UNC’s Rashad McCants has missed the Tar Heels last four games due to a mysterious intestinal disorder. UNC has won all four games, but not surprisingly, they have not been as dominant without him. Most of the minutes vacated by McCants have been snapped up by the offensively-challenged and smaller Melvin Scott. How has McCants’ absence affected his team? Let’s look at how UNC performed in the four games without him, and against those same opponents earlier in the season when McCants played.

               With McCants     Without McCants 
-Opponent-    Tempo  OE  DE      Tempo OE  DE  
NC St.         67.9 140 105      62.9 129 113 
Maryland       89.4 122  84      72.6 117 114 
Florida St.    68.0 119  88      73.4 124 103 
Duke           71.5  98  99      68.0 110 107 
Average        74.2 120  94      69.2 120 109 

If you have been reading this blog for a while then you’re familiar with what these numbers mean, but for those who aren’t…

Tempo: Number of possessions in the game. It’s estimated from box score data, so that’s the reason there aren’t round numbers listed.

OE: Offensive Efficiency. It’s 100 multiplied by points scored divided by possessions. Higher numbers are better.

DE: Defensive Efficiency. It’s 100 multiplied by points allowed divided by possessions. Lower numbers are better.

From this simple analysis, UNC’s change has taken place on the defensive end where they have been unable to keep any of their last four opponents under a point per possession. We’re only talking four games here, but the difference is significant enough to take note of.

As a few of the stats page zealots have noted, Carolina’s defense has been more exceptional than their offense this season. It’s a fact you’re not likely to hear in any tournament previews, which will mainly gush about how many points the Heels score. But their adjusted defensive efficiency ranks first nationally, while in the same stat on the offensive side they rank fourth.

I don’t think it takes much of a leap to say that it’s because of that defensive prowess that UNC is able to score consistently and score quickly. UNC has enough scorers to fill the McCants void, but they aren’t getting the fast break opportunities that they used to get, because they aren’t forcing as many missed shots and turnovers as they used to. This is reflected in the decrease in tempo, although in fairness, most of the decrease is attributable to the difference in the Maryland games.

The reduction in defense is one reason why UNC is less upset-proof without McCants, but the decrease in possessions is also important because it gives UNC fewer opportunities for their talent to demonstrate its superiority. So if UNC is going to make a run at a title, they need to get McCants back.

Or alternatively, try to suit up the other McCants that will be in the tournament.