Marcus Paige, Rotnei Clarke

Butler drops No. 9 North Carolina in the Maui Invitational

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It was exactly one week ago that we all decided that we might need to hedge our bets on Butler being the best team in the Atlantic 10.

Last Tuesday, during ESPN’s Marathon Madness, the Bulldogs turned in a clunker of a performance against Xavier, going into the Cintas Center and leaving with a 62-47 loss. Keep in mind, this is a Musketeer team that is a long, long way from having the kind of talent that we’re used to seeing Chris Mack trot out there.

So imagine the collective national surprise when Butler beat the everloving Tar out of the Heels with an 82-71 win over No. 9 North Carolina in the semifinals of the Maui Invitational.

What changed in the last seven days?

Could it be as simple as Butler’s threes were falling against UNC (12-25 on threes) while nothing went in against the Muskies (4-18)?

That’s part of it, but much of the credit (blame?) for Butler’s three-point shooting can be spread around. The Bulldogs got a lot of wide-open looks, and when shooters like Rotnei Clarke and Kellen Dunham are getting wide-open looks, you are going to have a lot of nights where they end up making nine triples. It also should be noted that North Carolina defended Butler’s pick-and-roll only slightly better than the seven guys that write for CollegeBasketballTalk would have, while Xavier did a terrific job of the Bulldogs out of their rhythm. (This is something that I’m going to go back and watch some film on. Expect a more extensive post after Thanksgiving.)

Let’s put it like this: Butler is probably not as good as they looked against North Carolina and not as bad as they looked against Xavier. Split the difference; judge them based on the Marquette win?

It’s tough to take too much out of an early-season game, especially one that’s played all the way out in Maui, but I think it’s safe to say that North Carolina has some issues they need to work out. Marcus Paige isn’t bad, but he isn’t Kendall Marshall right now, and that’s hurting the Heels right now. Is James Michael McAdoo’s 10 point, four rebound, seven turnover performance indicative of what he’s going to do against quality competition? Where is UNC’s wing scoring going to come from?

I think UNC will eventually be a top 20 team come season’s end, if for no reason other than the fact that there are a lot of teams with a lot of question marks right now.

But this game is proof the Heels have a long way to grow.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

Marcus Paige, Joel Berry lead No. 9 North Carolina past No. 2 Maryland

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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — He’s back.

For the first time this season — and for the first time in more than a year that he hasn’t been hampered with some kind of foot or ankle injury — Marcus Paige donned a North Carolina jersey, and it didn’t take him long to find the form that made him the Preseason National Player of the Year.

On the first Tar Heel possession, Paige came off of a ball-screen, drove the lane and found Kennedy Meeks at the rim for a layup. Not 30 seconds later, he came off of a down screen and buried a three. Paige would finish with 20 points and five assists as No. 9 North Carolina put together a fairly resounding win over No. 2 Maryland in the Dean Dome on Tuesday night, winning 89-81.

Paige finished 7-for-12 from the floor and 4-for-5 from beyond the arc, hitting a number of threes in the second half that helped hold off a Maryland push sparked by their own all-american point guard, Melo Trimble.

Trimble was erratic early on, committing three turnovers in the first six minutes and eight on the night, but it was his play at the end of the first half and early second half that kept North Carolina from blowing their doors. At one point, Maryland was down 32-19 and in danger of getting run out of Tobacco Road.

In total, Trimble finished with 23 points and 12 assists, hitting four big threes during that stretch. He either scored or assisted on 11 of Maryland’s first 12 second half field goals.

As good as Paige was, the bigger story may actually be Joel Berry II. He took two dumb threes in the first half — which played a role in Maryland being able to make this a game — and he missed a few free throws late, but overall he was terrific. He finished with 14 points and five assists, making 3-of-5 threes and turning the ball over just twice. He’s clearly beat Nate Britt out at the point guard spot, and his ability to take pressure off of Paige as a secondary ball-handler and playmaker is huge.

(More to come from Chapel Hill…)

VIDEO: Melo Trimble drops Nate Britt with a crossover

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North Carolina is hosting No. 2 Maryland in a heated contest in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Terps sophomore guard Melo Trimble is playing very well and part of his performance was dropping North Carolina’s Nate Britt with a crossover in the second half.

(H/T: The Cauldron)