Though the North Carolina Tar Heels have three losses through the first 10 games, the 2013-14 squad looks much better than the 2012-13 version—both visually and on paper. What we're talking about today, though, is how they look on paper.
And it's pretty daggum good.
I have compiled five of the Tar Heels' most impressive team and individual stats this season. The team stats were chosen to show the contrast between this year's squad and the last. The individual stats were chosen because, well, they're impressive and deserve mention.
Stat freaks, rejoice.
The Tar Heels have done a marvelous job this season on the defensive end of the floor. Yes, there is still plenty of room for improvement, but the team defense has stepped up over the last year. Some of that has to do with the 3-2 zone Roy Williams occasionally throws at the opposition now.
The younger players are more comfortable in the zone, and it shows with their reaction time. Williams' typical hedge-and-recover scheme can be difficult for freshmen to grasp, as most played zone through their prep days. Less thinking means faster reactions.
The Tar Heels also have the length to optimize the zone defense.
Through 10 games, Carolina has held its opponents to a shooting percentage of 38.2. That's good enough for 19th in the country.
Comparatively, the team allowed its opponents to shoot 42.4 percent from the floor last season, which put the Tar heels at No. 142.
I'd say that's a significant improvement.
Another factor in their opponents' lowered shooting percentage is blocked shots. The Tar Heels are averaging 4.7 per game, which ranks 73rd in the nation.
While that is nothing to write home about, it's a lot better than last year's 3.3 blocks per contest. The jump is pretty surprising since this team has essentially the same parts in 2013-14.
James Michael McAdoo hasn't developed on the offensive end as much as we would like, but he has played a big role in this department. He's no longer just looking to draw a charge; he's contesting shots now.
Through 10 games, McAdoo is tied for the team lead with 13 blocks. It took him 292 more minutes to reach that mark as a freshman. He had a career-high 14 as a sophomore, but that was over 1,072 minutes of action.
He's at 302 right now.
Brice Johnson is the other player with 13 blocks this season. He has managed to reach that mark in just 207 minutes of play. As a freshman, he finished with 19, which calculated to one block every 20 minutes on the floor.
Right now, Johnson is averaging one block every 15.9 minutes.
But that isn't the best on the squad, either. Freshman power forward Isaiah Hicks averages one block every 14 minutes. He ranks third on the team with six blocks, even though he has only played 84 minutes thus far.
While the Tar Heels have made significant strides on the defensive end, those pale in comparison to leap they made in free-throw attempts.
UNC was absolutely atrocious when it came to getting on the line last season. The team averaged just 18.1 free-throw attempts per game. It should come as no surprise that it ranked near the bottom in that category at No. 244.
This season, the Tar Heels are up to No. 5 in the country, averaging 31.7 attempts per contest. They are attacking the basket and getting the ball inside to the big men. Last season, the team settled for jump shots way too often.
The Heels are finally back to playing Roy Williams basketball.
Unfortunately, they only rank 61st in free throws made, due to a paltry 59.6 percent shooting from the stripe. It's sad to say 341 teams shoot better than that.
But this article is on the most impressive stats, so let's finish on a high note. Marcus Paige is keeping the team from the very bottom with a free-throw percentage of 91.2. If he can maintain that percentage through the season, he would snatch away Shammond Williams' top spot in the UNC record books (91.1).
Coming into the season, there was a lot of talk about center Kennedy Meeks' passing ability. On many occasions, Coach Williams had compared his ability to launch an outlet pass to Kevin Love's.
That's a pretty high honor for an incoming freshman to be compared to Love in any way, and it shouldn't be used loosely. It didn't take long for the world to see why Roy Williams put that out there.
Meeks, on the greatest stage at that point, dropped seven dimes on defending national champion Louisville. At least five of those were full-court outlet passes that took the air from underneath the wings of the Cardinals.
Paige dug Louisville's grave with his 32 points, but Meeks filled it in with his outlet passing.
Meeks currently averages 1.3 assists over 15 minutes per game.
What can you say about Marcus Paige's play up to this point? The sophomore point-guard-turned-shooting-guard has been on an absolute tear on the offensive end.
He leads the team in scoring with 19.6 points per game. Over 10 contests, he has reached the 20-point mark five times, including the aforementioned 32-spot he laid on the defending champs.
Paige has essentially taken the place of P.J. Hairston, who had six 20-point games in his 14 starts and two more coming off the bench as a sophomore.
Speaking of sophomore performances, if Paige maintains this pace and plays 37 games, he would have 725 points on the season. That would top the Carolina record of 721 points by a sophomore, held by none other than the great Michael Jordan.
If you're into omens, Paige finished with 23 points in three of his five 20-point games this season.
On the season, Paige is shooting 44.7 percent from the floor, 40 percent from three and 91.2 percent from the charity stripe. Those numbers are up from his freshman season, when he shot 35.6, 34.4 and 83.6 percent, respectively.
He has also knocked down 26 of Carolina's 34 treys on the season. That's 76.5 percent of the team's threes—and that's with Leslie McDonald's four trifectas in his first game back with the Heels last night.
It should also be noted that Paige is on a current streak of 18 consecutive made free throws. He still has a long road to reach Jeff Lebo's mark of 41, set in 1989. But it's something to keep an eye on.
Keep it going, Marcus.