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Just The Sports: Overcoming A Sophomore Slump

Just The Sports

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Overcoming A Sophomore Slump

Even though Tyler Hansbrough has been and remains in a sophomore slump, this does not mean the University of North Carolina basketball as a whole is experiencing a decline in play from last season to this season. Thanks to a fine job of recruiting by the coaching staff, the 2006-07 team through nineteen games has proved themselves superior, at least offensively, to the 2005-06 Tarheels through that team's first nineteen games of the season.

While the UNC basketballers this year are much more efficient offensively, scoring 117.6 points per 100 possessions, than last year's squad that was only scoring at a clip of 108.8 points per 100 possession, they are not so as a result of improved shooting. A brief glimpse and a more in-depth stare will both lead the observer to the same conclusion; in their respective first nineteen games, the two teams shot basically the same percentages from the field and the free throw line.

The biggest difference between the two squads is the way in which they prized their possessions. There is really no contest when it comes to how these teams limited turnovers; the 2006-07 roster holds all the advantages. For this season, the Tarheels only have .195 turnovers per possession, compared to last year's .251 turnovers per possession. As the results of not wasting as many possessions, there are the increased offensive efficiency, floor percentage (.55 to .50), and field percentage (.48 to .41).

Another reason why Carolina has not suffered for the decreased effectiveness of Tyler Hansbrough has been because of the play of freshman Brandan Wright, who gives the Tar Heels another low-post scorer so they are not so reliant on Hansbrough to have a great game. Albeit in a slightly different role, Brandan Wright has for the most part matched everything Hansbrough did in the first nineteen games of his collegiate career, as far as shooting from the field (64.5% eFG to 60.9% eFG) and rebounding (14.3 Rebound Rate to 16.1 Rebound Rate). He is actually ahead of where Hansbrough was last year in keeping his turnovers to a minimum (10.2 Turnover Rate to 15.9 Turnover Rate). Where Wright still lags behind Hansbrough is in both the frequency with which he gets to the line per game (5.2 FTA to 8.0 FTA) and how well he shoots free throws once he does make it to the line (55.6 FT% to 76.3 FT%).

The same can be said for Brandan Wright when he is weighed on a scale opposite Tyler Hansbrough in this, Tyler's sophomore, season. As soon as Wright becomes a better shooter from the free throw line, he will go from being Hansbrough's equal to being his superior.

It is likely that last year's team would not have been able to endure Hansbrough's slump without many ill effects, but for this year's Tarheels team they have shaken it off as if the slump weighs nothing at all.



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