Posted by: Matt Compton | January 28, 2008

The sky is not falling

Nine days ago, the Tar Heels suffered a defeat for the first time this season. We lost the number one ranking, dropped to number five in the country, and haven’t quit with the hand-wringing since.

But here’s the thing — our defense isn’t that bad. To date, we’re averaging 0.931 opponent points per possession (and as I’ve said before, that’s the stat that matters most). Last year, when we were one missed-basket away from the Final Four, that number was 0.96. In 2005, when we won the national championship, our OPP was identical to this year — 0.932. Obviously, both of those year-end statistics include more games against good competition, but we have 19 wins — our OPP this year isn’t meaningless. I’ll say it again — the tempo that we dictate for the game means that both teams will have a lot of possessions, so everyone will have opportunities to score. Thing is, most teams in the country can’t put the ball in the basket (or grab rebounds after missed shots) as well as we can.

This also isn’t to say that we can’t get better defensively. We don’t defend the high screen particularly well. We don’t switch on defense particularly well. There have been moments when we don’t get back in transition. QT hasn’t been very good defensively since suffering the ankle sprain back in December. And we sometimes come out flat (uhm…Maryland). All of these things are worth discussing and analyzing.

But let’s not pretend that Carolina isn’t an elite team this year. Kansas and Memphis have looked unreal, but no one else really scares me. That isn’t to say we aren’t going to lose again. We play in the ACC, for heaven’s sake. It wouldn’t be the best conference in the country if there wasn’t some sort of parity. But even if we don’t get any better at all, Carolina will be really well positioned for a big run come March.

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