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UNC vs. Miami: Beyond the Box

For a young team, winning on the road is never easy.  This season, winning on the road in the ACC, for any team, appears to be especially difficult.  And winning on the road when you spot the opposition a 10-point (or greater) lead in the first half, is nearly impossible.  Yet, for the second time this season, UNC was able to pull off the trifecta, thanks in large part to a very efficient offensive attack and, of course, a couple of (what have almost become expected) big shots by Harrison Barnes.  The impact of both will certainly be discussed in this latest, winning-edition, of Beyond the Box.

Four Factors

This game turned out to be a bit of an oddity for North Carolina, as it was their slowest game of the year (61 possessions), but also one of their most efficient on offense.  It is commonly, and correctly, assumed that the best way to beat a Roy Williams-coached team is to slow the game down and make them execute in the half court.  But that line of thinking is not holding form this season, as all 5 of UNC’s losses have come in games that had at least 72 possessions, while at the same time, the Heels are 4-0 when the game is held to 71 or fewer possessions.

In this game, despite the slow pace, the Heels were still able to post an offensive efficiency (OE) of 121.3, which far outpaces anything they had done in the ACC, and is only the fourth time that they have cracked the 120-barrier all season.  At the start, it certainly did not seem that the Heels were going do anything noteworthy (in a good way) on offense, as they were only able to manage a measly 4 points through their first 11 possession (OE: 36.3).  However, over the games last 50 possessions, the Heels OE shot to an outstanding 140.0 on the strength of an eFG% of 59.2 and a TO% of 14.0.

The Heels breakout on the offense certainly came in just the nick of time, as the game against the Hurricanes proved to be one of the Heels worst defensive games this season.  Only one other time has UNC given up more than the 1.16 points per possession that it yielded to Miami (LBSU), and only two other teams have shot better than the Hurricanes’ eFG% of 57.0 (LBSU and Illinois).  For the season, UNC’s overall defensive numbers (adjusted Defensive Efficiency is 86.7; 8th in the nation) are still very good, so it will be interesting to see if this game is just a blip.  If it is, and if UNC can continue to slowly improve on offense (OE has been over 100 in both games since Marshall was inserted as the starter, which at this point is only correlative), then UNC may just start winning games without spotting the opposition a 10-point lead.

Statistical Highlights

  • Carolina is now 4-0 when the other team hits 10 or more three pointers.  Yesterday, Miami hit 7 more 3-point field goals than UNC, and while many (Mike Patrick) will jump at the opportunity to equate that to a 21-point edge, that is only true if the number of 2-point field goals the teams hit is equal.  In this case, UNC had 9 more 2-point field goals than the ‘Canes did, which means that that “21-point edge” was, in reality, a 3-point advantage.
  • For the first time in 5 ACC games, the Heels had a team A/T ratio greater than 1.0 (1.36).  Despite the fact that UNC has done a much better job of limiting turnovers this season, their A/T for the season is still hovering right around 1.0.  Much of this can be attributed to UNC’s struggle to finding consistent outside shooting.
  • UNC hit more than 85% of its free-throws (85.7%) for the first time since it hit 15 of 16 while beating Oklahoma in the 2009 NCAA Tournament.  For the season, the team is still at a terrible 64.9%, but in the games in which free-throws have been critical, they have risen to the task.
  • Reggie Bullock had a team leading Roland Rating of +33 (on-court plus/minus: +18), while John Henson had the worst score on the team (-33; on-court plus/minus: -15).

Beyond the Box Player of the Game

Before naming the POG for the Miami game, let’s first take a look at the top five ORtgs for the Tar Heels (minimum possession percentage: 10%):

J. Knox
K. Marshall165.94100.0103.421
D. Strickland153.8785.780.21
T. Zeller134.2642.850.521
H. Barnes104.51045.452.3-13

This turned out to be a very balanced game for the Heels, as they had 9 players score between 4 and 13 points (contrast that against Miami, who had 5 players score 70 of the team’s 71 points).  There are a couple good candidates for Player of the Game, but before getting to that, there is one player, who while not eligible (minimum possession percentage: 10%), still put together an outstanding performance.  For the game, Larry Drew II had an incredible ORtg of 298.0 and also had a team leading assist percentage of 47.1.  Drew has been terrific in the two games since moving out of the starting lineup (41 minutes, 12 points, 6 assists, 6 rebounds, 4 steals and only 2 turnovers) and needless to say, UNC can only benefit if he and Marshall continue to push each other in practice and in games.

As for the Player of the Game, like Reggie Bullock was in the game before, Dexter Strickland was clearly the player of the first half.  Strickland scored all twelve of his points (eFG%: 85.7) in the first half, chipped in with an assist percentage of 29.4 and a tidy A/T of 2.0, and was absolutely instrumental in sparking Carolina’s comeback from an early 14-point deficit.

While Strickland’s overall performance certainly makes a strong case for POG, sometimes what happens in the last two minutes needs to carry a bit more weight, and that is why Harrison Barnes is really the only choice to be the player of the game.  In the BTB for the Virginia game, it was noted that Heels’ balance, while generally good, may cause some problems when it comes to the question of who do we want taking Carolina’s most important shots?  This is no longer a question, as Harrison Barnes has firmly cemented himself as the choice to get the call at the end of the game.  For the season, Barnes is averaging 0.290 points per team-minute over the game’s first 38 minutes.  In the last 2 minutes of the game, Barnes production shoots up to 0.395 points per team-minute, and would be even higher if one were to exclude blowout games.  But beyond the actual level of production, what is so impressive about Barnes’ ability to hit huge shots at the end of the game is just how automatic and effortless it is.  At some point, that automatic and effortless ability will begin to seep into the game’s first 38 minutes, and when it does, the need for Barnes to be the hero at the end of the game will rapidly start to disappear.

Note: For reference, a full stats glossary can be found at StatSheet.com.

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34 comments to UNC vs. Miami: Beyond the Box

  • BoyWilliams

    Check out http://home.roadrunner.com/~unc92sax/2011ratings.html. Some fan ‘grades’ the UNC players (via conventional per minute stats) for each game & over the whole season…PLUS it gives grades for all seasons back to 1980. Good stuff.
    Here are the grades for the Miami game:

    Drew II      .853 A
    Knox         .810 A
    Strickland   .731 B
    Barnes       .682 B
    Bullock      .667 B
    Marshall     .527 B
    McDonald     .512 B
    Henson       .417 C
    Zeller       .375 C

    The highest ranked players so far this year? See below. (Free Reggie!) Also…compare them (at link above) to the 2006 team of #50’s freshman year — which had, perhaps, a similar ‘young & improving’ vibe.

    Bullock      .725 B
    Henson       .707 B
    Marshall     .703 B
    Zeller       .686 B
    McDonald     .574 B
    Strickland   .486 C
    Barnes       .475 C
    Drew II      .428 C
    Knox         .405 C
    Watts        .378 C

  • LarryS

    I’ve been thinking about how to best interpret plus/minus stats, and under what circumstances they are the most relevant.

    One way I thought of looking at them was to figure a net plus/minus (pluses-minuses=net) for all the players to date, and see if that more or less correlates to who seems to be the most effective.

    With Marshall vs. Drew it was fairly obvious, and we could see this trend developing. Through the Clemson game, Marshall’s net was +116 pts. and Drew’s was +50 (lowest on the team)…. more than double.

    But, also through the Clemson game, Harrison Barnes’ net was +128 (highest on the team) and John Henson’s was +52. With all the impact Henson has on a game, from scoring, to RB’s, to shot blocking, I was really surprised that it was so different from Barnes, and barely above Drew.

    Is this a one-dimensional, or simply incorrect, way to look at this stat? It’s a little puzzling to me.

  • ^^ I express the same sentiments as you on this.

  • Larry,

    One of the things that hurts Henson is that because of his inability to shoot FTs, he wasn’t on the court when UNC was closing out games against UK, UVa, and VPI, and there was a lot of “net plus” to be gained in those situations.

    And with Barnes, some of his score is inflated because of his ridiculous +41 against Hofstra, and that is really where the season-long +/- stats struggle at the college level: there is just too much variability between the strength of a team’s opponents to put a lot weight on full-season +/-.

  • LarryS

    ^That makes sense.

  • scl11

    Michigan St. is free falling without a parachute, their about to make Carolina’s 2010 season look like a minor under achievement compared to a title contender and favorite not making the dance……

    Someone get the Sporting News Preseason poll on the phone

  • makeitWayne22

    ESPN would never do that to it’s beloved IZZO.

  • The only difference between 2010 UNC and MSU this season is MSU has not been utterly wiped out by injuries though they did kick one player of the team and Kalin Lucas has not really recovered from his Achilles injury.

  • scl11

    Nice to see BC is folding like a lawn chair in the 2nd half to Duke…….

  • Andy In Omaha

    Hope BC folds to us just as easily…..

  • Racerman27410

    Just finished watching the last two minutes of the game again……WOW!

    that pass from Butta to Barnes was just amazing.

    KM held onto the ball until Barnes had #25 on his hip.

    You can see KM recognize the defenders position and make eye contact with Barnes simultaniously.

    KM then jumps sideways,double pumps the ball to give Barnes a chance to get moving in the right direction, then releases the floaty lob to Barnes in the perfect position to take the shot …all the while #25 could do nothing but fall on the floor as his body was going one way while his head twisted the other way following the pass.

    I have never seen a PASS put a defender on the floor like that!

    simply amazing!

    I had to watch it frame by frame to truely appreciate Buttas communication and passing artistry.

    that kid is something else!

    Go Heels!

  • chapelhillfan

    KM simply passes the ball the correct way and with a purpose.

  • BoyWilliams

    ^ Smooth as butta

  • TheUNCFan

    I love this in-depth analysis, because it often proves what I see with the naked eye while I’m watching a game.

    The shooting stats really prove what I was saying about trading baskets. Miami did make some insane NBA-range, guarded threes, but the Heels did not panic and traded baskets, scoring more 2-point baskets against the zone. That was critical to the win. Miami went hot and cold, but the Heels consistently got more higher percentage shots.

    Also it was an incredibly balanced game with no one person standing out as carrying the team, which is a really encouraging sign of a team coming together, not just relying on one guy to get hot and bail them out.

    Winning a low-possession game is encouraging, too, because it means our point guard situation is improving. You can’t waste possessions in that kind of game and win.

    I don’t remember how many threes the Heels made, but it seems like they made more than I can remember in any other game this season. The zone helped given them opportunities, but they also had to make the shots.

    After watching Clemson and Miami, I am not buying this talk that the ACC is down. I think people are down on the ACC because it’s had so much success over the years. Plus when good teams play each other consistently during the ACC season, each win doesn’t look as impressive as it would if it was a blowout of a lesser team. Other than WF and GT, the ACC doesn’t seem that down.

    Oh, and the other thing was, the Heels beat a team with strong post players without Watts. That was impressive. The bigs stayed out of foul trouble.

  • logic

    Thanks for the re-take on the Miami finish. I went back and watched, and it was pretty amazing - the small nuances of the play.

    I think KM’s decision-making and creativity is the best of a UNC freshman PG in a long time. And HB? I know several UNC players have hit some big late-game shots in recent years, but HB is on a roll (in that category) that rivals any in recent memory.

  • CarMichael

    Miami’s 3-minute, 16-0 run was horrifying and had me thinking of Kansas in ’08. In the same way, our perimeter players more or less choked, made turnovers, jacked quick shots, and forgot to play defense. But the guys settled down and did a terrific job of coming back methodically on the road. Give Drew credit for a layup and two quick assists that ended the drought, and Strickland for his gutsy drives to the rim.

    feedmyego’s defensive charting thread on IC gives details about Miami’s 3-point barrage. He says the level of contestedness was fairly decent and credit should go to Miami’s hot shooting. Most of the poorly contested shots resulted from pinching help by wings against dribble penetration. He thought we were over-helping.



    I would love to see those top five ranked players for the year as our starters. Two shooters at the 2 and 3 spots with Butta setting them up. Watch out!

  • Heel To The End

    ^^Roy needs to drill it into them about helping. Barnes helped on off his man when the penetrator was ALREADY being harassed by two Heels. Barnes’ man made an open 3.
    their enthusiasm to grade out well defensively cannot take the form of helping on a freshman doughboy and leaving a NY city PG wide open from 3.

    and Henson can get so block-happy that he can leave a guy completely uncovered.
    or the guards run AWAY from the guy dribbling the BALL, for pete’s sake.

  • LarryS

    It will be interesting to see who separates themselves from each other, on a consistent enough basis, to command PT for the remainder of the ACC and beyond.

    While this is all being sorted out, it’s good to know that there seems to be fairly equal, quality depth, even if no one has stood out as being superb.

    Though this is a small sample, and is likely to change, the 2010-2011 Heels, just considering ACC play, have been unique compared to all others in the Roy Williams era, and indicative of a young team in the discovery process.

    Here are some notes through the first 5 ACC games:

    -First team to not have at least one starter averaging 30 MPG

    -Lowest number of MPG between starters

    -Largest number of players with double-digit minutes (10)*

    *(The ’05-’06 team had 9)

  • Asheville Heel

    Racerman… I’m going to watch that sequence from Marshall to Barnes again. I find it ironic that the announcers commented on what a dangerous, risky pass (“lucky it wasn’t a turnover”) it was. Shows you how much announcers really don’t see all the nuance in the game that a dedicated fan of the team notices.

  • LarryS

    ^In fairness to the announcers (and I’m not sure when this comment was made in relation to the subsequent multiple replays that were done), their initial takes on many plays do not have the benefit of replays or repeated viewing.

    But, you’re right, they sometimes mischaracterize things that certain players do when the team’s followers know better.

  • Ty Lawson’s pass to Wayne Ellington at Clemson in 2008 was risky and not stolen by the barest of margins. Sometimes you get away with risky passes, sometimes you don’t.

  • “Sometimes you get away with risky passes, sometimes you don’t.”

    And greatness is often defined by one’s ability to make the risky play seem mundane.

  • LarryS

    ^He does make difficult passes seem easy.

    I continue to be impressed with how strong he is with the ball in his hands. He does all these quick little 1-2′s, fake one direction, pass another….totally in control. Just that fraction of a second, to freeze the defender, makes all the difference.

  • ^^Yes. Do we have any Mike Copeland’s on this team that can serve as a voice of reason if this NC State game gets out of hand. As I recall, just a few seasons ago, he kept a potential fight from getting out of hand w/McCauley.

  • nativeheel

    I enjoy the in-depth analysis and thank those who provide them after games. I just want to see overall team stats high enough to get the win which means all players are producing at their maximum rate at the end of 40 minutes. If the positive progress continues as a TEAM the stats and the wins will follow. Go Heels!! Take care of business on Saturday and I won’t care who is player of the game or who should have spent more time riding the pines.

  • Racerman27410

    “Sometimes you get away with risky passes, sometimes you don’t.”

    Looking back…Butta’s pass wasnt that risky.. he saw the position the defender was in (in a split second) and took advantage of it.

    He knew before he let go of the pass that #25 was not going to be able to do anything about it.

    Butta’s follow thru on the lob pass was just like a shooter taking the shot.


  • Heel in Purple

    ^^^I remember Adam Lucas’ article about Copeland incident and how we all deep down enjoyed it. I’d enjoy for State to be relevant just so the games have a little more fire than Tractor U has brought to the table. Maybe some of those summer league games will bring out some more fire from Barnes during the first 35mins and more Bullock in general.

  • UNC is 15th in the RPI right now. That’s pretty good.

  • UNCmonkey

    “It will be interesting to see who separates themselves from each other, on a consistent enough basis, to command PT for the remainder of the ACC and beyond.

    While this is all being sorted out, it’s good to know that there seems to be fairly equal, quality depth, even if no one has stood out as being superb.”

    Hey Larry - you always seem to make good points and I tend to agree with you so I thought this warranted bearing out (btw - do you post at WRAL?)

    While I have wondered the same thing at times this year, especially early on, I think the more I watch UNC play this year, the more it seems like if we are going to make any noise, its going to be by commitee. For whatever reason, guys are seemingly having a hard time finding “it” night in and night out. While this is mind boggling and frustrating at times, I think also shows that we have enough guys who can produce enough consistently as a team to make UNC a winning squad. And this is probably a stretch but maybe - just maybe - it indicates a slight and encouraging, dare I say - *adaptation* - from our coach? Roy is clearly used to having thorough breds (aren’t we all) - I think some of our struggles last year and this came out of expecting so much from single individuals (Jon Henson was supposed to be some kind of basketball ‘wunderkind’ too if I recall correctly). I think Roy has been focusing more on the team concept in the latter half this year and the team seems to be responding. It’s like he decided that if he wasn’t going to get top notch minutes out of a few of his kids then he “Dadgum sure-fire” was gonna get him at least some “decent minutes out of ALL his kids”. This is not only encouraging results-wise, but I think it shows that maybe he realizes that he CAN change his spots (if only just a little).

    As far as guys elevating their game and separating themselves from the rest of the group to earn the bulk of the available PT, I’m thinking that we may not see that at all. But it doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing. This team has a chance to actually do something very blue-collar and workman like. The have yet to have any real “stars” emerge - barring Barnes’ late game heroics or a big game by a hot hand here and there (Zeller, Bullock, Strickland come to mind)- but yet they keep finding ways to win - they don’t quit and when the game is on the line, they more often than not answer the bell. I can’t say it’s helping me sleep better at night but I do appreciate the way this team is winning; even if it ain’t pretty, it sure is admirable.

  • UNCmonkey

    Another thought I will echo about our spotty defence at Miami - I remember thinking on quite a few of those 3′s Miami canned - especially after the initial 16-0 run (in which we were about as porous as swiss cheese)- that many of them looked to be resonably well defended. One at least was from “crazy NBA range” with a hand in his face and the guys still splashed it through. How much of our bad defensive numbers can be attributed to Miami simply having an amazing shooting night from beyond the arc and how much of it was truely bad defense on the heels part? I’m turrible with stats so I’ll leave that to the numbers guys

  • LarryS

    ^^No, UNC, this is the only place I post. (And thanks for the comment)

    I just take cues from all the great information and perspectives posted here by the moderators (and many of the other knowledgeable participants) and try to add to it every now and then.

    Sometimes I get so into it that I have to remind myself to get a life, but it only lasts until the first weekend in April.

  • gregrustin


  • Heel To The End

    Psycho T is out with pneumonia? seriously?