Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Improvement of Paul Garnica and Tate Unruh

With Northern Colorado losing as much talent as they did after last season, it was paramount that they had some guys really step up. So far this year, the two guys that have done that the most are guards Tate Unruh and Paul Garnica. Both were expected to have their roles increase after being part-time players as freshman last year, and they have answered the bell.

For Paul Garnica, last year he did a lot of nice things, but he had a couple big holes in his game. One, he was not a very good outside shooter, and that limited him offensively. He shot just 27% from downtown, and did not get to the line often. His other problem was that he turned the ball over way too much, with a TO Rate of 28.3%. Disregarding the obvious fact that he was blocked by Devon Beitzel, these had to contribute to him not seeing more time.

This year, both of those weaknesses have been improved a lot, especially outside shooting. This year he is shooting nearly 50% from downtown (though his 2-point percentage is down), and that is having a huge impact on his offensive efficiency. In addition, his assist rate has gone up, and his turnover rate has gone down, from 28.3% to 18.8%. There is still room for improvement to take the next step, but that has to be very encouraging for BJ Hill. He is also getting to the FT line a bit more this year. All in all, he has at times looked like their best guy.

At other times, Tate Unruh has looked like their best player. Last year he played sparingly, but was efficient in that time, mostly because he flashed his potential as an outside shooter. He shot 42% from outside, and even though he didn't do a whole lot else, that is a great skill. I said before the year he would need to add strength and he could be very dangerous, and he has done that.

Unruh certainly is not the most athletic or strongest guy, but he has gotten the job done for the Bears. His efficiency has only gotten better with more time, as he has shot 46% from outside, 51% from 2-point range, and is 18/19 from the stripe. He still doesn't do a ton besides that (low assist rate, average rebounding rate), but he has become a solid scorer. He leads the team in scoring with 13.1 PPG. He has a long way to go to reach this level, but UNC may have found their next Devon Beitzel. Compare Unruh's stats this year to Beitzel's sophomore year.

UNC is still a very young team, with only one senior on the roster, but the improvement of guys like Garnica and Unruh is one reason the fans should still be very excited for the state of the Bears program. Tad Boyle put a lot of nice pieces in place, and BJ Hill is capitalizing on them.

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