Go Figure: Points Per Possession
(Before this starts, I need to add the disclaimer that I count points per possession the same way Dean Smith did. If you don’t know what that is, click here.)
In Roy Williams’ first four seasons at UNC (2003-04 through 2006-07), UNC played a total of 21 games when it allowed more than one point per possession. The 2004-05 team finished 3-1 in such games, but the 2004, 2006 and 2007 teams went a combined 5-12 when allowing more than one point per possession.
But since the 2007-08 season - a total of about 5.5 seasons, including this one - UNC has played in just 13 games when it has allowed more than one point per possession. UNC allowed Miami to score 1.13 points per possession, and it marked the third time this season it has allowed that high a mark. It’s also the first time since the 2008 season UNC has allowed 1.00 PPP or higher three times, which is fairly remarkable.
The 2011 team was the best in that regard, allowing just one team to do it - Long Beach State had 1.01 PPP, and North Carolina won that game .The 2012 team allowed it twice; Duke snuck over that mark in the comeback win at the Smith Center (1.0119) and Florida State scored 1.149, the highest mark UNC has allowed under Williams.
Here’s the thing about allowing more than one point per possession: most UNC teams in the past have been good enough offensively to offset a good performance. And more often than not, it’s been UNC’s struggling offensive performances that have gotten them beat more than the bad defense.
In the top ten highest points per possession games under Williams, UNC actually won four of them. Two were blowout losses (three, if you count how far UNC got down at Virginia Tech in 2007) and Florida State last year, Georgetown in 2007 and Gonzaga in 2006 all came down to the end, more or less.
Dean Smith used to say the idea was to keep opponents to 0.75 points per possession or below. UNC has lost just once in the last 9.5 seasons when that has happened. In 2010, the Tar Heels lost by ten at home to Duke despite holding it to 0.7442 points per possession. But that’s it. And that was because UNC was held to just 0.614 points per possession, the third-lowest mark of the Williams era.
And the idea, of course, is to score 0.85 points per possession or more. Carolina has reached that mark 255 times under Williams and lost just 27 of those (an .894 winning percentage). And guess what? In those 27 losses despite scoring 0.85 points per possession or more, Carolina allowed 0.90 points per possession or more in 22 of them and 1.00 PPP or more in nearly half (13).
Considering UNC has lost 75 games in that span, it’s somewhat unremarkable that 19 of those teams scored over a point per possession in those losses (just over a quarter). Again, more often than that, it’s been UNC’s own failure to score 0.85 PPP or more - 48 of UNC’s 75 losses have come when UNC has failed to reach 0.85 PPP, so there’s that. And in the last six seasons, it’s 34 of 45 losses.
Also, it’s worth noting that between 2008-11, UNC had a ridiculous 102-4 record in games when it scored 0.85 PPP or more. The Tar Heels went 24-4 in such games last year and are 9-2 when reaching that mark this season. In the national championship or Final Four seasons, UNC went a combined 94-3 in games when it reached the 0.85 PPP plateau; the 2008 team was undefeated in such games.
Highest PPP allowed by opponents under Roy Williams:
1.1487: Florida State, 2012 ACC Tournament Championship (L)
1.1299: at Miami, February 9, 2013 (L)
1.1294: Georgetown, 2007 NCAA Tournament Elite 8 (L)
1.1081: Gonzaga, 2006 Preseason NIT Championship, MSG (L)
1.1029: at Florida State, January 12, 2013 (W)
1.0805: at Virginia Tech, January 13, 2007 (L)
1.0667: NC State, 2007 ACC Tournament Finals (W)
1.0649: at Duke, March 6, 2010 (L)
1.0526: at Boston College, March 1, 2008 (W)
1.0471: Ohio State, November 29, 2006 (W)
1.0460: Notre Dame, 2007 Maui Invitational Championship (W)
1.0440: at Wake Forest, January 15, 2005 (L)
1.0380: Wisconsin, 2005 NCAA Tournament Elite 8 (W)
1.0375: at NC State, February 3, 2007 (L)
1.0253: Boston College, January 25, 2006 (L)
1.0337: Iowa, 2004 Maui Invitational Championship (W)
1.0241: Boston College, 2006 ACC Tournament Semifinals (L)
1.0233: at Georgia Tech, February 10, 2004 (L)
1.0227: at Florida State, January 22, 2004 (LOT)
1.0130: Texas, 2004 NCAA Tournament Second Round (L)
1.0130: Nicholls State, December 19, 2007 (W)
1.0128: at Kentucky, December 3, 2005 (W)
1.0127: NC State, February 18, 2009 (W)
1.0125: at Clemson, January 31, 2004 (L)
1.0123: Old Dominion, 2007 Las Vegas Invitational Semifinals (W)
1.0119: Duke, February 8, 2012 (L)
1.0111: Long Beach State, December 11, 2010 (W)
1.0000: Wake Forest, December 20, 2003 (L)
1.0000: Duke, February 7, 2006 (L)
1.0000: Butler, 2013 Maui Invitational Semifinals (L)
1.0000: Wake Forest, January 20, 2010 (L)
1.0000: at Florida State, January 22, 2006 (W)
1.0000: NC State, February 22, 2005 (W)
1.0000: at Miami, February 12, 2006 (W)