Originally posted on Bloguin Best  |  Last updated 11/27/11

Scanning the web for insight into last night's 90-80 UNLV win over North Carolina I keep coming across numerous references to how their defense is their Achilles heel. A thread at Scout.Com summed it up: 'Wow, UNC's defense is PATHETIC'. The responses:

  • I said the same. They can score but their defense is horrible for a talented team. they gave up almost 80 to UNC Asheville
  • If they would just put forth a good amount of effort, they'd realize significant improvement. Their effort and fundamentals are abysmal.
  • They're going to have to hope to outscore UK because really good teams are going to have a field day on that defense.

And true, they gave up 90 points to the Runnin' Rebels. Kendall Marshall got torched by Oscar Bellfield. UNC gave up 40.6% on 3s. But it was an 80 possession game. That means UNLV averaged 1.13 points per possession, which - to be honest - is pretty bad for an elite team, but not horrible, and siginifcantly less than Duke allowed in their 82-75 win over Michigan. UNLV came into the game ranked 98th in 3-point shooting, and proceeded to put on a clinic. They aren't going to do that every night, and some of UNC's defense can be attributed to bad luck. UNLV also came into the game shooting free throws slightly below the NCAA average of 67.9% (they were at 67.4%), then they go 15-18 (83.3%) against UNC. On the season, UNC's defense has been anything but porous. In their five previous games no-one had managed a point per possession, and only two teams had managed 0.90. In fact, their defensive efficiency currently projects as the 11th best in the nation (out of 344 teams). So their 'issues' are ones an awful lot of teams would like to have.

But what about the other side of the court - their offense which is taken for granted? In their two games against good opponents they've failed to score greater than a point per possession in either game. And if you look at Roy Williams' tenure at UNC his first six teams all had offenses which ranked in the top-10 nationally. Then came the disastrous 20-17 2009-10 season when his offense was ranked 92nd and his defense was out of the top-25 (46th) for the one and only time of his UNC career. Last year he got the defense back on track (6th - and better in ACC play than FSU's) but the offense struggled, at least by UNC standards, and finished 38th. After struggling against Michigan State and UNLV, Tar Heel fans should be a lot more worried about the offense than they should be about the defense. During their 2009 National Championship season UNC was held to exactly a point per possession 1 time, and never below it. Six games into the 2011-12 sesaon and they've already surpassed that.

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