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.