Minnesota v UCLA

Shabazz Muhammad officially off to the NBA

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We’ve known this to be true since the season ended, but UCLA made it official on Tuesday, as they sent out a press release confirming that star freshman Shabazz Muhammad would be leaving school and entering the NBA Draft.

“I am so thankful for the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play at UCLA and will always be proud to be a Bruin,” Muhammad said in a statement. “From a young age, I have dreamed of playing in the NBA, and I believe that this is the right time for me to move to the next level.

“I have had an unbelievable experience at UCLA and am eternally grateful to my teammates, my coaches and the program’s support staff for helping me become a better person and basketball player during my time in Westwood. It has been an honor and a privilege to play for coach Ben Howland.”

(CLICK HERE to follow along with who is turning pro and who is returning to school.)

Muhammad is a bit of a polarizing prospect. He’s been considered one of the best players in his class for a long time, but it turns out that he’s actually a year older than many believed he was. That’s concerning because Muhammad’s spent much of his career dominating the amateur levels thanks to superior strength and athleticism. The fact that he did so a year older than he said he was is a concern.

He’s still going to be a lottery pick, but it will be interesting to see where he is drafted and how good of a pro he ends up being.

You can find Rob 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 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)