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UNC vs. Kentucky: Beyond the Box

And so it ends.  I don’t know how anyone can think this was a good season, I mean last year’s team was still playing at this point in the season!

Obviously, I am kidding.

This was a tremendous season, especially when you consider that from December 1st on, UNC went 25-5.  Was it as ultimately successful as some of Carolina’s past seasons?  No, but in many ways, it was more fun to watch, as we got to see a collection of individual of talents grow into a collective unit that may be on the precipice of greatness.  Whether they ever reach that level (or get to attempt to reach that level) will be answered in the weeks and months to come, but for now, the only real disappointment in this season’s end is the fact that we will now have to wait another 8 months to see this team play again.

Four Factors

The biggest difference between this game and the first match-up between these two teams?  Free throws.  In the game in December, UNC had an FTR of 63.8% and made 26 free-throws.  On Sunday, those numbers fell to 24.2% (FTR) and 12 (FTM).  A big reason for UNC’s drop in FTR can be traced to Tyler Zeller’s statline.  In the game in December, Tyler Zeller lead the team with a possession % of 26.3 and a FTR of 92.3.  On Sunday, his possession % fell to 19.3 (third on the team) and his FTR fell to a paltry 25.0.  UNC simply did not do as good a job of making Zeller the focal point of the offense, and as a result, their FTR suffered.  If UNC had just reached their season average FTR of 37.9, then at the 80% clip they shot for the game, they would have had an additional 7 points.  Pretty obvious as to how 7 more points could have changed things.  And while there is no doubt that Kentucky shot incredibly well, and it is difficult to win when you give up an eFG% of 58.9, the Heels did beat Clemson when they had an eFG% of 59.1, and had the Heels found a way to get Zeller a few more possessions, they very easily could have done it again.

Statistical Highlights

  • This was only the second time all season that the Heels had a steal percentage over 10.0 (13.8) and lost (Vanderbilt).  For the season, they were 11-2 when they got a steal in 10.0% or more of their opponent’s possessions.
  • With zero blocks, John Henson snapped his incredible 21-game streak of blocking at least one shot.  For the season, Henson had at least one block in 32 of UNC’s 37 games.
  • Justin Watts (+19) led the team in Roland Rating, albeit it was only in 6 minutes of game time.  Justin Knox (+9) led those who played at least 10 minutes.  John Henson had the lowest score on the team, at -23.

Beyond the Box Player of the Game

Before getting to the POG, let’s first take a look at the top five ORtgs for the Tar Heels (minimum possession percentage: 10% or minimum minutes percentage: 80.0):

T. Zeller136.61275.078.2-1
D. Strickland128.0844.452.77
K. Marshall
H. Barnes83.81942.144.0-1
J. Knox82.1650.050.89

No player really stood out enough to warrant being named the Player of the Game, but there were two who were close.

Tyler Zeller had an extremely efficient game offense, once again posting a team leading ORtg, along with team bests in eFG% (75.0), TS% (78.2) and Floor % (70.2), en route to his 4th straight game with 20+ points.  Had Zeller had a more significant possession %, he likely would have been a clear-cut choice for POG, and while much of this fault belongs to his teammates, he did not help matters with an OR% of only 6.1.

The second player who stood out was Dexter Strickland.  Strickland put together a classic stat-stuffing line of 11 points, 4 rebounds, 3 steals, 2 assists, ZERO turnovers, and finished second on the team in both ORtg (128.0) and Floor % (66.6).  And on the defensive side of the court, while Brandon Knight was able to score 22 points, Strickland was still able to harass him into a 7-18 shooting performance and 3 turnovers.  Like Zeller, Strickland is ending the season on a streak of arguably his four best games.  With the confidence, and understanding of role, gained from these performances, and a full off-season to heal and improve, it is possible that the Strickland we saw in the NCAA Tournament is just the tip of the iceberg of what we will see next season.

Beyond the Box Player of the Year

The final rankings will be revealed in the year end “Beyond the Box.”

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

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11 comments to UNC vs. Kentucky: Beyond the Box

  • TheUNCFan

    “Justin Watts…in 6 minutes of game time.” Sure seemed longer!

  • Moustache

    Justin Watts was in the game for less time that it takes this site to load.

  • CarMichael

    CM, thanks for your good work on BtB all season. Good point about Zeller’s low usage rate v. UK. I hadn’t really noticed that.

    Give the chicken to Dexter-I’ve never seen a greater effort at both ends.

  • textual heeling

    Just wanted to say thanks. Just discovered this site the last half of the season, and it really added to my enjoyment and appreciation of this team. That the end of this season was a disappointment is only a testament to how much this team actually accomplished. I think the tournament played out like many on this site expected - I can’t count how many teams before a big game someone would post “If we just make 5 3 pointers, we’ll win”…And sure enough 5 for 16 from outside would have been enough on Sunday, and probably would have been enough for 2 more wins. I’m hopefully the 3 bigs all choose to stay, and am looking forward to having Hairston and a healty Bullock on the floor next season. I think the season might mirror 2005, when us and Illinois were far and away the 2 best teams. Only, this time I think a LOADED Kentucky team plays the part of the Illini. However, I’m confident both seasons will have the same result…

  • nathan

    Tyler Zeller was prescient in his Saturday interview with CBS. Greg Gumbel asked him “what would be the worst thing to happen to your team in the Kentucky game?” Zeller said “we just don’t make shots.” And that’s what the difference was. Barnes had open looks throughout the game that he missed, but Kentucky made similar shots. Strickland had a great cross-over drive on the baseline late in the game that he missed. Making it would have meant the Heels were up 1 with a minute to go, and Marshall wouldn’t have had to press the ball to the basket the way he did, and then Barnes wouldn’t have had to try and draw a foul on a 3 the way he did.

    Oh well, that’s how it goes. Great season heels.

  • rathskellar68

    C.Michael -

    “The final rankings will be revealed in the year end ‘Beyond the Box.’”

    Well gads, CM, what a tease you are. Indeed, you’re the biggest tease since the time, when I was 16, that…….uh……never mind.

    Anyway, I know you’ll choose Zeller, and as usual, you’ll be right. Indeed, it’s not all that close, even though KM is the one who transformed the team. Without Zeller, no SUCCESSFUL transformation would have been possible.

  • Kentucky Fan

    I am a UK fan since 1975 when UCLA beat us in the title game. I wanted to take this chance to come in and say UNC and you guys are top notch. The run you had nearly toppled us and you have always played us tough throughout history. You guys lead us big time in head to head wins, darn it. Seriously, you will be back and with that class ya got coming in next year…you will be back strong once again. Nothing new there. I know losing hurts as UK has lost MANY times. Stay strong guys.

  • BoyWilliams

    Check out http://home.roadrunner.com/~unc92sax/2011ratings.html. Some kind 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 tragic, season-ending UK game:

    Zeller      1.025 A+
    Marshall     .628 B
    Strickland   .620 B
    Barnes       .489 C
    Knox         .423 C
    Henson       .260 C
    McDonald    -.235 F

    The final ranking for the entire, nail-biting, spirit-lifting, Butta-licious 2011 season:

    Zeller       .752 A
    Henson       .720 B
    Barnes       .643 B
    Marshall     .616 B
    McDonald     .474 C
    Strickland   .420 C
    Knox         .322 C

    NOTE TO FANS: I’ll be revealing my BoyWilliams Player-of-the-Year telepathically at midnight on April 1. So stay tuned to my cosmic tarheel wavelength!

  • rathskellar68

    BoyWilliams -

    I’ve already put on my tinfoil hat. Not that I often take it off, mind you.

  • scl11

    It will be either feast or famine for UNC, all 3 will return or all 3 will leave.

  • bobmcconn

    Just signed up to mention how much I’ve enjoyed your site this season. Justly critical at times, but w/in a context of great appreciation for the team. In 35 yrs of following the Heels…one reason i got 4 gradual degrees was to keep getting tickets to games @ Carmichael..i can’t remember ever liking or enjoying a team more than this year’s…esp. post Drew. UCLA is so lucky!
    Defn looking forwards to next bball/swimming seasons.