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Surprise! It’s North Carolina

Posted by Jeff Nusser on March 23, 2008

Jo~Jo said in a comment on one of the previous posts that he’s officially scared of North Carolina.

We should be: UNC just posted an offensive efficiency rating of 160.6.

That is not a typo. The Heels scored 108 points in a 67-possession game, which is beyond ridiculous. An average rating is around 101. A normal team gets pretty excited about something above 120. North Carolina shrugs is collective shoulders and scores 1.6 points per possession.

The good news is that they haven’t done that all year — their previous high against a major conference opponent was 135.2 (Miami FL) — and their defense hasn’t been all that great in the two blowout wins. Really, it hasn’t had to be. But it will have to be on Thursday against us.

It’s tough to identify weaknesses in a team that has only lost two games all year, because that means the team won a lot of games even when it wasn’t playing at its best. But I think the key is that you can’t try to run with North Carolina, and you have to play outstanding transition defense so the Heels don’t get easy buckets. Arkansas really tried to push the tempo early and got buried. Obviously, the Cougs won’t make that mistake.

The other key? Keeping the Heels off the offensive glass. Kenpom.com shows a pretty strong correlation between offensive rebounding percentage and UNC’s offensive efficiency, which makes sense — Tyler Hansbrough is an absolute rebounding machine, 80th nationally in offensive rebounding percentage.

There are a lot of other things Hansbrough does well, and while you’ll get dang tired of hearing about “Psycho T” this week, there’s a ton of substance there.

You know we’re not big fans of traditional stats around here, so here’s one for you: Hansbrough is second nationally in kenpom.com’s individual offensive rating among players who have used at least 24 percent of their team’s possessions (meaning at least 24 percent of his team’s possessions end with him doing something with the ball). That’s really, really good — better than guys such as Kevin Love (third), Ryan Anderson (eighth), Stephen Curry (11th), Michael Beasley (12th), Roy Hibbert (17th) and Chris Douglass-Roberts (23rd). For perspective, the only player for the Cougs to rank in the top 100 is Aron Baynes (93rd).

Hansbrough also ranks in the top 100 nationally in offensive rebounding percentage (80th), which leads to a ridiculous free throw rate (36th). In short, it’s nearly impossible to stop the Tar Heels, but in the effort to slow them down, keeping Hansbrough off the offensive glass and off the free throw line would be a really good place to start.

Oh, and he’s also in the top 100 in turnover rate (70th), so don’t expect those double teams to work against him like they did against Luke Harangody.

I could go on and on like this about the rest of the Heels — they’ve got three other players in the top 151 in offensive rating — so the message is clear: The Cougs have a very tall order in front of them. But the reality is this. You want to go to the Final Four? You want to win a national championship? There are no easy roads there. You’ve got to beat great teams to get there, and this is one of them.

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One Response to “Surprise! It’s North Carolina”

  1. Dandydon said

    That was as good analysis of an opponent as I have ever read. You did your homework. Let’s face it any team can be beaten, but UNC is going to be tough. I look forward to seeing how WSU will handle them. UNC lost one game to Maryland this year and there were some ridiculous calls made, but Clemson played them tough twice. And those three games were against defensive minded teams such as WSU. I’m a Wolkpack fan, but I love to watch T.H. play. He’s like the terminator, he doesn’t stop, he doesn’t talk, he has one focus and he just doesn’t quit EVER!
    I hope you enjoy the game whichever way it goes.

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