I think the Heels are really lucky to have come out on top in this one (which is a given, it was an overtime game and important since a loss here would have pushed the Heels towards the bubble), that said I'm especially impressed with the win for a couple of reasons.
1) Personnel - The Heels' personnel options took a huge step back in this game, going from a hot Hairston to a less than impressive Leslie is a downgrade on both ends of the floor. Virginia Tech took advantage of this by throwing a zone look at UNC most of the game, something Reggie Bullock was unable to take advantage of (1-8 3pt FG). Fortunately Paige stepped up (see below) and McAdoo took advantage of the zone by catching the ball in the high post and either sinking a long jumper or successfully putting the ball on the floor (his .75 FTRate was his 2nd highest in the last 10 games). I'm actually surprised that VaTech went to a zone because early on their man to man kept UNC off the glass (http://www.scacchoops.com/ViewHDGame.asp?hSchedule=14590&bView=7&sInclude=dorebpct) which lead to the 12-2 start in which UNC got offensive rebound in the first 10 minutes of the game. Once Tech took to a zone the Heels were able to get second chances and rescue an otherwise pathetic offensive effort. If you inspect the pentagon below, you'll notice that UNC won despite shooting worse than the Virginia Tech. It took an advantage in all three of the other four factors to secure the win. It is nice to see the Heels win one the hard way, stepping up the other areas of the game to make up for poor field goal shooting.
2) Defense - As bad as the offense looked without Hairston, the defense looked very, very good. I'm not going to attribute this to Hairston's absence as much as Paige and Strickland doing an amazing job of keeping NCAA leading scorer Erick Green under wraps. I'll admit I was nervous heading into the waning minutes. Normally with a player of Green's caliber, you can expect him to find a way to score since his team will turn to him repeatedly in close situations. However, Green went 0-3 over the last 6 Tech possessions, thanks to solid defense by Strickland and Paige (and on the last play, Bullock). Erick Green entered the game with an offensive rating of 123 (125 in conference), which is one of the highest in the nation for players of his usage. Today UNC held him to 16 points on 19 possessions, a rating of 84. That was the difference in the game on the defensive end, period. On a similar note, I'm convinced that Roy trusts Simmons more on screens (and free throw shooting) which explains his presence in the lineup as regulation wound to a close. Simmons' ability to hedge appropriately on at least one of the screens Green received may have saved the game, so continue to place me in the "Roy knows what he's doing" camp. To get back to the main point Carolina held a pretty potent offensive team, and the league's best player, to one of their worst offensive games of the season.
3) Paige - On the offensive end: Reggie Bullock's shots weren't falling, James Michael McAdoo was having the kind of game every Tar Heel faithful expects him to have every night, and no one else was stepping in to fill the Bullock/Hairston void. Enter Marcus Paige. Remember that "shoot-first" point guard that Roy recruited? That was him out there on the floor today, 4-10 from 3 point range paired with 5 assists. Hopefully this will help his confidence and he can produce more games like this throughout the remainder of the season. On afternoons that Bullock and/or Hairston are knocking down outside shots, Paige should find himself with open shots and lanes. Whether or not Paige takes advantage of these opportunities will determine if the Tar Heels to continue to improve to the level of everyone's expectations or finish a so-so season with an NCAA whimper.
$`Four Factors` OPP NAME ORTG perEFG perORB FTR TORATE 1 VaTech Total 1.03 0.41 0.43 0.42 0.17 2 VaTech oppTotal 0.86 0.42 0.26 0.16 0.20