The Worst Performances of the Roy Williams Era

The Worst Performances of the Roy Williams Era

Saturday’s ACC opener in Atlanta against Georgia Tech was obviously a clunker, as the heavily-favored Heels lost by double digits to the Yellow Jackets. While it was clearly Carolina’s worst performance of this season, how did it compare to other forgettable games from Roy Williams’s 13.5 seasons in Chapel Hill?

A few methodological notes: This list is purely statistical in nature. It’s looking at the difference between two components: 1.) the Pomeroy adjusted efficiency delta between the two teams, and 2.) the actual efficiency margin (adjusted for location) of the game. The higher the positive difference between these components, the more UNC exceeded its expectations in a given game. The higher the (absolute) negative difference, the more the Heels fell short of expectations. This analysis is using only the final Pomeroy numbers from a given season (or year-to-date numbers for the current campaign), so does not take into account how much a team’s performance may have improved or declined during the year. It’s also not accounting for things like injuries, suspensions, etc.

So let’s take a look at UNC’s 12 worst performances of the Roy Williams era according to this metric.

1.) Florida State 90, UNC 57: January 14, 2012

  • Adjusted seasonal efficiency margin difference between teams: +8.3 (with positive meaning UNC’s was better; negative meaning it was worse)
  • Adjusted game efficiency margin: -38.5
  • Underperformance Score: -46.8
  • UNC rolled into Tallahassee with a 15-2 record, including wins in its first two ACC contests. Much like the recent Georgia Tech game, the Heels combined terrible 3-point shooting (4-21) with poor ball protection (22 turnovers) in a miserable offensive performance. Kendall Marshall and Harrison Barnes combined for 12 turnovers against only 4 assists. As a team, Carolina made just 45.0% of its free throws (9-20). FSU made 12 of its 27 3-pointers, including 8-of-10 from the otherwise-forgettable Deividas Dulkys.

2.) Santa Clara 77, UNC 66: November 19, 2004

  • Adjusted seasonal efficiency margin difference between teams: +28.5
  • Adjusted game efficiency margin: -12.7
  • Underperformance Score: -41.2
  • This one obviously needs a huge asterisk, as the Heels were without suspended star point guard Raymond Felton for their 2004-05 season opener. Quentin Thomas made the start in his Carolina debut, and combined with fellow PGs Melvin Scott and Wes Miller to score five points (on 2-10 shooting) with an 8:5 assist-to-turnover ratio in 47 minutes. UNC was dominated in the paint in this one, as Santa Clara shot 57.6% inside the arc. The Broncos also shot 29 FTs to UNC’s 24, and out-rebounded the Heels 36-31.

3.) Georgia Tech 78, UNC 58: January 16, 2011

  • Adjusted seasonal efficiency margin difference between teams: +15.5
  • Adjusted game efficiency margin: -21.7
  • Underperformance Score: -37.2
  • Saturday’s game was only the second-worst UNC performance in Atlanta. It was topped (bottomed?) by this dud from the 2010-11 season, notable because it marked the final game that Larry Drew II would start as a Tar Heel. The reins were officially handed to Kendall Marshall after this one, and Drew would transfer out of the program after coming off the bench for four games. He was shut out with just two assists in 21 minutes in this one, but wasn’t alone in his ineptitude. The Heels shot 27.6% from he field and had 18 turnovers compared to just nine assists. Carolina-killer Iman Shumpert (30) and Glen Rice, Jr. (24) combined for 54 points on 59.5% (22-37) shooting, nearly outscoring UNC by themselves.

4.) NC State 58, UNC 46: February 24, 2015

  • Adjusted seasonal efficiency margin difference between teams: +7.9
  • Adjusted game efficiency margin: -26.3
  • Underperformance Score: -34.2
  • This one ranks as the worst home loss of the Williams era. UNC just couldn’t make shots, converting just 37.2% (16-43) of its 2-pointers, 25.0% (3-12) of its 3s, and 55.6% (5-9) of its free throws. BeeJay Anya controlled the defensive paint, blocking six Carolina shots. NC State didn’t exactly put on an offensive clinic in this one, but its super-physical, slow-down strategy turned it into a half-court grinder.

5.) Boston College 85, UNC 78: January 4, 2009

  • Adjusted seasonal efficiency margin difference between teams: +19.6
  • Adjusted game efficiency margin: -14.3
  • Underperformance Score: -33.9
  • After starting the 2008-09 season 13-0, the Heels dropped their ACC opener to a mediocre (final Pomeroy ranking of 74) Boston College team in Chapel Hill. UNC would lose its next ACC game, too (at Wake Forest), before righting the ship to win 13 of its final 14 regular-season conference games. The Heels, of course, also won the national championship in 2009, beating each of its NCAA Tournament foes by double digits. Tyrese Rice, who scored 46 in a 2008 loss in Chapel Hill, had 25 points (on 13 FGAs) and eight assists in this one, getting the better of Ty Lawson. Lawson shot just 3-for-13, with 10 points, four assists, and four turnovers. He would go on to better days, too, on his way to the ACC Player of the Year award.

6.) Georgia Tech 75, UNC 63: December 31, 2016

  • Adjusted seasonal efficiency margin difference between teams: +22.9
  • Adjusted game efficiency margin: -10.6
  • Underperformance Score: -33.5
  • As of today, UNC’s Saturday stinker versus Georgia Tech is the sixth-worst performance of the RoyW era. Depending on how the Heels and Yellow Jackets end the season, this one has the potential to move up or down on this list. Like so many of the other games in this group, bad shooting (41.3% on 2s, 19.2% on 3s) and ball protection (20 turnovers) doomed the Heels here. I’ll be posting a little more about the Heels’ specific failures in this game soon.

7.) UNC 83, Gardner Webb 80: November 19, 2005

  • Adjusted seasonal efficiency margin difference between teams: +30.6
  • Adjusted game efficiency margin: -1.0
  • Underperformance Score: -31.6
  • UNC’s only win among its 12-worst performances, the Heels needed a buzzer-beating David Noel 3 to beat Gardner Webb in the Dean Dome. The Bulldogs would finish the 2005-06 campaign ranked 263rd in the KenPom ratings. UNC’s point guard platoon of Bobby Frasor and Quentin Thomas combined for just two points (on 1-9 shooting) with eight turnovers (although they did have 11 assists). Within its first 13 games, the post-championship ’06 Heels actually accounted for three of the clunkers on this list (see also #8 and #11). In one of Roy’s best coaching jobs, however, he turned this young team into a late-season juggernaut that was routinely dominating ACC foes in the second half of the conference schedule.

8.) Miami 81, UNC 70: January 14, 2006

  • Adjusted seasonal efficiency margin difference between teams: +9.1
  • Adjusted game efficiency margin: -21.4
  • Underperformance Score: -30.5
  • After winning its first two ACC games, the ’06 Heels dropped a home game to Frank Haith’s mediocre (18-16 (7-9 ACC), KenPom #55) Miami squad. The Heels couldn’t keep the Hurricanes’ guards out of the paint, as Guillermo Diaz, Robert Hite, and Anthony Harris combined for 65 points and 29 FTAs (of which they made 24). After dropping the next game to a less-than-stellar (KenPom #82) Virginia team in Charlottesville, Williams would shake up the starting lineup by inserting Wes Miller for Marcus Ginyard. In his first start, Miller’s six 3s led the Heels to a road victory over Florida State, helping to turn the Heels’ season around with his perimeter punch and floor-spacing presence.

9.) Virginia 75, UNC 60: January 31, 2010

  • Adjusted seasonal efficiency margin difference between teams: +2.7
  • Adjusted game efficiency margin: -27.6
  • Underperformance Score: -30.3
  • In Tony Bennett’s first season at Virginia, he brought a bad Cavs team (15-16 (5-11 ACC), KenPom #76) into Chapel Hill and left with a 15-point win. Sylven Landesberg and Sammy Zeglinski combined for 48 efficient points, as the Heels made just 32.4% of its 2-pointers and half of their 22 free throws. Starting posts Ed Davis and Deon Thompson teamed up for just 11 points (3-10 FGs, 5-12 FTs) and seven turnovers, flummoxed by Bennett’s hard big-to-big doubles in the paint.

10.) Pittsburgh 89, UNC 76: February 14, 2015

  • Adjusted seasonal efficiency margin difference between teams: +15.2
  • Adjusted game efficiency margin: -14.9
  • Underperformance Score: -30.1
  • In the second (and final) game of the Isaiah Hicks-Brice Johnson starting frontcourt experiment, Pitt picked apart the Carolina defense, scoring 89 points on 62 possessions (offensive efficiency of 143.5). That included 35 points on 17 possessions (offensive efficiency of 205.9!) when Hicks and Johnson were on the floor together; those lineups, although explosive offensively, were really terrible on the defensive end in 2014-15. They’d improve on that end in 2015-16 (with Johnson becoming more of an assertive defensive 5), eventually becoming the crunch-time frontcourt for the ’16 national runners-up. Pitt had an astounding 30 assists against only five turnovers in this one (UNC’s A:TO was  likewise stellar 25:4), making 69% of its 2-pointers.

11.) USC 74, UNC 59: December 21, 2005

  • Adjusted seasonal efficiency margin difference between teams: +15.0
  • Adjusted game efficiency margin: -14.8
  • Underperformance Score: -29.8
  • In a pre-Christmas trip to the West Coast to battle Tim Floyd’s Trojans, UNC left its game back in Chapel Hill. The Heels had 25 turnovers in this one (7 by Bobby Frasor, 6 by David Noel), as poor point guard play once again doomed them (Frasor and Thomas combined for five points (2-10 shooting) and nine turnovers). USC hit 12 of 21 from behind the arc, including a combined 9-of-13 by Gabe Pruitt and Lodrick Stewart (TWINS!). For Carolina, Tyler Hansbrough made 6 of 7 from the field (his attempts were limited by the USC ball pressure/UNC’s inability to feed the post), while all other Heels made just 14 of 47 (29.8%).

12.) Duke 82, UNC 50: March 6, 2010

  • Adjusted seasonal efficiency margin difference between teams: -15.4
  • Adjusted game efficiency margin: -44.1
  • Underperformance Score: -28.7
  • Duke led 53-26 at the half in Durham, and this one could have probably been even uglier. Kyle Singler, Nolan Smith, and Jon Scheyer combined for 65 points, making 20-21 free throws. The Heels attempted just five 3s (making only one), while converting only 34.9% of their 43 2-pointers. Carolina’s starting guards/wings (Larry Drew II, Marcus Ginyard, and Will Graves) made just 2 of 12 shots, scoring only nine points in their 89 minutes on the court. Ugh. Bad memories. Moving on.

So the point of this exercise wasn’t to totally depress you as Tar Heel fans. It was to attempt to frame the poor performance on Saturday in some historical context. Under Roy Williams, Carolina has had a game that bad about every other year or so. Some otherwise excellent teams (see 2009 and 2012) have laid some huge eggs. It happens.

I’m hoping to break down the recent Georgia Tech loss in a little more detail soon (just returning from holiday travel that has me a bit behind on charting) to determine what was just fluky outlier stuff and what may portend future issues/systemic weaknesses. I’m also planning to use this metric of UNC single-game performance relative to expectations to write some happier pieces—UNC’s best showings of the RoyW era, how UNC improves as the season progresses, and how UNC over-performs expectations in the NCAA Tournament, to name three.

 

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