Thursday, December 28, 2006

ACC Preview #5: North Carolina

Team: North Carolina
Record: 11-1

Reyshawn Terry (53.1% minutes, 1.27 PPWS, 12.1 A/B% 7.7 ORB%, 21.3 DRB%, 3.3 Blk%)
Brandan Wright (63.5% minutes, 1.30 PPWS, 9.0 ORB%, 18.4 DRB%, 4.4 Blk%)
Tyler Hansbrough (71.7% minutes, 1.18 PPWS, 13.4 ORB%, 17.1 DRB%, 2.8 Stl%)
Wayne Ellington (59.4% minutes, 1.22 PPWS)
Tywon Lawson (58.1% minutes, 1.25 PPWS, 30.0 A/B%, 3.3 Stl%, 2.68 A/TO)

Key Reserves:
Marcus Ginyard (39.4% minutes, 1.08 PPWS, 11.6 ORB%, 14.5 A/B%, 3.4 Stl%)
Danny Green (33.3% minutes, 1.22 PPWS, 15.9 DRB%, 2.7 Stl%, 2.9 Blk%)
Wes Miller (33.3% minutes, 0.86 PPWS, 19.8 A/B%, 3.25 A/TO)
Bobby Frasor (25.6% minutes, 1.11 PPWS, 20.1 A/B%, 3.50 A/TO)
Deon Thompson (28.1% minutes, 1.15 PPWS, 15.5 DRB%)
Alex Stephenson (17.9% minutes, 1.08 PPWS, 17.5 ORB%, 23.2 DRB%, 2.3 Blk%)

Biggest Win:
98-89 at home over a Greg-Oden-less Ohio State

Worst Loss:
74-82 against Gonzaga in the semis of the PNIT

Conference Schedule:
Play Twice: Duke, NC State, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest, Georgia Tech
Play at Home: Miami, Virginia, Florida State
Play on the Road: Maryland, Clemson, Boston College

Without question, the Heels have the best talent in the league. They had a good recruiting class last year and a great one this year. The team is young (Terry and Miller are the only seniors, and there are no juniors), but Frasor, Hansbrough, Green, and Ginyard got a lot of experience last year. Roy Williams has used his talent depth to play 10 guys 11 minutes or more a game. The team has also played high paced basketball, about 75 possessions a game, with 3 games up over 80.

6’8” senior forward Reyshawn Terry has been a perfect glue guy for the Heels this year. He doesn’t command too many shots (19.8%) but hits the ones he does take (.604 EFG%, including 48% of his 3s). More importantly, he’s done all the little things a veteran should – he rebounds, blocks shots, steals, and even records a few assists. He plays the least of all 5 starters, averaging just over 20 minutes a game, and he has yet to play more than 27. Terry has led by being deferential, and embracing the team concept, rather than demanding shots. Of course, all the other starters are better than he is . . .

The Heels’ main strength has been the frontcourt, led by the blue chip duo of 6’9” freshman Brandan Wright and 6’9” soph Tyler Hansbrough. Hansbrough got all the press coming into the season, touted as the favorite for ACC player of the year, and one of the favorites for national player of the year. He got off to a fast start, with 29 and 9, 20 and 10, and 18 and 7 in his first three games. However, in the loss to Gonzaga, he had only 9 points plus four turnovers, and Kentucky held him to 7 points on just 2 of 10 shooting. Despite taking the most shots, he’s actually the least efficient scorer in the starting lineup – though that’s more because the rest of the starters score very efficiently rather than any real criticism of him. Wright, on the other hand, has turned into the best player for Carolina. His first game was less than impressive, but since then he’s been lights out, hitting 70 of 104 from the field (all 2s). Wright also eats up the glass and blocks shots better than any other Heel. Wright is looking like an odds-on favorite for freshman of the year in the conference, and deserves mention along with Oden, Durant, and Budinger as one of the true superstar freshmen in the country.

The Heels’ backcourt has been all-freshman since 5’11” speedster Tywon Lawson was handed the keys against Ohio State. He’s responded exceptionally well, racking up 51 assists against only 10 turnovers in that span. His outside shooting has been respectable (36% on 3s), but his conversions inside have been remarkable – 61.5% 2FG% for a 5’11” guy. At the off guard, 6’4” Wayne Ellington has been given the green light to shoot from day 1, and shoot he has. Ellington takes 26.2% of the Heels’ shots and has racked up nearly 13 points a game. He’s hit 55% of his 2s and 43% of his 3s, good for a .597 EFG%. Ellington is equally likely to shoot from beyond the arc as from within – 58 3s against 60 2s – and only once has taken fewer than 3 three-point attempts in a game.

Danny Green and Marcus Ginyard are the first two off the bench. Both are very good defenders, though Ginyard is better on-the-ball. Green is more comfortable on offense behind the arc – he’s taken more 3s than 2s, and hit 40% of them. Ginyard, on the other hand, is more of an inside player when he does shoot (just 11.8% of the team’s shots). Ginyard is very active on the offensive glass, and also leads the team in steals.

Wes Miller and Bobby Frasor are the main backups to Lawson as ballhandlers. Frasor began the season as a starter, came off the bench for a couple games, but has sat almost all the past month with a foot injury. He was playing as a pure distributor – not shooting the ball a lot (13.3% shots), but not turning it over either (2.5 TO%, 3.50 A/TO). So far, the Heels haven’t really missed him, but I’m sure Roy would love to have him back in the rotation. Bonus Frasor statistical anomaly – no free throw attempts on the year. Wes Miller has also recorded a very good A/TO ratio, also doesn’t shoot much, and also shoots mostly 3s when he does. Actually, mostly 3s is an understatement – he’s taken 32 three-pointers against only 2 two-pointers (0 for 2, in case you were curious). His shooting has been worse than last year (only 28%), and he hasn’t made more than one 3 a game since the first game of the season.

In the painted area, 6’8” Deon Thompson and 6’9” Alex Stephenson are the two-headed monster off the bench. Thompson plays more, although I’m not sure why, since the only thing he does better than Stephenson is shoot free throws. Stephenson really eats up the glass – in his last 6 games, he has 23 rebounds in just 60 minutes played. Thompson is probably the prime candidate to see his minutes reduced as the Heels hit tougher competition in the ACC.

UNC actually has one of the tougher schedules in the conference – they have to play at Duke, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, Maryland, Clemson, and BC, and only get one game against Miami, who looks like they’ll be hands down the worst team in the ACC. Still, the Heels will likely be favored in all of their remaining games, except maybe at Duke. As a team, there’s really nothing they don’t do well, and in fact there’s nothing that they do worse than their opponents – better shooting, more assists, fewer turnovers, more rebounding (41% offense and 72% defense), more blocks, and more steals. They’ve won fast (98-89 in 75 possessions over OSU, 101-87 in 88 possessions over Tennessee) and won slow (69-48 in 61 possessions over St. Louis). This team will definitely be one of the favored contenders to cut down the nets in April.

And having said all that . . . Go to Hell Carolina! Go to Hell! (now I don’t feel quite so dirty for writing so favorably about the Heels – but I still think I need a hot shower).

No comments: