10 tidbits to know: Louisville’s chemistry, McCollum can shoot and more

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Vin Parise is a former assistant college coach and the college basketball insider for NBC Sports. Look for his Top 10 Tidbits every week.

1. For as good as Syracuse is, Louisville is the best team in the Big East right now. The chemistry on Rick Pitino’s team is off the charts and they play both ends of the floor as well as any team in the country. The two-headed attack of Peyton Siva and Russ Smith can be deadly and the 2-2-1 press, back to their match-up 2-3 zone, never allows teams to be comfortable on offense.

2. Not everyone nationally is sold on him yet but C.J. McCollum from Lehigh is the real deal. McCollum has scored over 30 four times this season — including opening the season at Baylor with a 36 point performance. McCollum is shooting 50% from the field, 53% from three point land and 84% from the free throw line.

3. Hard to get more automatic from the free throw line than Nik Cochran from Davidson. How’s shooting 95.7% from the line? The Davidson scorekeeper probably just hits the buttons on the scoreboard as soon as he gets fouled.

4. Hard to find a team that has played more games than Richmond. The Spiders are 10-5 and have a week off until they host Rhode Island. Richmond has struggled on the boards this season but have gotten by because they’ve shot the ball extremely well.

5. Many coaches preach tough non-conference scheduling but Tom Pecora from Fordham is one of the few who practices what he preaches. The Rams this season played at Pitt, at Harvard, at Lehigh, at St. John’s, at UConn and at Georgia Tech. And it’s not over — Fordham plays at Ole Miss tomorrow before A-10 play kicks into gear.

6. Jamaal Franklin and his No. 19 San Diego Aztecs are 12-2 overall and Franklin continues his terrific play. Franklin, the team’s leading scorer, went for 18 points, 12 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 blocks last night vs CS Bakersfield. San Diego State’s two losses are Syracuse and Arizona.

7. What a terrific job Gregg Marshall has done at Wichita State. Shockers are 13-1 after their last win at Drake. But should we really be surprised? When Marshall coached at Winthrop, his conference coaching record was 104-24.

8. You have to feel for Manhattan’s Steve Masiello. His Jaspers were picked #2 in the MAAC this year mostly because of preseason 1st team selection George Beamon. But because of injury, Beamon has only played in 4 games — and Manhattan is 3-9. The line is too fine at the mid-major level. Tough to win when your best player is not suiting up.

9. Not a good start to Big East play by DePaul. The Blue Demons lost their opener at home to Seton Hall 73-72. DePaul went 4-32 in conference play the last two seasons.

10. Even with 903 wins, I recently heard some criticism of Jim Boeheim because he’s only won one national championship at Syracuse. To criticize Boeheim makes about as much sense as standing in the cold for 6 hours on New Year’s Eve waiting for the ball to drop. Then again, a million people do it every year so what do I know.

Vin Parise is the College Basketball Insider for NBC Sports. You can catch him on NBC Sports Network’s SportsTalk – Mon-Fri. 6 p.m. ET. Follow him on Twitter @VinParise

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 NBCSports.com 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)