While North Carolina doesn’t lack for depth on a team many expect to contend for a national title this season, senior guard Marcus Paige is an incredibly important piece of the puzzle. That’s what makes Wednesday’s news, as the program announced that he will be out 3-4 weeks due to a broken right hand, so important for a team with designs on winning head coach Roy Williams’ third national title.
Paige fractured the third metacarpal on his non-shooting hand in practice on Tuesday, according to the school announcement. While the fact that the injury won’t impact his shooting hand can be seen as a positive, not having Paige means that North Carolina’s other perimeter figures will need to step forward.
“I hate it for Marcus,” Williams said in the release. “He’s such a wonderful young man – one of the most outstanding people I have been lucky to coach. I know he’ll handle this with the same level of maturity and responsibility that he does everything else.
“Our team will certainly be challenged in his absence. We will need everyone up and down the roster to step up their games and take care of each other and our team until he gets back.”
Both Joel Berry II and Nate Britt have experience playing the point, so that will help the Tar Heels in their adjustment to playing without Paige running the show. However, there area of greatest concern in this is perimeter shooting, as the senior captain was clearly North Carolina’s best option in that department.
Justin Jackson (30.4 percent) and Britt (36.6 percent) were second and third on the team in made three-pointers a season ago with twenty-eight and twenty-six, respectively. Combined those two made forty fewer three-pointers than Paige (94), and having a credible perimeter shooting threat can open things up for North Carolina’s front court as well. And with that being the case freshman Kenny Williams, a top 100 prospect lauded for his perimeter shooting ability, could see some opportunities with Paige sidelined.
Given the timeframe Paige will miss North Carolina’s game at Northern Iowa on November 21, which was scheduled as a homecoming game for the Iowa native. North Carolina’s showdown with fellow national title contender Maryland is scheduled for December 1, which falls four weeks to the day on which Paige suffered the injury.