Carolina vs. Michigan State: +/- and Defensive Charting

Before getting to the first +/- table of the season, some words of caution: single-game +/- figures are so “noisy” (i.e., influenced by randomness) that they’re rendered practically useless. Even with a complete season’s worth of data, the +/- metric (especially in this– its unadjusted– form) suffers from this noisiness. Still, when taken in conjunction with the defensive box score, traditional box score, and old-fashioned “eye test,” the single-game +/- can be a part of the total evaluation process. It also serves as a good summary of Roy Williams’s substitution patterns/rotation.

Some definitions:

Pts-Pts All.: the points scored and points allowed by the team during a given player’s minutes
Off Eff: the points scored per 100 possessions with a given player on the court
Def Eff: the points allowed per 100 possessions with a given player on the court
Net Eff: the scoring margin per 100 possessions with a given player on the court

+/- Stats vs. Michigan State

Player Minutes Pts-Pts All. Off Eff Def Eff Net Eff
Hairston 8.9 19-11 126.7 73.3 +53.3
McAdoo 16.3 36-27 124.1 87.1 +37.0
Marshall 32.8 57-41 101.8 73.2 +28.6
Zeller 30.9 52-39 100.0 76.5 +23.5
Strickland 33.7 55-41 94.8 73.9 +20.9
TEAM 40.0 67-55 97.1 79.7 +17.4
Henson 30.5 43-36 81.1 69.9 +11.2
Barnes 31.6 48-44 87.3 80.0 +7.3
Bullock 11.7 19-24 90.5 106.7 -16.2
Hubert/White 1.3 3-4 150.0 133.3 +16.7
Watts 1.1 0-4 0.0 266.7 -266.7
+/- by Backcourt
Combo Minutes Pts-Pts-All.
Marshall-Strickland 27.8 48-31
Marshall-Bullock 4.5 9-10
Strickland-Hairston 3.7 7-4
Strickland-Bullock 2.2 0-6
White-Hairston 1.3 3-4
Marshall-Hairston 0.5 0-0
+/- by Frontcourt
Henson-Zeller 22.6 31-24
McAdoo-Henson 7.8 12-12
McAdoo-Zeller 7.2 21-11
McAdoo-Hubert 1.3 3-4
Watts-Zeller 1.1 0-4
Most-used Line-ups
Marshall-Strickland-Barnes-Henson-Zeller 22.1 31-24
Strickland-Hairston-Bullock-McAdoo-Henson 3.7 7-4
Marshall-Strickland-Hairston-McAdoo-Zeller 3.0 9-3
Marshall-Strickland-Barnes-McAdoo-Zeller 2.4 8-4

When Bullock and Hairston were paired together on the wings, I called Hairston the 2 and Bullock the 3. Bullock covered both 2s (Wood) and 3s (Dawson) during his shared wing minutes with Hairston; it seemed as if he was just generally given the tougher wing match-up. Unless it becomes clear that either Bullock or Hairston is exclusively covering 2s during the shared minutes, I’ll stick with the “Hairston as 2, Bullock as 3” notation (offensively, the 2/3 are very similar in Carolina’s system).

Williams seemed to treat the Carrier Classic like an NCAA Tournament game in terms of his substitution patterns. He ran a strict 8-man rotation (although it would have likely been 9 had Watts not been so over-matched at the 4 in his only stint versus Michigan State’s physically-imposing frontline), and all the starters played at least 30 minutes. The starting 5 played 22.1 minutes together as a unit– more than in any regular-season game of the 2011 season (the high was 21.4 against Washington in the NCAAT Round of 32; the starters did play 24.1 minutes together in the ACCT overtime victory versus Clemson).

At least against Michigan State, the offense was especially good with the freshmen (McAdoo and Hairston) on the court. And, like last season, the defense was terrific but the offense struggled during Henson’s minutes. Henson’s overall offensive game looks vastly improved (especially the addition of his ‘Sheedesque turnaround jumper), but he was still struggling some within the flow of the team’s offense (out of position on set plays, not setting strong screens, tendency to drift a little during the free-lance passing game, etc.).

Shifting gears, I’ve been charting every Carolina defensive possession since the 2004-05 season. This concept, aided by Luke Winn’s terrific Sports Illustrated piece, is finally getting some national attention. It’s a great way to measure individual defensive contributions and to see who’s making consistently timely and effective help-side rotations (the backbone of Roy Williams’s- and virtually any– defensive system). Click on the Winn link to read a little more about the charting process.

Some definitions:

FG-FGA: the made field goals and field goal attempts that a player is responsible for (both as a primary and help defender)– same for 3Pt-A and FT-FTA
Pts All.: the number of opponents’ points that a defender is responsible for allowing
TOF: forced turnovers (including offensive fouls drawn (OFD))
Defl.: deflections
DR (ORA): defensive rebounds and offensive rebounds allowed
Denies: when a player can deny an opponent or force an offensive reset by making a strong individual defensive play (of the type that doesn’t force a turnover or missed shot– i.e., wouldn’t otherwise show up in the defensive box score)

Defensive Box Score vs. Michigan State

Player FG-FGA 3Pt-A FT-FTA Pts All. TOF (OFD) Defl. Floor burns DR (ORA) Denies
 Marshall  3-11 2-7 2-2 10 1.5 (0) 3 0 4 (0)  0
 Strickland 2.5-6.5 0-3 0-0 5 3.5 (0) 3 0  1 (0) 1
Barnes 2.5-7.5 0-3 0-0 5 1 (0) 0 1 3 (3) 0
Henson 2-18.5 0-3 2-4 6 1 (0) 2 2 5 (4) 1
Zeller 5.5-9 0-0 0-0 11 6 (3) 3 4 5 (5) 3
Bullock 0.5-3.5 0-2 0-0 1 1 (0) 3 0 1 (1) 1
McAdoo 1-6 0-1 5-6 7 1 (1) 4 2 3 (4) 0
Hairston 1-2.5 0-1 0-0 2 0 (0) 0 1 3 (0) 0
Watts 2-3.5 0-0 0-1 4 0 (0) 0 0 0 (3) 0
Team 2-4 0-0 0-0 4 0 (0) 0 0 1 (4) 0
Totals  22-72 2-20 9-13 55 15 (4) 18 10 26 (24) 6

** First-shot defense was incredible against Michigan State. The Spartans scored 22 points on 17 multiple-opportunity possessions (which included at least one offensive rebound). In the other 52 possessions, the Heels limited MSU to 33 points (Def Eff of 63.5). Izzo’s teams are generally among the best in the country of the glass, and this edition is especially physical. While Carolina had some blown box-out assignments, the majority of the offensive rebounds were just a matter of a UNC player being pushed out of position/not carving out enough space. A weakness of this Carolina team is physicality in the paint, and they’ll probably continue to struggle some on the defensive glass against big, strong frontcourts (luckily, there aren’t a ton of them in this era of college hoops). Henson also blocked several shots out of play (leading to the ‘team’ rebounds allowed). While Henson sometimes gets block-happy, this wasn’t a huge problem against MSU. Despite his 9 blocks, Henson didn’t take a lot of bad chances that left him out of the defensive rebounding position (this was often a problem last season). He did switch on one high screen (instead of hedging-and-recovering) in search of a block, which freed a rolling Draymond Green for an open tip-dunk.

** Bullock continued to show flashes of defensive brilliance. He is aggressive with very quick hands and feet. His aggressiveness/ball pressure will sometimes leave him susceptible to dribble penetration (especially when he’s guarding 2s), but can also result in plenty of defensive disruption. He might have to actually dial back some of the ball pressure against super-quick backcourts– something he’ll learn with more court time (especially at the 2). He made a terrific post double down and recovery to contest a 3-pointer– his length on the wing is a great asset for how Carolina likes to help/pinch early and recover. Hairston also showed defensive promise. He’s willing to sacrifice his body, and projects to be a great rebounding wing.

** Henson forced a ridiculous 16.5 Spartan misses. This included 9 blocks and 5 altered/contested shots (the other 2.5 were pretty clean looks that an MSU player simply missed– although Henson’s mere presence in the area certainly plays an intimidation factor in these types of misses, too). If there’s a more disruptive/impactful defender in the county, I haven’t seen him (although OSU’s Aaron Craft is the on-ball version of Henson, perhaps).

** Zeller struggled some on the defensive glass. Worse, all of the offensive boards he allowed led directly to easy MSU hoops. He’s just not a great defensive rebounder, and will continue to struggle some on the glass against strong and physical 5s. But otherwise, his defense was unbelievably good. As part of his six forced turnovers, he stole a post entry pass and slid over perfectly to draw three charges– both vintage Zeller maneuvers. He also led the team with 3 denies/forced resets. He’s a vastly underrated post defender– just not as good as his partner in the paint.

** McAdoo mixed a little Henson (some blocked/altered shots) with a little Zeller (drawing a help-side charge). He moves much better laterally than either of them. Once he learns the system better, he projects to be a true defensive force. Like many freshmen, fouls may be an issue (5 of the 7 points he allowed vs. MSU were at the line).

About Adrian

I'm the editor of Maple Street Press's Tar Heel Tip-off, and live in Raleigh with my wife and 2-year-old daughter. I grew up along the banks of the Allegheny River, and terrorized the WPIAL as a pass-first point guard. Follow me on Twitter @FreeportKid.
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7 Responses to Carolina vs. Michigan State: +/- and Defensive Charting

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  1. jason says:


    Are White/Simmons in the + or – category? I noticed the numbers tend to be in descending order until it hits those guys. Thanks for any input, and as always, great work.

  2. Adrian says:

    They were net positives (even though outscored, they had 2 offensive possessions and 3 defensive possessions). I just put the non-rotation guys at the bottom (non-ranked)– probably should have put a solid line after Bullock to denote the break between rotation and non-rotation players.

  3. CarMichael says:

    Poor Watts, 4 OR allowed in 1.1 minutes!

    Thanks for discussing the defensive aptitudes of Bullock, Hairston, and McAdoo and giving Zeller credit for his excellent defense in the post. However, now that he’s up to (or claiming) 250 pounds, I don’t see why he can’t hold those guys off the offensive glass.

    1. Adrian says:

      Yeah, I think much of Zeller’s problems stem from his high center of gravity. He doesn’t use his lower body well to create space (on either end), and plays “high” (even for a 7-footer). He’s just not a good natural rebounder either– mediocre instincts, doesn’t anticipate rebounds well, etc. He works hard to get a body on his man (and does so very consistently); he’s just not great at separating to grab rebounds or winning battles for 50-50 boards. I do think his ability to body up on opposing 5s helps Henson to grab so many defensive boards (along with Henson’s tremendous length, of course).

  4. TaiwanLawson says:

    This is great stuff, Adrian. Will you be doing this analysis for every game? I hope so! Would also like to see Duke get similar treatment, but I know these things require lots of leg work.

  5. TrueBlue says:

    You posted the Asheville +/- on IC and not here (unless I missed it).

    Are the others going to be available on this site, or only via IC?

    1. TrueBlue says:

      Never mind, I missed it… I swear I didn’t see it until I clicked on the banner to take me to the home section. I’m blind.

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