Monday, January 5

The Anatomy of an Upset

(Ok, I apologize for the length of this post, if you want the short and sweet version, scroll down to the "Basically" I've bolded in the second to last paragraph, it is a happy synopsis)

So, remeber how, at the beginning of the season, I remarked that the Heels have won games with several of the 4 factors. Well, since the Oregon game, they haven't exactly won any games with FG defense. In fact, excluding the Nevada game, the Heels defense has allowed 50.9% eFG over the last 5 games. And not against stop notch competition either (ORU, Evansville, Valpo, Rutgers, & BC). This is quite disconcerting, however the Heels defense is built to stand on other factors averaging turnovers on 26% of their opponents possessions in those same games (that would average about 15th in the nation for the season UNC's season average is 23.9 good for 49th).

Now, your opponents can shoot the lights out of the gym if you can limit offensive boards and cause turnovers. For the uninitiated, imagine a team that allows the opponent to make every shot they take, but force a turnover on 75% of possessions, that's as good as forcing 25% shooting while forcing no turnovers. Now, imagine they go up against a team of all point guards, who never turn the ball over. In this matchup, allowing the opponent to sink every attempt causes a huge problem because you don't end the possesions before the shots occur.

Snap back to reality. This is pretty much what UNC did (or failed to do). They were relying on steals and defensive rebounding to cover up their inability to defend shots. Well, BC does a great job taking care of the ball (17.5 TO% 25th) and offensively rebounding (40.9 OR% 16th), countering UNC's defensive strengths.

Now, what was the icing on the cake? The Heels have played defense this poorly before (as you can see above, Notre Dame posted a 119 OE in Maui). However, in this example the Heels offense simultaneously failed them. Shooting 55% from the free throw line won't win you any games (in fact it will lose you many). Also, it was UNC's worst night from the field of the season. This was likely because the turnovers weren't available to lead to layups and fast breaks. Winning on turnovers and with a fast pace is a double-edged sword (much like winning on 3 pointers, yes I'm looking at you coach K), you limit the opponent's shots, but you also give yourself 10 to 12 "bunnies" per game, bouying even the poorest shooting team's field goal percentage. All this lead to UNC's poorest offensive efficiency number of the year, but only by a hair. As you can see in the table above, UNC posted a similarly poor 104 against Kentucky, its other sub 50% eFG game, but forced enough turnover and limited offensive rebounds to win the game (handily).

Basically, if you combine the porous defense against Notre Dame, with the weak offensive output against Kentucky, you get almost identical stats to the BC loss. The Heels have played like this at various times during the year, but the other end of the floor happened to pick them up to hide such ugly performances. UNC's strength is its depth and talent, the Heels can win games in a number of different ways. But take solace, UNC fans, in the fact that a loss like last night's occurs when all of those ways fail.

On another note, and I don't want to sound cocky here, but the looming top ten matchup between UNC and Wake Forest may be more of a dud than a stud, as Wake's turnover rate is something of a bugaboo (21.1 181st), though it should be one horse race of a dud projecting at around 85 possessions. Check back for more on that game and throughout the ACC season.

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