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The genius of John Calipari

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Joe Posnanski of NBC Sports has a compelling take on what makes John Calipari so special, in light of all the NCAA’s talk about ‘student athletes’ and ‘special kids’, and Posnanski argues that the lack of illusions presented by Calipari makes him a unique figure.

The article is well-worth a read, even if you are a Calipari detractor or someone who prefers seniors or graduate transfers over succeed-and-proceed freshmen. One sentence struck me particularly:

This is college basketball in a time when the NBA refuses to fund a viable developmental league, when the NCAA refuses to budge on amateurism, when college athletes talk about forming unions and when the NCAA basketball tournament is a multi-billion dollar business.

Posnanski has shed light on the genesis of Calipari’s being. Fine, the NCAA wants to make money off these athletes, but allow the kids, the ones who the NCAA saves it is serving, to join the game too. Calipari was the first of the modern generation of coaches to understand that, and he is likely the only coach who, at his core, continues to truly understand it.

As you prep for the Final Four this evening, you owe it to yourself to read Posnanski’s piece.

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)