CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Long before advanced metrics became trendy calculations, Roy Williams was tracking the efficiency of each of North Carolina’s possessions.
Dean Smith, who majored in mathematics at Kansas, was one of the pioneers of in-depth statistical analysis that has grown increasingly popular in recent decades across all levels of sport. Points per possession was a Smith staple, and Roy Williams tracked the stat at UNC home games during the start of his career in the 1970s.
It remains a staple for Williams and his coaching staff.
“It’s one of the things that I look at at halftime,” Williams told his radio show audience on Monday. “Not just points per possession, but number of possessions, because I like it when we have more possessions than the other team. That’s offensive rebounds for us and not any offensive rebounds for them. But we look at that ever half and I tell the team what it is at half.”
UNC is averaging 0.96 points per possession through 23 games this season, while holding its opponents to 0.84.
“We want our points per possession to be above 0.85 and we want the other team’s points per possession to be below 0.75,” Williams said.
by Evan Chronis
I know it was a frustrating result on Saturday against Miami considering how well your team had been playing leading up to that point.
“It was a good game against Virginia Tech, we did some good things. We shot the ball well, and you’ve heard me say it a million times: when the ball goes in the basket it makes everything look better. Then we turned around and in the first half (against Miami) I think that’s the lowest field goal percentage I’ve ever had a team shoot in any half in 29 years as a head coach. It was ugly and I kept thinking, ‘We’re going to be alright and we’re going to come back.’ Their team was much more aggressive after the first three or four minutes. It came too easy for us… Miami did a great job. They were quicker to the ball, quicker to the board, quicker up and down the court. Everything that happened, I never felt like we were doing something the way we wanted to do it.”
What did you not like that was happening offensively in that first half?
“What did I not like? That somebody turned the daggum lights on. They should have left the daggum lights off. There’s not one thing that we did that I was happy with. I did not like one thing that we did in the first half.”
Bruce Brown had a big game for the Hurricanes. What did you see out of him?
“He is really a good player, I saw him in high school and really liked him. Today we did our ACC conference call and I got on early and heard Jim Larranaga and he was talking about how hard the kid plays, about how every drill he does he does it to about 100 percent of his ability. He thinks that’s the reason he has a chance to be a great player and I would agree with him. He just drove the ball at us so hard and made plays.”
Joel Berry has been announced as one of the ten finalists for the Bob Cousy award this week. I know Joel did not have the game he wanted on Saturday, but in total has had a great year for you at the point guard spot.
“Nobody wanted him to play better than he did himself. He was tough on himself and didn’t have a good game. He needs to play better, but he has done some great things for us this year.”
In that Virginia Tech game from earlier in the week, it seemed to be some really strong offensive numbers that helped you win that game.
“If I’m not mistaken we made 14 threes and that makes everything look a heck of a lot better. They were a tough team for us to guard; they’ve got all those guys at 6-foot-7, 6-foot-8 or smaller and it was tough getting our guys out there when they’re five-man shoots some threes or their four-man shoots some threes. Their four-man drives the ball to the basket as good as anyone else in the league. It was a workman like win but it’s a lot of fun when that ball goes in.”
Where has Justin Jackson’s offensive game grown the most in your opinion?
“It’s grown because the ball’s going in the basket. We talked in the offseason about your body getting better and your shots having to go in. That’s what the NBA guys want. So he worked on his body even more, got in the weight room even more. I’m trying to get him to be more aggressive taking the ball to the basket. He’s still not getting to the free throw line like I think he should… I still think he can help us on the offensive backboards more.”
Georgia Tech and Miami’s zone defenses seemed to bother your team. Was there anything specifically challenging about playing against those defenses?
“They both did a nice job, I’m not taking anything away from them, but Virginia Tech plays a lot of zone, too, but we made 14 threes so that zone doesn’t look quite as good. What we have to do is two things. The big guys have got to move quicker, harder, stronger, more intelligently, call for the ball. When they do that, the perimeter guys have got to be able to get the ball to them. Saturday our big guys didn’t move and Miami’s defense was really aggressive when our big guys did get it… That was a very active, athletic zone that we played against.”