Errol: Overanalyze This

Remember the old ABC Wild World of Sports phrase: The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat? It's a keen reminder that much of sports is pure melodrama, that sports may be the only reality on television because the outcome is unknown.

While sports is a dramatic human event, it is also a statistical event as well and it's time to look at the numbers from Carolina's 98 – 81 loss to Kentucky to see what nuggets can be uncovered.

For the Tar Heel faithful, we're looking for signs of better games to come as a result of improving performance figures by the top players.

First, a little perspective. UNC is now 5-2. After the loss to Illinois, the next five games would be against Kentucky, Vermont, Florida State, Iona, and St. John's. Keep in mind that if Rutgers holds off the Heels' late game rally, then there's no trip to the NIT finals, and the Heels go into the winter break at 2-3 with a whole different outlook on life.

All games are important, but in the grand scheme of this season, the tilt with Florida State is more important than the Kentucky game. And if the Heels can beat FSU, there's a good chance they will get the better of the other three teams in the coming days and that would place Carolina at 9-2, a start that most UNC fans would have taken in a New York minute on October 15.

Back to the numbers game. Well, actually, there is only one number that matters in Carolina's loss to Kentucky and that is 60 percent, as that is about what the Wildcats shot from both 2- and 3-point range. With stat stuffers like that it's game, set, match.

But a little perspective please: of their top seven players determined by minutes played, the Kentucky Wildcats tally 21 years of college basketball experience (including this season) while the Tar Heels total 10.

Kentucky's coaching savvy, player size, experience, and depth resulted in a convincing Wildcats win, and that should come as no surprise to Tar Heel faithful given the team's youth and noticeable lack of height.

Now let's look at the Total Averages for the Tar Heels vs. Kentucky.

May: .727
McCants: .865
Felton: .906
Williams: .423
Manuel: .464
Scott: .438
Johnson: 1.333
Holmes: 1.000

As you can see, the freshmen are being asked to carry a significant part of the load. Felton particularly elevated his game in a valiant effort to drag Carolina back into contention. McCants and May are simply amazing given their youthful status. It will be asking a lot for all three to produce such numbers throughout the season, but it may be a necessity to ensure a winning consistency.

Meanwhile, the sophomores continue to make strides and assert more pressure on the game, though they seem to suffer from wild swings of brilliance and ineffectiveness.

Will Johnson and Jon Holmes made the most of their cameos on the court. Is this is a sign of a few additional minutes for the seniors? We shall see.

But for the Heels to win consistently during the ACC season, there will need to a significant up tick in the sophs numbers. With.500 Total Average being average, one or two second year players need to improve production for the Heels to really be a tough beat. Looking at the season realistically, one has to expect the possibility that the first year players' Total Averages will decline as the Heels grind out the full ACC schedule.

In short, the Heels are looking for that fourth reliable option that can put heat on the opponent.

One of the oldest truisms in all sports is, "the best offense is a good defense." Sounds definitive. It directs everyone to the less glamorous part of the game, yet is the core imperative of competitive team sports: defense wins games.

Yeah, but, it's still the team that scores the most points that wins, so offense is kind of important, too. And former UNC coach, Dean Smith was keenly aware of this simple fact. Hence, year in and year out, Carolina consistently placed in the top ten nationally in team field goal accuracy. Score on one end of the court and it puts pressure on the other team to perform at the other side of the timeline.

The Tar Heels coaching brain trust has much better players to work out a scheme for scoring more points more effectively while continuing to emphasize the importance of tenacious defense.

Needless to say, the Tar Heels are a work in progress. Stay tuned.

Errol Somay can be reached at

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