While blocked shots are the Sports-Center-highlight material of a defensive possession, they can often be misleading. Sometimes blocks are indicators of another player gambling on defense earlier in the possession forcing an interior defender to make a play. Blocks, as a stat, can also be indicative of a front court player who tries to block everything he sees rather than using proper positioning or extending his arms vertically.
At the same time, blocks are good stats to track. They reveal a player who gets in an opponent's head every time he drives to the rim. Blocks remind us of players who have impeccable timing to be able to alter the direction of a shot after the ball has been released. Blocks show what a teams’ last line of defense is capable of.
Over the course of the next several weeks, I’ll be reviewing the stats from the 2019-20 North Carolina basketball team, one category at a time. We’ve already looked at total points, total rebounds, total assists, and total three-pointers. We move today to total blocked shots.
As a reminder: while these stats won’t tell the whole story of the season, they will help provide context and insight for both the present and historical context.
The following chart lists each player, how many blocked shots they had, and where they ranked in the Carolina history books for total blocks in a single season.
- As a team, Carolina totaled 116 blocks in 2019-20. John Henson had 118, by himself, in 2010-11.
- The team’s 116 blocks is the lowest total for a team in the Roy Williams era and the lowest overall since the 2001-02 team didn’t even break 100 (99).
- Only one player, Armando Bacot, ranked in the top 50 for blocks in a single season in Carolina history.
- If you had asked me to guess who was second in blocks behind Bacot, I would never have guessed Leaky Black over Garrison Brooks.
- Bacot led the team with 36 blocks. Prior to Luke Maye’s team-leading 20 in 2018-19, Bacot’s total was the lowest since Desmond Hubert’s 30 in 2012-13.
- Overall, Bacot’s 36 blocks are the fourth-lowest to lead the team in the Roy Williams era.
- However, Bacot’s 36 blocks are also the most for a freshman since John Henson had 60 in 2009-10.
- The top three shot blockers (Bacot, Black, Brooks) are all returning next season.
Once again, numbers don’t tell the whole story, but they do help tell the story. So what story do these numbers help tell?
It would be an understatement to say that Carolina’s defense struggled in 2019-20. Their KenPom adjusted defensive efficiency was 94th in the country, by far the worst such ranking since finishing 174th in 2001-02. Much of this can be attributed to an inability by the guards to contain the man in front of them, but also highlights the lack of a shot blocker to erase those penetrating guards once they arrived at their destination.
In all honesty, the Tar Heels haven’t had a rim protector since Kennedy Meeks and Brice Johnson. Even more so, there hasn’t been a true, honest-to-goodness, threatening, intimidating, mistake-erasing, swat-your-stuff-into-next-week rim protector since John Henson posted over 100 blocked shots in both 2010-11 and 2011-12. For the record, those were two of only three seasons a Tar Heel has ever posted 100+ blocks. Any guesses on who has the third season with 100+ blocks? Comment below.
It’s important to note that, while Garrison Brooks’ blocked shot total is low, he is a phenomenal interior defender who does his work early in the possession. His expert positioning and body control allows him to not have to take the risk of trying to block shots.
Bacot’s 36 blocks are actually a solid number for a freshman. As referenced above, that’s the most for a freshman in a decade. His block number should continue to go up.
Keep in mind that interior reinforcements are coming in 2020-21. Day’Ron Sharpe should add some rim protection. Walker Kessler will certainly block some shots because of his sheer size, but won’t be considered a rim protector. Additionally, if Sterling Manley is back in action, his presence will provide a boost inside.
Blocked shots certainly aren’t the most important aspect of a strong defense. But it sure would be nice to have someone in the middle to make opponents think twice before driving to the hole.
Next stat to investigate from the 2019-20 Tar Heels, on Tuesday, June 2: Steals.
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