It’s gonna be Maye: UNC basketball gears up for another title run behind Luke Maye

North Carolina’s Luke Maye became a very solid rotation player for the Tar Heels en route to the team’s national championship in 2017. It’s a bit reductive to say, but UNC doesn’t win that title without Maye. Just ask Kentucky.

It was more than just that now famous shot, though. Maye emerged as a frontcourt option that could offer rebounding and scoring in the form a stretch-4 — a key differentiation point from North Carolina’s other bigs: Kennedy Meeks, Tony Bradley and Isaiah Hicks. Maye gave that team range shooting from a power position.

As UNC loaded up to defend its crown, it became obvious that Luke Maye would be an integral part in 2017-18; the 6-foot-7 forward could have all of the minutes he wanted. It seemed reasonable to expect that his numbers — specifically his counting stats — would jump. However, what Maye has done so far this season is way, way more than just a normal progression.

Maye is off to a historic start in 2017-18, and he’s now one of the best college basketball players in American — period. Let’s take a look at more of the numbers.


Start at the baseline

Over the course of North Carolina’s first 11 games, Luke Maye has posted ridiculous numbers: 19.5 points, 10.3 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 56.5 percent shooting. According to Sports Reference, Maye is one of eight Division I players averaging 19 points and 10 rebounds. He’s joined in that group by two of the best NBA prospects in the world: Duke’s Marvin Bagley and DeAndre Ayton of Arizona.

Maye is one of only two players in the nation averaging 15 points, 10 rebounds and two assists per game, too. If he can keep this pace up all season, Maye will become just the third ACC player since the 1992-93 season to do so — joining Tim Duncan, the greatest power forward in the history of basketball, and Devin Thomas.


The Postal Service: Such Great Heights

The post-up game will always be a significant feature of North Carolina’s offense; the philosophy is rather simple. Against most opponents, UNC usually has advantage in terms of skill and size inside. It only makes sense to target high-percentage looks if you are better and/or bigger than your opponent. Once teams adjust, then UNC can play off that with Kenny Williams or other perimeter options. (Remember: Cameron Johnson should be back soon.)

Led by Maye, the Tar Heels continue to punish opponents down on the block. On post-up looks, Maye has scored 0.98 points per possession (No. 45 in the nation, minimum of 40 possessions) on 53.1 percent shooting, per Synergy Sports. Amongst ACC players with at least 40 post-up possessions — 22 percent of Maye’s possessions are post-ups — only two players have shot a better clip than Maye: Bonzie Colson (67.4 FG%) and Elijah Thomas (63.9 FG%).

For the record: according to Synergy, Bagley is shooting 50 percent out of the post; his teammate Wendell Carter has made 48 percent of his post-up attempts.

So, how does Maye’s production stack up against UNC’s frontcourt from a season ago? Hey, I’m glad you asked!


2016-17 North Carolina: Post-up Possessions

PossessionsFG%Points Per Possession
Kennedy Meeks20246.2%0.85
Isaiah Hicks11647.3%0.86
Tony Bradley7950.0%0.82
Luke Maye3546.4%0.89

*Number from Synergy Sports

As you can see, through the first 11 games, Maye has been more efficient out of the post than Meeks, Hicks and Bradley. He’s also upped his own efficiency, too. He’s accomplished this by cutting down on turnovers and getting to the line far more frequently.

According to Synergy, Maye has a turnover rate of just 9.5 percent. He’s also drawn a shooting foul on 19 percent of his post-up possessions.


One person’s trash is another’s treasure

Over his first two seasons for UNC, Luke Maye played 673 minutes. He’s already played 342 minutes this season. Maye has done more than just increase his time on the floor, though. His usage rate has jumped from 19.3 percent (a below-average rate) to 25.5 percent — No. 10 in the ACC.

However, the more things change, the more they stay the same in Chapel Hill. Maye is one of seven ACC players with an offensive rebound rate of at least 10 percent, and a usage rate north of 22 percent.

In 2016-17, North Carolina led the nation if offensive rebound rate (41.3 percent). Those Tar Heels also led the nation in put-back possessions — field goal attempts after an offensive rebound. Nearly 11 percent of North Carolina’s possessions (377 total) came via an put-back attempt.

North Carolina is No. 8 in the nation if offensive rebound rate (37.7 percent), per KenPom. For his part, Maye has scored 1.39 points per possession on put-backs (No. 11 in the ACC) this season (64.3 FG%), according to Synergy.


Read More

Sterling Manley helps keep UNC’s frontcourt efficient on both ends of the floor