Scoring on the Offensive Glass

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – While Roy Williams is best known for scoring buckets full of points through a transition-heavy offensive approach, rebounding has been a cornerstone of his success. UNC’s lengthy lineup this season has the potential to excel on the offensive glass.

Williams-coached teams have long been among the nation’s best in rebounding margin, ranking in the top-10 in 11 of the last 18 years. UNC ranked 29th nationally last season with a 5.0 margin.

Williams’ preferred pace of play factors into that impressive statistic as the sheer volume of field goal attempts in a UNC basketball game trends toward higher numbers. For example, the Tar Heels and their opponents averaged 16.2 more field goal attempts per game last season than ACC champion Virginia and its opponents.

Where Williams’ squads have made their mark is on the offensive glass.

UNC has turned in an offensive rebounding percentage rate of 38.1 or higher in nine of Williams’ 11 seasons as head coach, which corresponds with a top-25 national ranking in each of those seasons. The primary outlier (34.6 percent, 77th nationally) occurred in 2012-13 when Williams elected to go with a four-guard lineup the second half of the season.

The Tar Heels led the country in offensive rebounding percentage in 2007-08 at 42.4 percent, according to kenpom.com. Last season, UNC ranked 13th nationally at 38.1 percent.

Two key players in UNC’s success on the offensive boards last season were Kennedy Meeks (15.6 OR%, 10th nationally) and Brice Johnson (12.6 OR%, 83rd nationally). Meeks averaged 6.1 rebounds per game last season and pulled down an offensive rebound every 6.9 minutes. Johnson matched Meeks in rebounds per game and grabbed an offensive rebound every 8.6 minutes.

As good as UNC’s big have proven to be on the boards, Williams’ decision to start 6-foot-6 J.P. Tokoto at the two and 6-foot-8 Justin Jackson at the three could boost the team’s offensive rebounding percentage even more. Tokoto averaged 5.8 rebounds per game at three last season and his athleticism allowed him to be a factor on offensive glass (65 OR total).

Jackson’s length and knack for locating the ball have been on display through UNC’s four preseason scrimmages and bode well for solid rebounding totals.

With four capable rebounders attacking the boards, UNC’s second-chance points could become a significant source of scoring.

“They’re going to be huge for us this year,” Tokoto said on Wednesday. “Coach has stressed that, even in practice, guys hitting the boards. It just comes down to who’s going to hit it first, the 2-man or the 3-man.

“The four and five are expected to rebound, but last year for us, since we didn’t have the wing depth, it was more of the 3-man having to hit the boards and the 1- and 2-man getting back. Now, this year, Coach expects the 2- and 3-man to hit the boards, and if not, you’re going to come sit by him for a little bit.”

UNC averaged 13.7 points per game in second-chance scoring last season. Given the Tar Heels improved depth and length on the perimeter, there’s a good chance that average could increase in 2014-15.


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