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Previewing North Carolina

Finally, the true start of the conference season is upon us. It gets no better than this.

I'll start on the offensive side, per usual:

North Carolina Offense 05-06Four FactorsPercentNat'l RankeFG%52.658Turnover Rate22.5191Off Reb Rate42.610FTM/FGA31.129
You can see why Carolina's offense is efficient despite just decent shooting and a propensity for turnovers. When they don't turn it over, they do a great job generating scoring opportunities via "secondary" means; that is, trips to the line and second chances via offensive boards. The Heels rank 29th in FTM/FGA despite shooting a mediocre .657 from the line, which tells you how often they get there. No ACC team is averaging more FTA/G than the Heels.

Those strengths make the keys for the Wolfpack defense pretty clear:

1) Defensive rebounding! NC State boasts one of the top FG% defenses in the country, so it obviously has the ability to force Carolina into a bad shooting night. Keep them from getting too many second chances and they'll have problems.

2) Play cleanly on the interior. The idea of course is to keep the Heels off the line. Much easier said than done, especially considering the pro-UNC officiating that we'll be dealing with. Getting Hansbrough or Terry into foul trouble would help matters immensely.

NC State's defense is pretty good at all of the factors except forcing turnovers...should make for a good battle.

The starters:

Bobby Frasor (6-3, 195) -- Frasor's doing a good enough job distributing the ball, but, efficiency-wise, he's the weak link. To go along with poor shooting (eFG% = .468), he has turned the ball over a lot--even for a point guard. Quentin Thomas has been even worse.

Marcus Ginyard (6-5, 200) -- Marcus sports the worst effective field goal percentage of Carolina's entire eight-man rotation and has a terrible 0.94 PPWS. He hasn't been adding much value in other areas, either; though his TO% is good. Why Danny Green isn't starting ahead of Ginyard in this spot, I could not tell you.

David Noel (6-6, 232) -- Noel's done a great job handling a vastly-bigger role. In addition to being one of Carolina's most reliable shooters (eFG% = .614), he's also grabbing about 9 rebs/40. Noel has been an equally proficient rebounder at both ends: his offensive rebounding percentage is 11.3%, while his DR% is 12.7%. He's one of the reasons the team rebounds so well at the offensive end. He does have a tendency to turn the ball over (TO% = .266).

Reyshawn Terry (6-8, 228) -- Terry has held together nicely despite heavy usage (%Poss = 27.8, second in the ACC only to Sean Singletary). He averages a team-high 24.2 pts/40 along with 10 rebs/40. He's third on the team in Reb%, and like Noel, rebounds well at the offensive end. Also averages 4.5 turnovers/40, which is the worst mark on the team. But that's the price of heavy usage.

Tyler Hansbrough (6-9, 235) -- Easily the team MVP so far this season, Hansbrough has made an impressive transition to the college level. Hansbrough also sports a high usage level, and for good reason: those are possessions well spent. He's averaging 23.3 pts/40 while shooting 63.2% and has the best PPWS on the team (1.32). His O Rtg is also tops on the team (and one of the best offensive ratings in the ACC). In addition to being a good rebounder, Hansbrough also does an excellent job getting to the line (his FTA/FGA is 3rd in the ACC, just ahead of Cedric Simmons).

Bench:

Danny Green (6-5, 202), Byron Sanders (6-9, 240) and Wes Miller (pipsqueak) likely represent the extent of the North Carolina bench, though a Quentin Thomas sighting isn't out of the question.

Green is the exact same size as Ginyard and has better numbers than him in just about every statistical category. Whereas Ginyard can't do much but score, Green can both score and rebound. I haven't seen enough of North Carolina to know why Ginyard gets the nod from Roy Williams, but I'm sure Roy has his reasons. Perhaps Green doesn't fit into the two-guard spot as well as Ginyard does. As inefficient as Ginyard has been this season, I won't have any problems with him seeing a lot of time on Saturday.

Sanders--who, by the way, is 8-27 from the FT line--shouldn't be a factor, and Wes Miller will be out there to do one thing: shoot threes. To Miller's credit, he does that one thing well (17-40, 42.5% from downtown), but I imagine he is a detriment to the UNC defense while he's on the floor.

Noel will definitely go 30+ minutes, and we should see similar minutes played by Hansbrough, Frasor and Terry (assuming Reyshawn doesn't pull his disappearing act). Against Carolina's tougher competition (Illinois and Kentucky), Williams tightened his rotation and four of five UNC starters played 30+ minutes.

Everyone except Hansbrough and Sanders (Byron has enough trouble from 15 feet) will shoot the three. Shoot it, yes. Make it, well...

Ginyard is 3-19 (15.8%), Green is 6-26 (23.1%), Frasor is 9-32 (28.1%) and Terry is 9-27 (33.3%). As you might imagine, the three ball isn't a very large part of UNC's offense.

And I'll have you know that I am furiously knocking on wood.

The other side of the ball:

North Carolina Defense 05-06Four FactorsPercentNat'l RankeFG%46.472Turnover Rate24.945Off Reb Rate27.839FTA/FGA21.73

North Carolina's defense is better than NC State's. Surprised?

Turns out the defense has strengths which are quite similar to those of the offense. That eFG% is only good enough for 10th-best in the ACC, but that doesn't matter too much when you're as good at the other three factors as the UNC defense is.

Fortunately, NC State shoots well and protects the basketball, and those strengths will help to mitigate what the Heels defense does well. The Heels aren't likely to win the turnover battle, not to mention that a good shooting night from the Pack makes Carolina's defensive rebounding prowess much less impactful. NC State actually has a better FTM/FGA ratio than the Heels, so I'm not overly concerned about that area, either. Just as long as we don't see a repeat of the Alabama debacle.

Efficiency margin says it's gonna be a close one...

OFF EFF / DEF EFF / DIFF

Wolfpack: 111 / 89.9 / 21.1
Tarheels: 109 / 86.5 / 22.5