UNC’s Marcus Paige is no Lorenzo Brown.
He’s also no Kendall Marshall, the NBA draft pick who made passing an art form during his time in Chapel Hill. Then again, neither is he Larry Drew II, Marshall’s predecessor, who mis-handled the UNC offense and sulked away to join UCLA when he was benched.
Paige is a freshman with a good head on his shoulders, he knows what Roy Williams’ team needs, but he’s just not experienced enough to provide it yet. As a result, the Tar Heels are reeling badly, joining the Kentucky Wildcats on the list of once-powerful blue blood teams that might end up in the NIT for want of a floor leader.
UNC lost badly against No. 18 N.C. State, 91-83 in Raleigh, and the spectacular play of ACC player of the year candidate Lorenzo Brown had the effect of rubbing the Heels’ collective faces in their deficiencies. Brown had 20 points and eleven sometimes spectacular assists as he sliced and diced the Carolina defense.
To be fair, there’s a bit of a chicken/egg conundrum going on here. Are the Heels struggling because Paige is inexperienced, or is Paige’s inexperience more easily exposed because his teammates aren’t up to snuff? It’s a little bit of both. The Wolfpack, for instance, have a nice balance of shooters and slashers, backed up by dirty work specialist Richard Howell. The whole is orchestrated by Brown, who was tabbed from day one of the season as one of the league’s stars. If they ever get that defensive discipline thing figured out, the sky’s the limit.
This year’s Heels don’t know who will take the big shots. That’s pretty tough to overcome. Worse yet, if they do find that reliable shooter, they won’t know how to get him open and who can make the pass that leads to the bucket. That may be a little too much for one team to overcome in a league like the ACC, with just twelve games left before the postseason begins.
Eric Angevine is the editor of Storming the Floor. He tweets @stfhoops.
The injury Stephen Zimmerman suffered on Saturday will keep the star UNLV freshman out for at least a week, a source told NBC Sports.
The injury is not thought to be serious, however. Zimmerman may be kept out for longer as a precaution, but that’s a result of the Runnin’ Rebels being in a situation where the rest of their regular season is relatively meaningless.
They’re not getting an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament regardless of how they finish out league play. With back-up center Ben Carter out with a torn ACL, it’s more important to make sure that Zimmerman, who is averaging 10.6 points and 9.1 boards this season, is totally healthy for the Mountain West tournament.
That tournament, mind you, will be played at UNLV’s Thomas & Mack Center.
So the Runnin’ Rebels, regardless of how poor they’ve played this season, will always have a chance to land an automatic bid.
Anyway, the more interesting aspect of this story is how Zimmerman injured the knee. It was a completely avoidable play that came after the whistle, but I’m not sure it was what you would call a “dirty play”. You tell me:
With a little more than three minutes left on Monday night, No. 24 Texas held a 57-51 lead on No. 3 Oklahoma in Norman as Jordan Woodard struggled again and Buddy Hield failed to find the rhythm that he had throughout the first three months of the season.
At that point in the game, Hield was 4-for-14 from the floor with 15 points and four turnovers. He had just missed a pair of wide-open threes
“I couldn’t make a shot,” Hield said after the game. But that changed down the stretch. First, Hield finally got a three to drop. On the next possession, he got all the way to the rim and scored. On the following two possessions, he was fouled on a drive to the rim and hit four free throws. And after missing a pull-up jumper, Hield did this:
“I told coach I wanted the ball,” Hield said, “I saw Lammert coming to bite, so I pulled up.”
“It’s all money.”
Hield is already the favorite to win National Player of the Year, and this performance is only going to help his cause further. Think about it like this: Buddy was not good on Monday night, at least according to his (admittedly lofty) standards. But he still finished with 27 points and shook off a cold shooting night just in time to take over down the stretch.
Now think about this: Hield’s head coach has enough confidence in him to hand him the keys in the final minutes despite the fact that he’s struggling and on a team that has two other players that Lon Kruger trusts on game-winning possessions. Think about it. When Oklahoma beat West Virginia at the buzzer, it was Jordan Woodard that the play was drawn up for. When they beat LSU, it was Isaiah Cousins that got the rock on the final possession while Hield was used as a decoy. .
Want to talk about coaching luxuries?
Kruger has three guards that can shoot, penetrate and score, and penetrate and kick, and one of them is the National Player of the Year that doesn’t mind being used as a decoy.