With their lack of front court depth (and firepower) North Carolina made a change a few weeks ago, going with four perimeter players surrounding sophomore James Michael McAdoo.
And the move paid off, as the Tar Heels (21-8, 11-5 ACC) have now won five straight games after beating Florida State 79-58 on Sunday afternoon.
North Carolina shot 55.4% from the field and 9-of-15 from beyond the arc on Sunday, doing a good job of running their offense and finding quality looks.
And while using Sunday’s performance to gauge their postseason prospects can be tough given the opposition, there should be little doubt that the Tar Heels are better positioned to make an NCAA tournament run now than they were a month ago.
McAdoo led the way offensively with 21 points, Reggie Bullock added 20 to go along with ten rebounds and five assists and P.J. Hairston scored 16 on 6-of-11 shooting.
“Getting off to a good start, that’s what it’s all about,” noted McAdoo following the win. “Especially once P.J. was inserted into the starting lineup. The loaded offense, the floor is spread, and we have a couple of three-point shooters that when they’re hot, they’re hot. It makes everything so much easier for me.”
While North Carolina’s best scorers performing well was a major factor in Sunday’s result, the improved play of point guard Marcus Paige should not be overlooked.
On Sunday Paige tallied nine assists (three turnovers), and over the last seven games the freshman has 34 assists to just ten turnovers. The assist-to-turnover ratio of 3.4 is better than his ratio for the entire season (2.0), and his improvement when it comes to getting North Carolina’s scorers the ball in advantageous positions is one reason why they’ve played better basketball of late.
North Carolina never lacked scoring options, with McAdoo inside and Bullock and Hairston on the wings. But for them to be at their best Paige needed to mature, and in recent weeks he’s taken steps in the right direction.
If Paige continues to progress the Tar Heels’ best offensive threats will continue to get quality looks, which in turn makes them a team to watch as this month wears on.
Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.