Nate Britt

Roy Williams
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Issues on both ends result in No. 1 North Carolina’s first loss

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Come Monday we’ll have a new team atop the national polls, all because the shorthanded occupant of the top spot could not maintain a 16-point second half lead.

No. 1 North Carolina scheduled their game at Northern Iowa as a homecoming of sorts for senior point guard Marcus Paige, who is currently sidelined with a broken bone on his right hand. But what would have been a tricky matchup even with Paige on the floor turned into a nightmare of sorts as the second half wore on, with the Panthers outscoring UNC 31-11 over the final 17:40 to win by the final score of 71-67.

UNI certainly deserves credit for their play both offensively and defensively in making the comeback, but they had some help in the form of a visiting team that lost focus. After doing a good job of finding quality looks on offense, including scoring on their first four possessions of the second half, the Tar Heels hit s dry spell. The ball didn’t move as crisply as it did earlier in the game and the player movement wasn’t as sound either.

So even with Justin Jackson scoring 25 points in his best performance of the season to date, these issues were bound to catch up with North Carolina playing against a team as sound defensively as UNI. The three perimeter players who played so well in their first three victories, Joel Berry II, Nate Britt and Theo Pinson, all struggled Saturday afternoon. The trio accounted for 11 points (4-for-16 FG), nine assists and eight turnovers on the day.

That’s something North Carolina can make up for when Paige is in the lineup. But in this period where their best ball-handler and scorer is on the bench, the play of the guards who normally would be in supplementary roles becomes even more important.

The bigger concern coming out of the second half was North Carolina’s play defensively. The Tar Heels had no answer for guards Matt Bohannon and Wes Washpun, who combined to score 26 of their 40 in the game’s final 20 minutes. Some of the responsibility for that can be placed on the guards, but there were also poor defensive rotations on ball screens that led to Washpun (five second-half assists) getting opportunities to either score himself or find open teammates (Bohannon hit three three-pointers).

Of UNI’s final 31 points Washpun had a hand in 25 of them, scoring ten and assisting on 15. That speaks to both the senior’s impact on the game and North Carolina’s inability to slow him down.

Ultimately it’s only November 21, so Roy Williams and his team have plenty of time to work out the kinks on both ends of the floor. It was known that the loss of an All-American has a noticeable impact on how a team performs, so UNC going through an adjustment period is of no surprise. But if the team needed a reminder that their margin for error shrinks significantly without Marcus Paige on the court, they received it in his home state.

Britt helps No. 1 UNC beat Fairfield 92-65 in home opener

Nate Britt, Marcus Gilbert
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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) Nate Britt matched his career high with 17 points and No. 1 North Carolina gradually pulled away in the second half to beat Fairfield 92-65 on Sunday.

Joel Berry II added 15 points for the Tar Heels (2-0), who led all the way to win their 14th consecutive home opener. But UNC followed its 24-point win over Temple in Friday’s opener with an unimpressive showing full of missed free throws and leaky defense.

The Tar Heels struggled to put away a team that went 7-24 last season, a performance that had Hall of Fame coach Roy Williams burn a first-half timeout and let his team have it during an animated stoppage.

UNC led 40-32 at halftime and didn’t put the game away until the final 10 minutes against the Stags (0-2), who hit 10 3-pointers that kept them hanging around longer than expected.

The Tar Heels are playing without preseason Atlantic Coast Conference co-player of the year Marcus Paige for the first few weeks of the season due to a broken right hand, so the play of Britt and Berry along the perimeter in Paige’s absence at least offered some positives for the Tar Heels.

Britt, a junior, finished 6 for 9 from the field and tied his career high by making 4 of 6 3-point attempts, while Berry added three 3s while taking the bulk of the point guard duties with Paige out.

Brice Johnson scored 16 points as UNC had five players in double figures and shot 50 percent, though the Tar Heels made just 18 of 32 foul shots.

Marcus Gilbert scored 25 points to lead Fairfield before fouling out in the final minutes.

The game was part of the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame Classic, though it wasn’t part of the event’s elimination rounds.


Fairfield: The Stags shot 35 percent for the game. … Fairfield committed 19 turnovers, helping the Tar Heels to a 22-0 edge in points off turnovers. … Freshman Jonathan Kasibabu had 10 rebounds.

UNC: Sophomore Theo Pinson finished with 11 points, five rebounds and eight assists in his second straight start. … Fellow sophomore Justin Jackson had 11 points. … Kennedy Meeks had 12 rebounds, while Johnson grabbed 11. … UNC shot 55 percent in the second half.


Fairfield: Visits Northwestern on Wednesday.

North Carolina: Hosts Wofford on Wednesday.

Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at and the AP’s college basketball site at

New Year’s Resolutions: North Carolina Tar Heels

2014 CBS Sports Classic
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source: Getty Images
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Conference play is right around the corner, so over the course of the next two weeks, College Basketball Talk will be detailing what some of the country’s best, most intriguing, and thoroughly enigmatic teams should resolve to do with the New Year right around the corner. What can we say, we’re in a giving mood. Thank Jessica Simpson.

MORE: The rest of our New Year’s Resolutions | Midseason catchups

NORTH CAROLINA PROMISES TO: Continue to get more from Joel Berry II

  • It will happen because: In the last four games, freshman point guard Joel Berry II has seen a spike in action, logging 13.0 minutes per game. As noted in this piece on Marcus Paige’s offensive woes, the Tar Heels are in need of Berry or Nate Britt to step up and run the offense to shoulder some of the pressure put on Paige. On Saturday, Berry scored five points and dished out four assists in North Carolina’s 82-74 win over No. 12 Ohio State. Two of those dimes resulted in seven points for Paige. In the first setup, Berry drove into the lane in transition, attracting three defenders before finding the trailing Paige open on the left wing. Berry will be a better offensive option than fellow reserve point guard Nate Britt.
  • It won’t happen because: While the his performance against Ohio State is encouraging, it’s still a small sample size. Berry will have to continue this production in a larger role moving forward, in a conference that has talented guard play all around. Berry is also part of a bigger issue for North Carolina: its 3-point shooting. Berry is 3-of-16 shooting through the first 11 games.

NORTH CAROLINA ALSO SWEARS THEY WON’T: Struggle with perimeter scoring

  • It will happen because: Paige, who was not only being tabbed as a preseason All-American, but also a player of the year candidate, has seen his points per game and shooting percentages take a considerable dip this season. That is a byproduct of North Carolina’s lack of perimeter scoring options surrounding Paige. The Tar Heels are 47-of-165 from three with Paige hitting 25 of those shots. Defenses are not only keying in on Paige, they are packing the paint, which also makes it difficult for Kennedy Meeks to operate in the post. This can change if several highly-regarded freshman can pick up their production offensively. As mentioned above, Berry looked more comfortable in UNC’s win over Ohio State, which in return could have positive effects on Justin Jackson moving forward as suggested here.
  • It won’t happen because: North Carolina has only connected on 28 percent of its threes, as a team. The Tar Heels can improve on that end of the floor if someone else on the perimeter can become a consistent offensive threat, whether it be Berry or Jackson. If/when that does happen, will it before enough to push the Heels into title contention with the ACC’s elite teams. Duke, Louisville and Virginia — all in kenpom’s top 5 — posses some of the top defenses in the country, all holding opponents to under 28 percent from beyond the arc. North Carolina could have a second perimeter option emerge, but that doesn’t mean it’ll be enough for UNC to compete with the nation’s best.

North Carolina guard Nate Britt to shoot predominantly right-handed in 2014-15

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With North Carolina losing the player expected to be its highest scoring perimeter option in P.J. Hairston, roles changed for Roy Williams’ guards early in the 2013-14 season. Marcus Paige became the Tar Heels’ leading scorer while also being asked to serve as their primary distributor, and Nate Britt played just over 20 minutes per game at the point.

Britt was solid in his debut campaign, posting averages of 5.1 points and 2.4 assists per game for North Carolina. But there was a significant issue that Britt wanted to address during the offseason: his shooting. Britt shot just 36.7% from the field and 25.0% from beyond the arc last season, numbers that he’ll need to improve in 2014-15 in order to receive similar (or more) minutes.

Apparently Britt’s taken a step not seen too often when it comes to players looking to improve their shot: after shooting predominantly with his left hand in 2013-14, Britt will be taking the majority of his shots with his right hand in 2014-15.

While this move is rare it isn’t unprecedented, with Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Eisenberg noting in his story on Britt’s switch in shooting hands that Tristan Thompson of the Cleveland Cavaliers made a similar switch during an offseason. And there’s also the case of Drexel guard Tavon Allen, who’s ambidextrous and can shoot jump shots with either hand (he prefers to shoot lefty from beyond the arc).

Britt’s progression will be interesting to watch for two reasons: whether or not his percentages improve, and if opponents are caught off-guard by the player they last saw as a southpaw suddenly firing up jumpers with his right hand.

2013-2014 Season Preview: No. 12 North Carolina Tar Heels

Roy Williams

All month long, CBT will be rolling out our 2013-2014 season preview. Check back throughout the day, as we’ll be posting three or four preview items every day.

To browse through the preview posts we’ve already published, click here. The rest of our Top 25 Countdown can be found here. For a schedule of our previews for the month, click here.

Last Season: 25-11, 12-6 ACC (3rd); Lost to Kansas in the Round of 32

Head Coach: Roy Williams (11th season at UNC: 282-79 overall, 117-45 ACC)

Key Losses: Reggie Bullock, Dexter Strickland

Newcomers: Nate Britt, Isaiah Hicks, Kennedy Meeks

Projected Lineup

G: Marcus Paige, So.
G: Leslie McDonald, Sr.
F: P.J. Hairston, Jr.
F: James Michael McAdoo, Jr.
C: Brice Johnson, So.
Bench: Nate Britt, Fr.; J.P. Tokoto, So.; Isaiah Hicks, Fr.; Kennedy Meeks, Fr.; Joel James, So.; Desmond Hubert, Jr.

They’ll be good because …: The Tar Heels certainly don’t lack the talent. Of the 11 players that figure to have a shot at seeing time in the North Carolina rotation, 10 were four-star recruits coming out of high school. Three — P.J. Hairston, James Michael McAdoo and Isaiah Hicks — were five-star recruits. There aren’t many programs in the country that can boast that kind of talent, and what’s more is that the Heels have a nice blend of veterans — senior Leslie McDonald, juniors Hairston and McAdoo — and promising newcomers.

One of the issues last season was that freshman Marcus Paige was the only point guard on the roster, and he wasn’t a natural fit for the kind of system that Roy Williams likes to play. Not only does he now have another year under his belt, but he’ll be joined in the back court by Nate Britt, a talented freshman with the quicks to really push the ball up and down the floor.

Oh, and how could I forget: Hairston didn’t actually get booted off the team after a summer spent running afoul of the law. He only got suspended, which was huge news for a team that doesn’t have a ton of perimeter depth.

AP photo

But they might disappoint because …: They have so many question marks up front. Last season, North Carolina made their run late in the season when they switched to a smaller lineup, using McAdoo as their center and playing Reggie Bullock and Hairston, bigger wings that can score on the perimeter, at the forwards spots. It made UNC a difficult team to defend. But with Bullock off to the NBA and a front line that goes six-deep, the Heels will likely revert to using a more traditional lineup.

But what do we really know about those big men? McAdoo has all the talent and potential in the world, but he’s yet to really define himself as a player. He’s not a back-to-the-basket scorer but he’s not a face-up four man. Is he simply an athlete that can do some impressive things in transition? Brice Johnson reportedly put on about 20 pounds this offseason, but he’s still only about 207 pounds. Kennedy Meeks and Joel James have the ability to be the low-post threat that makes North Carolina so dangerous, but can they run the floor? Are they in good enough shape to really be effective? Is Isaiah Hicks ready to contribute as a freshman, or is he just an athlete as well? Would UNC fans really feel comfortable with Desmond Hubert as their starting center?

Outlook: Last year, North Carolina was able to turn their season around by going small and playing even faster than they already do. But that wasn’t a long-term answer to what ails them. It was a quick fix, a band-aid that covered up a bigger problem. When Roy Williams’ teams are doing what his system is designed to do, the two most important pieces he has are: a) a point guard that can distribute the ball and push it up the floor, either via the dribble or via the pass; and b) a big man that can beat people down the floor in transition and has to be double-teamed when he catches the ball on the block. Think about it: Ty Lawson, Ray Felton and Kendall Marshall. Sean May, Tyler Hansbrough and Tyler Zeller.

Do the Heels have that this year? James and Kennedy can score in the post, but they might struggle to beat the UNC beat writers down the floor. Johnson, Hicks and McAdoo can get out and run, but do any of them scare you on the block? And what about the point guard spot? Paige wasn’t a great fit last year, and while having Britt will help, he’s still a freshman. There are a lot of good basketball players on this team, and they’re led by a head coach that’s won two national titles since 2005, but I’m having trouble seeing how all these pieces come together.

UNC commit Nate Britt announces transfer to Oak Hill (Va.) for senior season

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North Carolina commit Nate Britt, a 6-1 guard from Washington, D.C., will transfer to Oak Hill Academy for his final prep season, he announced Sunday on

News of his transfer had been rumored throughout the spring, but today was the first time he publicly confirmed them. Recent weeks had brought conflicting reports from multiple outlets.

Edgar Walker of reported that Britt would make the announcement today, which he ultimately did around 12:30 PM EDT.

“I’ve decided to transfer to Oak Hill next year,” he said on the show. “I think Oak Hill presented me with an oppportunity that would prepare me for North Carolina next year. I feel like it would allow me to mature and get ready for college.”

Britt will be leaving Gonzaga College High School (D.C.)  as Top 25 prospect in the country and a Top 3 point guard in the Class of 2013.

He currently plays for the DC Assault on the AAU circuit, a program that has churned out other high-major point guard prospects, including former Duke guard Nolan Smith and current Duke guard Quinn Cook.

Oak Hill finished last season as the No. 1 team in the season, with an overall record of 44-0. Graduating seniors Tyler Lewis, Jordan Adams, and D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera will all be headed to high-major programs, NC State, UCLA, and Georgetown, respectively.

The Warriors will be reloading in 2012-13.

Along with Britt joining the team, fellow Top 50 player Troy Williams of Hampton, Va., will be attending school at the national powerhouse.

North Carolina has two commitments from the Class of 2013 so far, Britt and North Carolina native Isaiah Hicks.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_