels aren't going to turn the ball over much--which means a lot of possessions that end with a shot at the hoop--and they shoot pretty well from the field, so when they do miss, State has to be there or it's gonna look a whole lot like the games in recent years.

It will be interesting to see how Dexter Strickland's absence impacts this team; the Heels ranked 264th in bench minutes with him. I've seen some mention of the fact that the 2005 team had no backup point guard to speak of (which is an insult to my man Quentin Thomas), implying that hey what's the big deal, but that team went eight-deep anyway and had more options at the guard spot, not to mention the fact that those Heels were vastly superior at point guard (Felton) and shooting guard (McCants). We're talking huge differences in structural integrity here; I think it's a bigger issue than it's been made out to be. Strickland didn't do much for their perimeter game--he'd attempted one three-pointer all year--but he was a solid defender and scored efficiently inside the arc.

Without Strickland (or McDonald), Roy Williams has been forced to talk about how he's going to use Stilman White near TV timeouts to give Marshall a break, and he's practiced some sets without a point guard on the floor. Do we press this team? I'm not sure what the right answer is in this case. We could sure as hell use more takeaways; Kendall Marshall is alone and overrated; but State's defense isn't accustomed to full-court pressure.

Starters

Kendall Marshall (6-4, 195) -- Marshall is a fantastic distributor--I don't think there's anybody in college basketball with better instincts or vision when it comes to passing the ball. But he's also turning the ball over quite a bit, and he only factors into the scoring occasionally; he takes less than 10% of Carolina's shots while on the floor, which hole-in-the-floor award-worthy. He has no range and isn't much of a threat to score off the dribble.

Reggie Bullock (6-7, 205) -- Bullock has pumped the brakes a bit in 2012--in his limited playing time last year, he was a liability because he shot the ball far too often--and his three-point accuracy has climbed considerably. That's where he'll do most of his work, as he doesn't have much interest in creating off the dribble. His size makes him a serious issue since it makes the margin of error along the perimeter that much smaller.

Harrison Barnes (6-8, 215) -- Barnes has improved his accuracy inside and out while maintaining the same heavy workload he had as a freshman--as a spot-up shooter, he can be deadly. Off the dribble, not so much. But he is doing a better job of drawing contact this season.

John Henson (6-11, 220) -- Calvin Leslie's nemesis, and the embodiment of what nags at me about basketball. His defensive value is huge, but we can't define the extent of that impact. Maybe someday. Hell, defensive metrics have only recently gained traction in baseball and that's a far simpler evaluative proposition. Which is not to imply he's chopped liver at the offensive end--he still can't make free throws, but he's an effective scorer in the paint and a dangerous offensive rebounder.

Ty Zeller (7-0, 250) -- I don't need to mention this since that anonymous coach who left his scouting report on a copier in the Dean Dome said it, but Zeller runs pipe hard. I have no idea how anyone could conjure up this phrase, much less be inclined to use it, but the man involved would have to be very, very old. Or 12. I'm not sure which. Hehe. Runs pipe.

Bench

James Michael McAdoo (6-9, 220), P.J. Hairston (6-6, 220), Justin Watts (6-5, 210). James Michael McAdoo, or Jimmy Mike Mack, as he is known by friends, is a promising forward who has yet to make much of an impact in the scoring department, though he is a threat on the glass at both ends.

Hairston is shooting too much right now; he was lauded for his three-point range out of high school and I'm sure that was justified. He's only been passable from outside to this point, though (33.7%), probably in part because he's taking nearly 27% of the team's shots while he is on the floor. He hasn't played all that much, so there's that sense of urgency there that seems to affect certain players.

UNC Defense 10-11
Four Factors Percent Nat'l Rank
eFG% 46.2 44
Turnover Rate 19.7 195
Off Reb Rate 29.9 73
FTA/FGA 24.8 2
UNC Defense 11-12
Four Factors Percent Nat'l Rank
eFG% 44.5 28
Turnover Rate 19.3 246
Off Reb Rate 27.7 23
FTA/FGA 17.4 1

Roy has built a defense on the UConn model--strong interior defense, but low-risk in general, which leads to few turnovers but limits fouls--and he's done Jim Calhoun one better: while the Huskies have struggled on the defensive glass with this style, the Heels have no such problems.

Carolina forces opponents to shoot threes at rates you'd expect from teams that predominantly employ zone defense, which says plenty about how good the Heels are in the paint. A lot of opponents are so discouraged by the presence of Henson and Zeller that they'll settle for jumpers whenever possible.

There's an art to dissecting that type of defense, and I'm not sure this State team is at that point. If Calvin can at least avoid Personal Vendetta Mode, that's a start.

The Pomeroy Predictor likes UNC by 15.

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