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Month: February 2017

UNC’s Early Offense

UNC’s Early Offense

Yesterday, we looked at Carolina’s efficiency in the early offense (first 10 seconds of the shot clock) versus the half-court (seconds 11-30 of the clock). Against Virginia, true transition (i.e, primary break) opportunities are always at a premium, but that doesn’t mean that a team can’t create plenty of “early offense” chances against Tony Bennett’s team (through things like the secondary break, put-backs, and BLOBs/special situations). And, as seen in the piece from yesterday, the Heels have been more dominant in the half-court this season than in their (generally) preferred early offense.

A big storyline going into yesterday’s game was: who would win the battle of tempo? Since it’s much easier to slow down a game than speed it up, a better way to phrase the question might be: which team would win the early-offense battle, and which would win the half-court battle? Of course, if the same team won both of these facets, that team would obviously win the game (and possibly even dominate it). Yesterday, that team was North Carolina.

Let’s start by breaking down each team’s offensive efficiency by shot-clock segment:

Not surprisingly, Carolina had the clear advantage in early-offense opportunities. The Heels used 44% of their possessions within the first 10 seconds, nearly double the rate of Virginia (23%). In conjunction with UNC’s efficiency advantage in the half-court (a +29.7 margin in seconds 1-10), that gave the Heels a huge +18 (30-12) advantage in early-offense points. Despite having significantly fewer half-court opportunities than the Cavaliers, Carolina compensated by being dramatically more efficient with those chances (a half-court efficiency margin of +43.1). That resulted in a +6 in half-court scoring for North Carolina on Saturday night (35-29). When combining those two UNC advantages, it’s no surprise that the game was a blowout.

The one shot-clock segment that Virginia did control on both ends was late-clock situations. Carolina has held scoreless in its seven possessions in the final six seconds of the clock (0-4, with misses by Berry, Jackson, Britt, and Meeks with 3 TOs (by Berry, Jackson, and Woods (although it was erroneously charged to Britt in the box-score)). Seconds 25-30 of the clock was actually UVa’s most efficient segment, as it scored seven points in eight such possessions. Carolina, as it’s been all season, was especially lethal in seconds 18-24 of the shot clock. That’s generally a sweet spot that occurs after the offense has made the defense shift/probed for openings, but before it’s constrained by an expiring shot clock. In ACC games, the Heels have posted an offensive efficiency of 131.8 in that segment (in 132 possessions). Against the ‘Hoos, it was an even more impressive 177.8. This has also been UNC’s ACC opponents’ most-efficient half-court segment (as it generally is, perhaps for the “sweet spot” hypothesis I postulated above), but the Heels held UVa. to just 0.69 points per possession in seconds 18-24 (on a healthy 16 possessions).

Let’s quickly recap how the Heels created their 26 early-offense opportunities against Virginia, leading to 30 points. As mentioned earlier, the Cavs rarely give up true fast-break points since they generally concede crashing the offensive glass in favor of floor balance/getting back in transition defense. But that’s part of the beauty of Roy Williams’ secondary break system. These are listed chronologically:

  1. Out of one of Carolina’s signature secondary-break actions, Pinson threw a lob for a Hicks dunk. Hicks received a Berry back screen after setting a ball screen for Pinson. Pinson continues to set up UNC’s big for easy hoops: his three assists against Virginia were all to post players (two to Meeks, and this one to Hicks) for a dunk, a layup, and a short hook shot.
  2. Using a secondary-break ball screen from Meeks, Pinson drove the lane but was called for a push-off/offensive foul. His five turnovers this season are three bad passes and two offensive fouls (to go along with 30 assists, plus seven FT assists).
  3. After Berry picked up a backcourt steal, he missed a floater in the lane following the live-ball turnover.
  4. This one was created by another live-ball turnover—this time it was Britt stripping a driving Perrantes with Jackson picking up the loose ball. Jackson pushed it coast-to-coast to draw a foul in a rare primary break opportunity against UVa. He split the free throws.
  5. Jackson hit a secondary break 3 after coming off a Maye screen to receive a dribble hand-off from Britt near the top of the key (shading towards Jackson’s preferred left wing). This transition opportunity was preceded by a long 3-point miss from UVa with a second left on the clock, leading to a long rebound by Bradley.
  6. Bradley tipped around an offensive rebound several times before it was eventually secured by Maye. Maye immediately shoveled it back to Bradley for a FT assist at the rim. Bradley split a pair of free throws, and this was more evidence of the chemistry that’s developed between Carolina’s back-up frontcourt duo.
  7. Berry carelessly lost his dribble out of bounds when attempting to start Carolina’s secondary break from the right wing. It was Berry’s team-high 10th ball-handling turnover of the season (although Woods’ per-40 rate of ball-handling TOs is nearly three times as high as Berry’s).
  8. In a seldom-used baseline out of bounds (BLOB) set, Roy Williams called a play to create a look for the red-hot Jackson. He curled off a staggered double screen from Hicks and Robinson to receive a Woods pass from his left-wing hot spot (Jackson’s made 34-of-65 3s (52.3%) from the left wing, including 2-of-4 vs. Virginia). Although he missed this one, I thought it was a great call by Williams to get his leading scorer a shot.
  9. Woods waved the trailing Hicks out of his usual secondary spot at the top of the key in order to set up a quick hitter out of UNC’s 1-4 alignment. Jackson curled off of a Hicks screen to receive a pass from Woods and hit a floater in the paint while drawing an “and-1.” He’s convert the old-fashioned 3-point play to give UNC a 25-12 lead.
  10. In another secondary break staple, Hicks slipped a screen to receive a pass from Jackson for a dunk. I’m sure the staff worked on this one in practice, as Virginia’s ball screen defense makes it susceptible for the secondary slip. Jackson had a downright Pinsonian game passing the basketball. His six assists resulted in two dunks (to Hicks), three layups (two to Meeks, including an “and-1” and one to Berry), and Pinson corner 3.
  11. After a Pinson steal, he pushed the ball in the primary break to Jackson on the left wing. As Jackson looked to pull the ball back rather than attack the hoop, he was called for a travel.
  12. Bradley blocked a driving layup by Darius Thompson to launch a primary break opportunity. Jackson corralled the defensive board and immediately pushed it himself, hitting Berry for an easy layup as he filled the right wing in transition.
  13. Jackson fed Bradley with a secondary break post entry pass to the left block. Bradley, who had established deep position, wasn’t doubled by Virginia, and missed a good look at a short jump hook over his left shoulder (his go-to post move/location).
  14. After a Meeks block, Pinson grabbed the defensive board and went coast to coast for a primary-break “and-1.” Another example of great Carolina defense fueling its transition game (like the Bradley block above).
  15. Once again a Meeks blocked shot got the Heels out in transition. This time, Berry missed a layup from the right side after making a nifty behind-the-back, hesitation-dribble drive (the quintessential “everything but the finish” play).
  16. Meeks controlled another second-half defensive rebound, throwing an outlet to Jackson who missed a transition 3-pointer. This was a tough, contested 3 off the dribble, and immediately led to a Virginia run-out/open Shayok layup. Jackson didn’t do much wrong on Saturday night, but this shot selection qualifies as one of his poor decisions.
  17. In another secondary break action, Pinson curled off a Meeks screen, then hit the rolling big for a lefty layup. A great pass by Pinson, and another example of the secondary break creating a quick score (although not one that’s considered “fast break” points in the box score).
  18. Woods threw a secondary-break entry to Meeks on the left block, and the ‘Hoos immediately sent their big-to-big post double. Hicks, the trailing big in secondary, cut hard from his top-of-the-key position to receive a Meeks pass for an open dunk. Hockey assist to Woods, and a great job of attacking Virginia’s post-trapping scheme with a well-timed dive to to rim.
  19. After Britt missed a secondary-break corner 3 that was created by a Berry-Bradley pick-and-roll, Jackson crashed the glass to tip in the miss for his only second-half hoop.
  20. Maye picked up a 3-second violation while trying to establish deep post position against an undersized Devon Hall (playing the 4 in UVa’s small-ball formation). This is, of course, rarely called, and is the cost of doing business in the secondary break/Roy Williams system.
  21. Following a Perrantes drive and miss, Virginia’s floor balance was uncharacteristically out of sync (this too-frequently happens to UNC, too, following Berry’s drives). This enabled Jackson to push it himself following a defensive rebound and hit Hicks for a primary-break dunk. Hicks flew down the floor on this play, simply out-running the Virginia bigs. The ability of Carolina’s starting wings (Pinson/Jackson) to defensive board and push the pace themselves is turning into a huge weapon for the Heels.
  22. Running the same 1-4 quick-hitter set that resulted in his earlier “and’1,” Jackson curled off another Hicks screen, but this time missed the floater in the paint. Using this set more has been a nice adjustment that takes advantage of Jackson’s skill-set/ability as a curler.
  23. In another secondary set, Hicks, rather than receiving the reversal pass from Berry, set a screen for Pinson to curl off of. This allowed Pinson to get into the paint off the dribble and finish a contested scoop shot at the rim. Pinson’s ability to penetrate and finish at the rim has obviously given the Heels’ offense a whole new dimension lately.
  24. After throwing a secondary-break pass to Jackson from the top of the key, Meeks followed his pass to set a ball screen on the left wing. Jackson tried to split the Virginia hard hedge, resulting in a ball-handling turnover. Again, no huge issues here—just the cost of doing business in the secondary break.
  25. Pinson hit Maye on the right block with a secondary-break entry pass, then the Cavs came immediately with their big-to-big double. Maye quickly found an alertly-cutting Jackson, who missed a layup that he’ll generally finish. Meeks, however, was in perfect position for a tip-dunk—more evidence of how good offensive ball/player movement sets up Carolina’s elite offensive rebounding game.
  26. On another right-block entry from the right wing, Pinson got the ball to Meeks in deep post position (too deep to double). Meeks turned immediately and banked in a short jump hook to cap off his 13-point second-half performance.

As seen in the recap above, Carolina used a variety of secondary break sets to create early offense against Virginia. It also mixed in a couple of opportunistic primary breaks off of live-ball turnovers or defensive boards by its wings/blocked shots by its bigs. While this game was undisputedly played at Virginia’s pace (59.5 possessions—only the seventh game of the 14-year Williams era played below 60 possessions; UNC’s won all seven), the Heels were still able to create their share of early offense. In an average game, UNC uses about 55% of its possessions in the first 10 seconds (down from a Williams-era average of about 60%). That dropped to 44% on Saturday night. But, as discussed, Carolina’s impressive half-court efficiency this season (particularly in the possession-length sweet spot of 18-24 seconds) has enabled it to win both fast and slow. That combination of early-offense and half-court efficiency figures to make this Tar Heel team an especially tough out in March.

 

 

 

 

The Primary Break: UNC-UVa. Quick Takes

The Primary Break: UNC-UVa. Quick Takes

Some quick statistical tidbits following Saturday night’s huge 65-41 win over Virginia.

  • Carolina posted a defensive efficiency of 68.3 (41 points allowed on 60 UVa. possessions), its 4th-best mark of the season (behind Northern Iowa (63.6), Radford (64.9), and the first NC State game (67.5)). When adjusting for strength of opposing offense, however, this UNC’s best defensive performance of the season.
  • After being shut out in the first half (0 points, 0 rebounds and 0 assists), Kennedy Meeks had a huge 13-point, 7-rebound, 2-assist second half. He also blocked three shots in the game to move past Serge Zwikker into 13th place on UNC’s all-time list with 134.
  • Four of Isaiah Hicks’ five made field goals were dunks (two from sweet secondary break sets, one on the primary break, and one from a good Meeks pass falling a UVa big-to-big double). He leads the Heels with 38 of the team’s 84 dunks this season, one behind his total of 39 from last season. In his career, he has 117 dunks, fourth in the Roy Williams era behind Hansbrough, Johnson, and Henson. Jackson assisted on two of the dunks (part of his 6-assist night), and leads Carolina with 13 assisted dunks this year.
  •  Jackson scored 18 of his 20 points in the first half. On the night, he moved past Brendan Haywood and Deon Thompson into 34th place on the all-time scoring list with 1,415 points. Shammond Williams is 33rd with 1,445.
  • Meeks drew his team-leading 13th “and-1”, but converted it (by making the free throw) for just the sixth time. Jackson also added his sixth (converted four), and Pinson his second (missed both free throws).
  • Berry drew the Heels’ only offensive foul on the night, his 10th of the season. That’s second on the team, trailing only Kenny Williams’ 16.
  • Carolina’s starting 5 was only +2 (23-21) on the night in 14:00 of court time (including -4 in the first half). In the 26:00 with at least one bench player on the court, UNC was +22 (42-20).
  • Although Seventh Woods didn’t do anything spectacular, he played solid defense without making any bad decisions/silly turnovers. He added a couple of assists and three defensive rebounds, and UNC led 16-7 in his minutes (including 10-2 in the first half, and 14-2 until his garbage-time stint).
  • While Carolina’s defense was excellent, it also had plenty of “shot luck” with UVa’s 2-of-20 shooting from behind the arc (many on lightly contested looks). UNC had been especially unlucky in terms of its ACC 3-point defense, so it’s not surprising to see this start to regress to the mean.
  • The Heels defense was consistently outstanding. They allowed 22 points on 30 1st-half possessions, and 19 on 30 2nd-half ones.
  • Carolina is now 7-0 in the Williams era in games with fewer than 60 possessions (this one had 59.5), including 2-0 this season (the Pitt game also had 59.5 possessions).

I’ll be back soon with some more on the game, including breaking down UNC’s early offense/half-court offense splits.

 

 

 

Tale of Two Tempos?

Tale of Two Tempos?

Like usual, the Carolina-Virginia game is being billed as a tale of two tempos. That’s certainly the case on paper. The Heels have the 45th-fastest pace in the country (and 15th-fastest when considering only offensive possession length). Tony Bennett’s Cavaliers, on the other hand, are the second-slowest team in the nation (and the slowest in terms of average offensive possession length).

But let’s dig a little deeper. When investigating how the Heels have performed (on both ends) in early vs. half-court offense this season, a walk-it-up affair might not be the worst possible scenario for Roy Williams. The tables below break UNC and its opponents’ ACC possessions into two buckets: “early offense” (ending in the first 10 seconds of the possession) and “half-court offense” (ending in the final 20 seconds of the possession). “Early offense” possessions are generally comprised of three main types: 1.) transition, 2.) second-chance, and 3.) BLOB/special situations. The biggest of those bins is transition, however, and “early offense” is an excellent proxy for a team’s willingness to run and efficiency in the open floor.

As seen in the tables above, Carolina has actually been more efficient in seconds 11-30 (119.4) than it’s been in seconds 1-10 (116.3) during ACC play. This is quite the departure from the average Roy Williams team at UNC. Since 2008, the Heels have been about 12% more efficient in their early chances than in their half-court ones. Historically, Carolina’s opponents have also been much more efficient in early-offense opportunities, averaging about 15% more points per possession than in the half-court. That’s right in line with the 14% “early-offense premium” that UNC’s ACC opponents have posted this season (114.0 in seconds 1-10 vs. 99.8 in seconds 11-30). Because the Heels prioritize crashing the offensive glass (sometimes at the sake of defensive balance), they’ve always been somewhat susceptible in transition.

Digging even deeper into the “4 Factors” driving efficiency in each clock segment reveals few surprises. The Heels are much better at drawing fouls and grabbing offensive rebounds in early-clock situations (against scrambled/recovering defenses). Likewise, they protect the basketball better in the halfcourt. The biggest surprise—and indeed the area in which Carolina is deviating from its historical averages—is eFG%. UNC is shooting better in half-court possessions than in its early-offense ones, driven entirely by a much higher percentage from behind the arc. The Heels (not surprisingly) also shoot a significantly higher percentage of their shots from deep when confined to the halfcourt. Joel Berry and (especially) Justin Jackson—UNC’s two primary 3-point weapons—have both been much more comfortable as half-court shooters this season. How much of that is due to pure noise/randomness is certainly up for debate. It’s possible that UNC has just had really good “shot luck” in the halfcourt (and correspondingly bad luck from behind the arc in the early offense) to drive these atypical results. Regardless of how much luck is involved, this highlights the importance of UNC knocking down perimeter shots to sustain its half-court efficiency. Since it’s driven by both a high rate of 3-point attempts, and a high efficiency on those shots, the Heels will probably need to hit some half-court 3s to emerge victorious against UVa.

UNC’s opponents also have a similar (and intuitive) “4 Factors” profile: more free throws and offensive boards in the early offense, fewer turnovers in the halfcourt. The difference is that they’ve had a significantly higher eFG% in the first 10 seconds of a possession. Carolina’s opponents have been shooting much more frequently and much more efficiently from behind the arc in the early offense than the Heels have. If the Cavs are content to grind this one into a half-court battle, they might be missing some prime opportunities to create clean early-offense looks from behind the arc.

This isn’t an ACC-only phenomenon for Carolina. In all games, UNC has an offensive efficiency of 117.2 in seconds 1-10 and 122.4 in seconds 11-30. Its opponents, meanwhile, have scored 1.01 points per possession in the early offense versus just 0.83 in half-court trips. While it’s decidedly atypical of a Roy Williams-coached team, this edition of UNC basketball has actually thrived in the offensive halfcourt.

There’s no denying that Carolina is far more interested than Virginia in running/pushing the pace on Saturday night. But, if the game grinds to the halfcourt slog that Bennett and the ‘Hoos prefer, there’s ample evidence to suggest that the Heels will fare quite well under those circumstances.

Will these trends hold true against Virginia? Certainly its brand of halfcourt defense with Bennett’s famed packline principles is much better than the average ACC defense the Heels have faced. We’ll be back with some post-game analysis that breaks the game down by efficiency as a function of possession length.

 

UNC vs. Virginia: Tempo-Free Season Box Scores

UNC vs. Virginia: Tempo-Free Season Box Scores

No big game can ever have too many previews, so…

Here’s a look at tons of pace-adjusted stats for the teams and players that will collide tomorrow at 8:15 in the Dome of Dean. Specifically, the team stats (besides pace and offensive efficiency) are per 70 possessions. The team’s percentile rank among the 351 teams in D1 are also given.

Team And Opponent Stats

Stat    UNC          UVA Opp              UVA         UNC Opp      
Pace     74.4   92%                        61.1   0%               
OffEff  117.3   99%     89.4  99%         110.8  88%     96.5   80%
2P%      52.4   79%     44.1  92%          53.4  87%     47.1   70%
3P        6.9   40%      6.8  66%           7.6  60%      7.9   24%
3PA      18.7   26%     21.0  46%          19.6  36%     22.7   19%
3P%      37.1   74%     32.3  85%          38.9  90%     34.9   49%
eFG%     53.4   78%     55.0  94%          55.0  90%     53.4   60%
FT       15.5   74%     12.9  70%          11.2   5%     11.8   88%
FTA      22.1   75%     18.8  67%          15.7   2%     16.5   92%
FT%      70.1   53%     68.5  73%          71.5  62%     71.3   32%
P        82.1   99%     62.6  99%          77.6  88%     67.5   80%
OR       14.7  100%      7.8  99%          10.1  48%      8.6   90%
R        41.1  100%     32.7  88%          37.3  87%     28.9  100%
A        17.1   98%     10.7  96%          16.7  96%     11.2   88%
B         3.1   44%      2.8  80%           4.8  89%      4.0   10%
S         6.9   75%      5.9  54%           6.5  62%      5.9   57%
PF       16.6   88%     17.0  11%          18.5  56%     18.8   47%
TO       11.5   88%     14.8  87%          11.4  89%     13.5   60%
No surprises here. Ours is the better offense, theirs the tougher D. The numbers say they 
should out-block us, but we have a shot at getting some steals and deflections and they
shouldn't exactly parade to the free throw line.

Our offensive boards should be a clash of titans (and could be quite busy, given the 2P% 
and block stats of their D vs. our O); in theory we should own the glass at their offensive 
end, but when teams don't strategically cede DR's to us to control our transition game 
they often have second-chance success.

We can't count on fast-break points or Berry/Jackson long bombs. We have to solve the
Bennett mystery and execute our formula of paint and 2nd-chance points.

Player stats, presented in a pet normalization of mine that I introduced in my first post about
Theo's extraordinary stat line. These are the averages and shooting totals the players would have
if they played 30 mpg for 35 games at a pace of 70 with 35 rebounds per game at each end. It's
intended to paint a very intuitive picture of what a starter who produced like the player in
question would look like. Stats are divided into two rows so as to fit on this page.

UNC Players
Name              Ht    Wt   Class  G   MPG       
   2P%   3P  3PA  3P%   eFG%  FT   FTA  FT%          P     OR   R     A    B    S    PF   TO 
Justin Jackson    6-8   200  Jr     27  31.4      
   51.9  82  212  38.9  54.8   82  108  76.1         16.8  1.2   4.4  2.3  0.2  0.5  1.3  1.4
Joel Berry        6-0   195  Jr     25  29.6      
   51.2  83  199  41.9  57.6   87  102  85.5         14.4  0.4   3.1  3.9  0.1  1.5  2.2  2.0
Kenny Williams    6-4   175  So     26  23.7      
   52.5  44  129  33.8  51.4   31   48  63.3          7.5  1.6   4.0  2.6  0.4  1.1  1.8  1.4
Kennedy Meeks     6-10  260  Sr     27  23.6      
   53.0   0    0   0.0  53.0   91  147  61.7         15.2  4.5  11.3  1.4  1.1  1.2  2.8  1.6
Isaiah Hicks      6-9   235  Sr     26  23.4      
   61.0   0    0   0.0  61.0  128  159  80.4         15.3  2.4   6.7  1.4  0.9  0.4  3.6  2.1
Nate Britt        6-1   175  Sr     27  19.7      
   39.0  36  105  33.9  44.0   30   49  61.5          7.1  0.5   2.8  3.7  0.1  1.7  2.7  1.6
Theo Pinson       6-6   205  Jr      8  17.5      
   59.3  21   78  27.3  53.9  100  142  70.0         11.2  2.3   8.3  5.5  0.2  1.6  2.4  0.8
Tony Bradley      6-10  235  Fr     25  15.0      
   56.5   0    0   0.0  56.5  144  229  62.8         14.8  5.8  10.7  1.3  1.3  0.5  3.4  1.4
Luke Maye         6-8   230  So     22  13.7      
   50.6  26   69  38.1  52.0   40   79  50.0         11.1  3.4   7.9  2.4  0.5  1.0  3.8  1.9
Brandon Robinson  6-5   160  Fr     27   8.9      
   41.9  29  112  25.9  40.5   71  104  68.0          7.6  1.2   4.6  2.6  0.4  0.9  2.8  1.4
Seventh Woods     6-2   175  Fr     27   8.7      
   37.5   8   42  20.0  36.0   89  156  56.8          6.9  0.7   5.1  5.1  0.2  1.9  2.4  4.2

UVA Players
Name              Ht    Wt   Class  G   MPG       
   2P%   3P  3PA  3P%   eFG%  FT  FTA  FT%          P     OR   R    A    B    S    PF   TO 
London Perrantes  6-2   192  Sr     25  31.7      
   47.5  77  196  39.1  53.2  77   96  79.4         13.8  0.4  3.4  4.2  0.1  0.7  1.1  1.9
Isaiah Wilkins    6-7   230  Jr     25  28.5      
   57.3   7   11  57.1  58.8  56   78  71.7          9.1  3.3  7.9  1.8  1.7  1.3  2.2  1.5
Devon Hall        6-5   209  Jr     25  26.4      
   45.7  44  114  38.7  50.0  64   81  79.5         11.2  0.7  5.6  2.5  0.1  0.7  2.6  1.1
Marial Shayok     6-5   213  Jr     25  21.6      
   49.7  31  101  31.1  49.0  79  103  76.1         15.3  0.6  4.3  1.8  0.5  1.6  2.2  1.9
Darius Thompson   6-4   196  Jr     25  20.2      
   57.7  46  135  33.9  54.7  39   60  64.0         10.7  0.3  3.1  4.3  0.5  1.6  1.7  1.9
Jack Salt         6-11  110  So     25  18.5      
   57.1   0    0   0.0  57.1  39   79  50.0          7.1  2.9  7.1  0.8  1.1  0.6  5.0  1.3
Kyle Guy          6-3   165  Fr     25  17.4      
   44.4  95  196  48.6  58.5  64   84  76.7         15.1  0.3  2.8  2.4  0.1  0.8  2.1  1.1
Mamadi Diakite    6-9   195  Fr     23  11.7      
   65.5  13   42  30.0  62.3  46   92  50.0         11.0  2.4  7.0  0.6  3.8  0.7  6.1  0.8
Jarred Reuter     6-7   243  So     24  11.3      
   60.8   0    0   0.0  60.8  70   86  81.0         11.6  2.9  7.7  1.9  0.2  0.6  4.2  2.7
Ty Jerome         6-5   190  Fr     25  11.0      
   81.8  73  165  43.9  71.4  40   56  71.4         11.5  0.1  3.2  4.1  0.2  1.0  4.1  2.6

Berry and Jackson’s 132 treys put them in a three-way tie for 29th-most by a duo in the country. Marcus Keene and Braylon Rayson of Central Michigan are the maddest bombers with 172. Clearly we need somebody handcuffed to Kyle Guy as soon as he enters the game.

Hopefully we’ll get our first extended look at the Pinson-Hicks effect. My own play-by-play charting has Isaiah at 23 P, 8 R, and 7.3 FTA per 30 minutes on 63 & 91 shooting with Theo vs. 16, 7, and 4.5 on 61 & 79 without him.

Three of their best rebounders are foul-prone. Hopefully that comes into play late in the game. Early would be fine, too.

I have Kennedy as tied for 14th-best rebounder in the country and Tony tied for 24th. There are reasons why we probably won’t see significant minutes for those two together with Joel, Theo, and Justin, but it would be oh-so-interesting to see how that would work.

Luke Maye Busts Out

Luke Maye Busts Out

Luke Maye set a career-high against NC State with 13 points, the continuation of a positive trend in scoring volume and efficiency. The table below shows his season splits divided into three segments: 1.) non-conference games ((Maye played in nine of the 14); 2.) the first seven ACC games; and 3.) the last six ACC games.

As seen in the table, Maye’s per-40 scoring rate, as well as his True Shooting%, have skyrocketed over the past few games. That’s been driven by a huge spike in his 2-point FG% (both at the rim and from mid-range). He’s also committed just a single turnover over  his last six games (77 minutes), while maintaining (actually slightly improving) his solid per-minute assist rate. The only bad news in Maye’s play has been a precipitous decline in rebounding rate (especially on the defensive boards), although he did grab seven against NC State (including three on the defensive end). In the early part of the ACC season, Maye was absolutely dominant on both backboards (highlighted by his 15-rebound performance vs. Florida State). Both his 3-point rate (steadily) and his free throw rate (sharply) have declined segment-to-segment. While the 3-pointer is still part of his offensive arsenal (especially of the pick-and-pop and trailing-big-in-secondary varieties), Maye—always confident—is showing more discretion from behind the arc. Against NC State, he turned down a couple of clean perimeter looks (including the one that he turned into a driving dunk after pump-faking Omer Yurtseven).

Next, let’s break down Maye’s shot attempts by type and length. These are split into non-conference and ACC buckets. As implied by the data above, Maye’s shooting percentages have been improving across the board as the conference season progresses. This is especially true of his close FG%. Maye made 5-of-7 close attempts against the Wolfpack after starting the ACC campaign just 9-of-24 (37.5%) at the rim. Although his close FG% is way down in ACC play, he’s getting dramatically more attempts at the rim (in part due to his improved offensive rebounding; Theo Pinson’s presence is also helping here, as it has with getting all UNC’s bigs easier looks).

After missing all four of his mid-range catch-and-shoot jumpers in non-conference play, Maye has converted 6-of-1o in the ACC (including three against Duke alone). From 10-20′ overall, he’s shooting 64.7% in league play, while nearly doubling his non-conference attempts from that distance. During ACC games, Maye has clearly been Carolina’s most prolific and efficient mid-range option. He’s been particularly adept at finding openings in opposing defenses within the freelance passing game. His smart cuts/relocations have resulted in several clean mid-range looks recently.

Finally, let’s break down Maye’s 11 field goal attempts in the NC State game. He knocked down five of his first six shots before slumping a bit down the stretch.

  1. Wide-open tip in after a missed Britt 3 from the corner (created by a Jackson drive-and-kick); Dorn closed out on Britt after Jackson’s drive scrambled the State defense, but Smith never switched on to/boxed out Maye
  2. After a secondary break post entry from Britt to Bradley (who beat Anya down the court) on the left block, Bradley immediately hit a cutting Maye (the trailing big in secondary) for a layup; great cut by Maye, and a beautifully-executed transition possession by the Heels
  3. Missed a pick-and-pop 3 from the left wing after setting a ball screen for Pinson
  4. Another open tip in, this one was created by running right past Kapita after setting a screen to free Berry for a (missed) 3 on a baseline out of bounds (BLOB) set; Maye’s energy/effort/activity level was just consistently higher than the Pack’s bigs all night
  5. The famous Maye dunk following his shot fake to get Yurtseven in the air (terrible close-out), then a disinterested help rotation by Smith; this was the first close shot that Maye has created off the dribble all season (in only three attempts), and only his second dunk of his career; it was a terrific move, but NC State’s defense/effort was just abysmal on this play (bad enough to get a coach fired, even)
  6. Another beautiful secondary break set resulted in a Pinson lob to Maye after he received a back screen from Jackson; this is a quintessential secondary option for the Heels, and a great delivery by Pinson to create another open, close opportunity for a UNC big
  7. After out-fighting Kapita for another offensive rebound, Maye’s stick-back attempt was blocked from behind by Henderson as Anya also heavily contested the shot; finishing in the paint over size/through contact is an area where Maye continues to struggle as an undersized post player lacking elite ACC athleticism
  8. Maye knocked down a left-wing 3 after a BLOB dribble hand-off to Berry flowed directly into a Berry/Maye pick-and-pop
  9. On another BLOB set, Maye this time faked the dribble hand-off to Berry and attacked off the dribble; he missed a little leaning hook shot (the release was somewhat Hansbroughian) after using a pump fake to get Smith in the air (and probably draw an (uncalled) foul)
  10. He got his own rebound after the above miss, failing to convert a put-back opportunity that he should have finished.
  11. Maye missed a left-wing 3 (all three of his 3s vs. NC State were from the left wing) as the trailing big in the secondary break; Pinson got the potential assist for this one; Maye’s now just 2-8 (25.0%) on left-wing 3s, and 3-13 (23.1%) on 3s from either wing; he’s 4-7 (57.1%) on top-of-key 3s, and has also made his only corner attempt from behind the arc.

Maye probably won’t continue to score nearly 22 points / 40 like he was over his past six games. But his mix of 4-level scoring (at the rim, post moves (generally either a jump hook or turnaround jumper), mid-range jumpers, and 3s) is versatile enough to make him a constant threat. Working hard/high motor is a skill, and one that Maye possesses in abundance. That will always lead to a few “garbage” opportunities for him in transition, the offensive glass, or on loose ball/scrambles situations. Those aren’t just lucky bounces/breaks, though—they’re a function of Maye playing hard and smart (timely cuts, good anticipation of missed shots, etc.). His physical limitations will always limit his upside as a go-to post scorer in the ACC (simply since he’ll (probably) never finish at the rim efficiently enough). But his overall offensive game makes him a great complementary big to pair with a back-to-the-basket scorer like Meeks or Bradley.

Speaking of Maye-Bradley combos, the +/- numbers have been very favorable to that frontcourt duo in ACC play. Though it’s no guarantee that those two will pair in the post as starters next season, Carolina fans should feel more and more comfortable if that’s what ultimately happens.

Starting Fresh

Starting Fresh

With the announcement of the sad news that Kenny Williams is likely done for the season following knee surgery, Carolina debuted its new starting 5 on Wednesday night in Raleigh. While this group hadn’t started a game together all season (and, in fact, had only logged 7:16 as a quintet), the idea of a Berry-Pinson-Jackson-Hicks-Meeks unit certainly wasn’t a novel one to Tar Heel fans. That lineup—the expected starting group going into the season—almost certainly gives UNC its best combination of talent and experience at all five spots. If Carolina is planning to make a deep run this March in a post-Williams world, it will be leaning heavily on its new starting 5.

Let’s break down how the new starting lineup performed together to begin the game. Its minutes were limited last night due to Isaiah Hicks’ rapid rate of racking up fouls. Still, the new quintet highlighted some things it does well (and also a couple areas it will need to work on).

UNC1 (2-0): In a coaching wrinkle, NC State started out small with Torin Dorn at the 4. Running its freelance motion, Carolina capitalized on this strategy right away, posting Hicks up against Maverick Rowan (who switched with Dorn on a perimeter exchange earlier in the possession). Hicks, who received the ball away from the block on the right extended mid-paint on an entry pass from Justin Jackson, took one big back-down dribble, then simply exploded over Rowan for a layup to start the scoring.

NCSU1 (2-0): With their 4-out, 1-in lineup, the ‘Pack made it clear right away what they intended to do on the offensive end. Abdul-Malik Abu set a ball screen for explosive point guard Dennis Smith, Jr., forcing a flat hedge by Meeks as Berry fought over the top. Smith’s pure speed allowed him to easily get into the middle of the paint, drawing help from Pinson. Smith kicked out to the left corner, where Rowan missed a clean 3-point look with Pinson scrambling to recover late. This was a great look for one of NC State’s best shooters, and the type of opportunity that ACC teams have been creating all season against the Heels. Luckily, Rowan missed, with Meeks corralling the defensive board.

UNC2 (2-0): Carolina ran its secondary break, flowing right into the freelance passing game. It again looked to feed the post, this time with Jackson entering the ball to Meeks on the left block. Abu did a good job of bodying up against Meeks’ two back-down dribbles, forcing a contested turnaround jumper from the left baseline. Meeks missed, and is now shooting just 23.5% (4-17) on turnaround jumpers this season. It couldn’t be said often last night, but this was a good individual defensive effort by NC State.

NCSU2 (2-2): State went right back to another Smith/Abu ball screen, allowing Smith to crossover a flat-hedging Meeks to get to the rim. Meeks played it properly, but Smith is just an elite athlete. Hicks’ help rotation/contest at the rim was also solid—Smith just made a big-time finish.

UNC3 (5-2): Out of the secondary break, Hicks set a screen for Jackson who received a pass from Berry for a top-of-the-key 3. The shot missed, but Hicks was able to out-battle the smaller Dorn to force the rebound out of bounds against State. On the ensuing BLOB, the ball went around the horn to Berry (after he inbounded and cut to the opposite wing). He then received a ball screen from Hicks, rising up for a left-wing 3 off the dribble after an NC State miscommunication on the switch.

NCSU3 (5-2): This time, Smith turned down an Abu high screen to drive the right-side of the lane against Berry. Berry did a serviceable job of staying connected to Smith on the drive, but a Pinson over-help forced a help-the-helper rotation by Jackson on Rowan in the paint. Rowan promptly kicked out to Henderson (Jackson’s man) on the left wing, who missed a clean look over a late-recovering Jackson. For the second time in three possessions, Smith penetration led to a clean kick-out 3 for one of the ‘Pack’s best shooters. They missed both shots, however. There will probably be a learning curve for the new starting 5 with Pinson, as the team learns how to best compensate for his proclivity for gambling/over-helping.

UNC4 (7-2): Secondary again flowed seamlessly into freelance motion, with Pinson crossing over to get to the left elbow. From there, he threw a David Noel-style jump shot-turned-pass to Meeks under the hoop for the layup. Pinson (easily) leads the Heels in potential close assists, and all four of his assists against NC State were for layups. He also had two FT assists that led to shooting fouls at the rim. His four assists (and two FT assists) were all to Carolina’s bigs, too. On the season, 16 of his 27 assists (plus all seven of his FT assists) are to the UNC post quartet of Meeks/Hicks/Bradley/Maye. If you’re a Tar Heel big, you’re probably quite excited to have Pinson back in the lineup.

NCSU4 (7-4): State pushed the ball in transition, and Pinson did a fantastic job of stopping Terry Henderson’s penetration in the open court. Henderson, however, did hit a tough, step-back jumper over Pinson after having his drive denied. The ‘Pack had zero offensive rebounding support on this attempt, and a long 2-pointer a few seconds into the shot clock probably didn’t qualify as great shot selection.

UNC5 (9-4): After Pinson (on the right wing) passed up a post entry to Meeks on the right block, he rotated the ball to Jackson on the left wing. Jackson swung the ball to Berry in the left corner, allowing Meeks to cut block-to-block to receive a bounce-pass entry there. Abu gambled for a steal, leaving Meeks open to finish a reverse layup against half-hearted help-side defense. This wasn’t a great entry by Berry, and it probably would have been stolen by a better/quicker post defender (Amile Jefferson, for example). It was a good job by the Heels to reverse the ball, however, and Meeks worked hard to create post position on each block.

NCSU5 (9-5): Smith again turned down an Abu ball screen (the fourth time in State’s first five possessions that Abu was used as a high screener for Smith), blowing past Berry on the bounce. This time, Pinson did not help, electing to stick close to Henderson in the right corner (as Smith drove the right-side of the paint again). Hicks, then, was forced to help late at the rim, fouling Smith to prevent a thunderous dunk. He split a pair of free throws.

UNC6 (12-5): After Berry drew a secondary break (non-shooting) foul on Smith with a drive, his ensuing BLOB entry was nearly stolen by Rowan. Carolina was able to recover the loose ball, with the chaos creating a drive-and-kick opportunity for Hicks. He found Jackson open on his preferred left wing location, but the shot was missed. Hicks, however, crashed to grab another offensive rebound against the overmatched Dorn, drop-stepping to the rim to draw an “and-1” opportunity on the put-back. It was Hicks’ 10th “and-1” of the season (second only to Meeks’ 11) and, upon making the free throw, he’s completed eight of them.

NCSU6 (12-5): Another ‘Pack possession, another Abu ball screen for Smith. He again turned this one down, driving on Berry to force a Pinson help rotation. Smith kicked to the right corner to Henderson, but Pinson’s well-timed recovery ran him off the 3-point line. Pinson took a great close-out angle to force Henderson’s drive to the baseline, allowing Berry to help out and strip the ball (which he saved to an alert Meeks). This was a great help-and-recovery by Pinson, and a good job of Berry helping on the baseline drive (after the dribble was correctly fanned in that direction by Pinson). Really good defensive possession; UNC will need more like this against the steady diet of drive-and-kick/ball-screen offense that it figures to see the rest of the way.

UNC7 (12-5): Pushing the ball after the live-ball turnover, Berry hit it ahead to Jackson on the right wing, who immediately found Hicks filling the middle of the lane. Henderson basically shoved Hicks coming through the paint (uncalled), knocking him off balance to force a missed transition layup. Even with the contact, this is the type of play that Hicks (an elite close finisher) generally completes.

NCSU7 (12-7): State pushed it right back following the Hicks miss in transition, with Smith attempting a right-wing 3. Pinson did an excellent job of locating the ball and closing out on the shooter in the open court, helping to force the Smith miss. Abu out-battled Meeks for the long rebound, then kicked it out for an offensive reset. Smith, after using s0me slick shake-and-bake dribbling at the top of the key to freeze Berry, was able to blow by to draw a helping Meeks. Smith dished to Abu, who was able to pick up the second foul on Hicks who had rotated to help the helper. Abu made both free throws. Both of Hicks’ early fouls were as a result of Smith blow-bys on Berry (not involving ball screens). He needs to do a better job of contesting without fouling (walling without dropping his arms), but Carolina also needs to contain penetration better (easier said than done against the lightning-quick Smith). Maye would check in for Hicks at the 16:01 mark.

Following the 12-7 start documented above, the Heels would force turnovers on NC State’s next three possessions, and the Berry-Britt-Jackson-Maye-Bradley combo would go on an 11-3 run to push the lead out to 23-10. That lineup also had a 10-3 second-half run, and led 23-8 in its 6:53 of action as Maye-Bradley (possibly next year’s starting frontcourt) continues to impress from a +/- perspective.

As for the starting 5, it led 14-9 in its 6:12 of court time (Hicks would pick up his fourth foul 2:13 into the second half and not return). On the season, that group is now +15 (34-19) in 13.5 minutes, dominating on both ends so far in its small sample of shared court time (offensive efficiency of 138.8; defensive efficiency of 77.6).

I’m still working to finish charting this game, but will be back soon with a breakdown of Maye’s game against NC State and his development over the course of the season.

The Primary Break: UNC-NC State Quick Takes

The Primary Break: UNC-NC State Quick Takes

Here are some quick statistical nuggets following Wednesday night’s 97-73 victory over NC State.

  • Kennedy Meeks had 18 points and eight rebounds in just 25:51 of court time against the ‘Pack. Adjusting for pace, Meeks is now averaging 20.4 points / 40 minutes and 15.0 rebounds / 40. No Tar Heel since 1980 (i.e., the “pace-adjusted, per-minute” era) has had a pace-adjusted, per-40 20-15 season. Only four UNC players since ’80 have even had 20-13 campaigns (and they’re not exactly lightweights: Antawn Jamison in ’98, Sean May in ’05, Tyler Zeller in ’12, and Brice Johnson in ’16). It’s only been done five times (by three different players) in ACC history since 1980 (Ralph Sampson in ’80, ’81, and ’83, Tim Duncan in ’97, and Zach Auguste in ’16). It’ll be hard to maintain that rebounding rate the rest of the way, but this will be an interesting stat to keep an eye on.
  • With a first-half 3, Joel Berry became the 75th Tar Heel to score 1,000 career points. He had 18 in the game, moving past Tommy LaGarde and Bob Paxton into 73rd place in Carolina history with 1,013. Isaiah Hicks, who has 979 career points, will soon become the 76th member of UNC’s 1,000-point club, giving the current team four of them (along with Justin Jackson and Meeks).
  • The expected starting lineup of Berry-Pinson-Jackson-Hicks-Meeks made its first start of the year together, but played only 6:12 together due to Hicks’ foul troubles. It led 14-9 in those minutes, and now has a 34-19 advantage in 13.5 minutes this season.
  • Speaking of lineups, the lineup of the night was definitely Berry-Britt-Jackson-Maye-Bradley. That quintet logged a team-high 6:53 together, posting a +/- of +15 in those minutes (23-8). That included an 11-3 first-half run, and a 10-3 second-half one.
  • With three steals, Berry moved into a tie for 45th place with Hubert Davis and Jeff McInnis with 108 in his career.
  • And, speaking of guys tying Coach Davis’ all-time marks, Pinson moved into a tie for 63rd with Hubert in career assists. He had four in the game, and now has 179 in his Tar Heel career.
  • In addition to his four box-score assists, Pinson also had two FT assists (both drawing fouls at the rim). He continues to create a ton of close attempts for his teammates.
  • Luke Maye’s driving dunk was the first close shot he’s made off the dribble all season (on only three such attempts). It was his second dunk of the year (and the Heels’ only dunk of the night).
  • UNC played its jumbo frontcourt of Bradley-Meeks for 3:27 against NC State (the second straight ACC game—and third overall conference contest—in which it’s seen action). It was again successful from a +/- perspective, leading 11-6 in its brief stints.
  • It was a tough night from the field for Jackson, who made just 6-of-16 field goal attempts. All non-Jackson Heels combined to make 61.0% of their shots (36-59), including 68.6% (24-35) for the other four starters.

I’ll be back soon with a detailed breakdown of this one.

 

Tony Bradley’s Development

Tony Bradley’s Development

Earlier this week, we took a look at Seventh Woods’ recent emergence. Fellow freshman Tony Bradley, who started off the season so strong (11.5 PPG (with a FG% of 72.2) and 6.8 RPG in 17.8 MPG through the first six games of his collegiate career), didn’t leave himself as much room for noticeable growth. But that doesn’t mean that his game hasn’t been developing in some areas.

Let’s break down Bradley’s numbers from his first 12 games (through Kentucky) and his last 12 games (10 of them in the ACC).

Bradley as a Scorer:

The good news is that, despite facing a higher quality of opponent/athlete, Bradley is getting more close attempts during the second half of the season, and also converting them more efficiently. What’s actually happening is that many of his free throw opportunities in the early season (when Bradley had a FTA Rate of 87.5 in games 1-12) are merely shot attempts now (his FTA Rate over the last 12 games has dropped to 46.4—still solid, but not off-the-charts high). So his total impact around the rim (in terms of both volume and efficiency) hasn’t changed much at all from one season segment to the next. Still, maintaining a high volume of efficient close finishes against ACC-caliber frontcourts is probably the most important element to Bradley’s offensive game. That he’s proven to be able to do it bodes well for his future as a go-to post scorer for the Heels.

Almost all of Bradley’s non-close attempts have been in the form of hook shots. He’s been making those shots much less consistently in ACC play (and, anecdotally, has definitely been affected by longer/stronger post defenders). The next steps for Bradley as a post scorer will be to develop a reliable go-to move, then a counter move or two. He’s also been taking (and missing) more catch-and-shoot mid-range jumpers in ACC play. It’s still a tiny part of his offensive repertoire, but being able to reliably hit an elbow or short-corner jumper will be part of Bradley’s offensive maturation, too.

Bradley’s turnover rate has climbed a bit from 1.58 / 40 in games 1-12 to 2.65 / 40 in games 13-24. Offensive fouls, however, continue to be his biggest source of turnovers, accounting for half his total in both season segments (0.79 in first half, 1.32 in second half). Some of these have been questionable calls (whistled when Bradley tries to create/maintain deep post position), and will probably start to (largely) disappear once he becomes a more established (and respected) post scorer.

Bradley as a Rebounder:

  • First 12 games: 23.0 OR%, 15.5 DR%, 14.6 rebounds / 40 minutes
  • Last 12 games: 18.5 OR%, 20.9 DR%, 15.1 rebounds / 40 minutes

While Bradley’s become slightly less dominant on the offensive glass (but still elite), his defensive rebounding has made big strides recently. He’s close to becoming a rare 20-20 guy in terms of OR%-DR%. Overall, his per-minute rebounding rate has trickled up a bit over the second half of the season (despite an uptick in competition level). That’s obviously a good sign for the Heels next season (in a post-Meeks world).

Bradley as a Defender:

  • First 12 games: 1.37 blocks / 40, 62.3 Stop%, 39.5 TS% Allowed, 13.2 points allowed / 40
  • Last 12 games: 2.34 blocks / 40, 57.5 Stop%, 43.8 TS% Allowed, 12.8 points allowed / 40

Bradley’s per-minute block rate is up about 70% in the second half of the season. That’s a great sign. While his Stop% is lower in ACC minutes, it’s actually relatively higher (compared to the team average) than his non-conference Stop%. In non-conference play, his TS% allowed was tied with Meeks for the best mark on the team. In league games, it’s second to Meeks’ mark of 42.9%. Bradley is still not a classic rim protector, but he’s starting to develop into something more closely resembling that.

Bradley’s On-Court Impact:

Through the first 12 games of the season, the Heels were slightly better (on both ends) with Bradley on the floor. His on-court/off-court differential was +2.34 (UNC was 0.07 points / 100 better on offense in his minutes, and 2.27 points / 100 better on defense) over that timeframe. During ACC play, Bradley was logged a team-high efficiency margin of +18.6. Carolina has been 11.1 points / 100 possessions with Bradley on the floor than with him on the bench. All of that impact has been on the defensive end:

  • ACC minutes with Bradley—Offensive Efficiency: 116.8, Defensive Efficiency: 98.2, Efficiency Margin: +18.6
  • ACC minutes without Bradley—Offensive Efficiency: 117.5, Defensive Efficiency: 110.0, Efficiency Margin: +7.5

Against Pomeroy Tier A&B opponents (i.e., top-1oo venue-adjusted competition), Bradley’s efficiency margin of +11.2 is third-best on the team behind Theo Pinson (+11.7) and Isaiah Hicks (+11.2).

While Tony Bradley’s statistical splits haven’t changed dramatically from the first half of the season (21.5 points / 40 on a TS% of 60.7, 14.6 rebounds / 40, 1.37 blocks / 40) to the second half (19.7 points / 40 on a TS% of 55.6, 15.1 rebounds / 40, 2.34 blocks / 40), he has shown improvements in some key areas (defensive rebounding and shot-blocking to name two). He’s also shown the ability to maintain his close scoring efficiency against bigger, better frontcourts. Nothing that’s occurred in the second half of the season has changed my (high) opinion of Bradley’s potential as a go-to post scorer for Carolina.

 

 

Pinson vs. Division I: The Stat-Stuffing Showdown

Pinson vs. Division I: The Stat-Stuffing Showdown

Last month, Adrian posted a comparison of Theo Pinson’s amazing productivity in points, rebounds, assists, and steals this season to box-score-busting years by past Tar Heels. I thought I’d take a look at how #1’s stat line stacks up to players nationwide this season.

Notes:

  • All raw data used here comes from RealGM.com, a site I find user-friendly, well-organized, thorough, and always up to date (they’ve updated Carolina’s stats the same day as a game sometimes this season.) Stats.ncaa.org has the advantage of listing games started in its season boxes, but can be very shaky on keeping updated.
  • The averages I give (besides mpg) are in my preferred tempo-free normalization, which asks “At this player’s per-possession production, what would his averages be if he played 35 games at about 30 mpg on a 70-possession-per-game team (thus playing 53 offensive and defensive possessions per game) and saw 26 rebounds/game grabbed at each end of the floor?” This projects a player’s stats to a fairly typical starter’s role on a fairly typical college team, and I find it more intuitive than things like (with a tip of the cap to our esteemed host) per-40 stats or rebounding percentages.

So Theo’s per-53 numbers are currently at 10.6 P, 9.4 R, 5.6 A, 0.2 B, 1.7 S, 2.5 PF, and 0.5 TO. As of this morning, RealGM lists 3,162 players who have played at least 100 minutes at at least 10 mpg (out of 4,785 players overall). I (actually my poor, overworked MS Excel and Access) calculated each of those players’s percentile rank for each of the seven counting stats. Pinson’s steals put him in the 94.2 percentile, his boards at 96.8, assists 99.1, and his 2 turnovers in 116 minutes in the 99.5 exosphere.

No other player in the country ranks in the top 5.8% in any four of the seven stats. Theo Pinson is the four-course national champion. Can we get David Noel to lend him that title belt?

Notable stat-sheet stuffers around Division 1:

 

Joel Berry’s Up-and-Down Season

Joel Berry’s Up-and-Down Season

It’s hard to argue that junior point guard Joel Berry hasn’t been Carolina most important (if not always its best) player this season. More than any other Heel, the team’s fortunes seem to rise and fall with Berry’s level of performance. Unlike Justin Jackson, who’s been a consistent scoring threat all season long, Berry has been prone to some peaks and valleys.

Let’s break Berry’s season down into four even segments: 1.) the first half of the non-conference season (Tulane through Wisconsin); 2.) the second half of the non-conference season (Indiana through Monmouth—Berry missed 2.5 games during this stretch); 3.) the first half (to date) of the ACC season (Georgia Tech through Syracuse); and 4.) the second half (to date) of the ACC season (Boston College through Duke). The following table summarizes Berry’s stats in some key categories for those chronological buckets. As I’ll describe below, each season segment’s statistical profile has described a different type of point guard.

Non-Conference Games 1-7—Joel Berry: All-American

Through the first seven games of the season, Berry’s gaudy numbers were threatening to place him in the pantheon of great Carolina point guards. While the average competition wasn’t as stout in this stretch, he did dominate two (Pomeroy) top-20 teams in Maui (Oklahoma State and Wisconsin), plus a top-75 Chattanooga squad. Not only was Berry scoring 25.0 points / 4o minutes, he was doing so with a True Shooting% of 72.1. Even the ultra-efficient Ty Lawson of ’09 could “only” boast a TS% of 65.9 that season. Per 40 minutes, Berry also averaged 6.3 rebounds and 6.3 assists during the season’s first seven games. Perhaps most importantly, he was fueling Carolina’s (at that point) elite defense with his ball pressure and proclivity for wreaking havoc/forcing turnovers. His Stop% (a defensive charting summary statistic) was at a season-high 69.3 to start the campaign. He was at his most aggressive and attacking in this segment—the only one in which he shot fewer than half his attempts behind the arc, and the one in which he recorded his highest (by far) rate of free throws.

Non-Conference Games 8-14—Joel Berry: Pass-First Point Guard

During the last half of the pre-conference slate, Berry became more of a traditional pass-first point guard. He shot less frequently (15.5 weighted shots / 40 vs. 17.3 in the previous segment), and also much less efficiently. Both his 2-point and 3-point percentages plummeted and, in conjunction with his lower usage, led to a drastic reduction in his per-40 scoring. However, Berry’s per-40 assist rate rose significantly over this period of games. In fact, his 8.4 assists / 40 was nearly on par with Lawson’s ’09 season mark of 8.78. Berry also recorded a (nearly) Lawsonian assist-to-turnover ratio of 3.00 during this timeframe. His individual defense remained very strong, as he posted a terrific Stop% of 65.0 to close out the non-conference schedule. Overall, Berry’s out-of-conference Stop% was a team-high 66.9. His proportion of 3-pointers began to climb, corresponding with a drop in free throw rate.

ACC Games 1-6—Joel Berry: Shoot-First Lead Guard

As the ACC campaign began, a different Berry emerged. The good news is that his scoring efficiency rose closer to his All-American form to start the season. Both his 2-point and 3-point percentages spiked, resulting in a TS% of 64.3. Likewise, Berry’s shooting volume again rose—this time to a season-high 18.1 weighted shots / 40 (a weighted shot is FGA + (0.475 * FTA)). Scoring 23.2 points / 40 (including 26 against Florida State and a season-high 31 against Clemson) at that level of efficiency is no small feat. The bad news, however, is that Berry’s play-making plummeted during this segment of the season. Relative to the previous segment, his assists / 40 dropped by over half to 3.7. Likewise, his rate of turnovers / 40 climbed to a season-high 3.9, dropping his A:TO to an unacceptable 0.95. Additionally, his stellar defense from earlier in the season began to rapidly decline once league play began. During this six-game span, Berry’s Stop% fell to 52.1.

ACC Games 7-12—Joel Berry: Slumping Star

Over his most recent stretch, Berry’s numbers have slumped in many key categories. Similar to the second half of the non-conference season, the latter part of the ACC campaign has been marred by poor Berry shooting. In particular, his 2-point percentage has dropped precipitously to 25.9% (7-27). His free throw percentage, declining across all segments, bottomed out below 70% (capped off by the two huge misses against Duke). Overall, his TS% has dropped below 50% (48.0%), despite a solid 38.5% on 3-pointers. Like his previous poor-shooting segment (non-conference games 8-14), Berry’s inefficiency was associated with a lower usage rate (a season-low 15.2 weighted shots / 40—running contrary to the expected usage-efficiency trade-off for scorers). Unlike that previous segment, however, the lower rate of shot attempts has not been linked to a rise in assists. Berry’s assists / 40 mark has inched up only slightly to 4.1—still far below his non-conference number of 7.1. In better news, his turnover rate has also fallen (from 3.9 / 40 to 2.2 / 40). While his A:TO is an improved 1.82, it’s still far below his non-conference (2.48), 2016 (2.44), and 2015 (2.19) numbers. As Berry’s inability to finish at the rim has emerged as an issue, he’s been compensating by taking more and more of his shots from behind the arc (a season-high 59% this segment). He’ll need to re-establish himself as a dangerous 3-level scorer to regain his scoring form/efficiency from earlier in the year. While not a huge concern for a point guard, Berry’s rebounding numbers have also been consistently declining segment-over-segment. Over the past six games, his rebounds / 40 number has bottomed out at 2.6 (down nearly 60% from his early-season peak). What is a huge concern is his still-declining Stop%. It fell even more to 48.1% this segment and, in all ACC games, has dropped to 50.1% (from 66.9% in non-conference).

The Rest of the Way

For the Heels to hold on to their lead in the ACC standings and, more importantly, have the postseason success that everyone hopes for, Berry will need to snap out of his recent funk. While he doesn’t need to revert to the All-American from games 1-7 who was doing everything (scoring volume, scoring efficiency, rebounding, passing, defending) at an elite level, he’ll need to at least do a couple of things at a high level. Given Carolina’s relative paucity of perimeter weapons, scoring volume will probably be an area in which Berry must excel. And, for the Heels to reach their potential, his defense will need to return closer to its non-conference level. With Theo Pinson’s return, play-making is probably one area in which Berry—never a natural distributor—can take a backseat. He will need to maintain his lower turnover rate, though. Basically, UNC will need the scoring version of Berry from the early ACC games (segment 3) mixed with more defensive energy and better decision-making/ball protection. That sounds like a lot to ask for, but Berry’s shown in the past to be capable of all that and more. His 2016 postseason run and 2017 start to the season were both sustained runs of excellence. And, if that All-American/Maui version of Berry wants to re-emerge, he can cement his legacy among great Tar Heel point guards by leading UNC to postseason glory.