North Carolina's resume for March checks out, but the eye test hasn't been nearly as encouraging.
The Tar Heels are 16-7 (6-4 ACC) with an RPI of 35, a SOS of 30, a home win over UNLV (RPI 21) and just one bad loss (a shellacking at Texas). During a year in which the bubble is terribly weak, Roy Williams' squad would have to suffer a major collapse down the stretch to miss an invite to the field of 68.
But when you look away from the paper and towards the television screen, things get significantly more depressing.
UNC got beat up by Miami—twice. It fell to NC State by just eight, but that came after a hefty comeback to reverse one of the more uninspiring halves of basketball this year. Then there was the debacle at Texas, an 18-point loss against a team with just two Big 12 wins.
The Tar Heels are young and some of these results are expected along the way, but with a trip to the Big Dance likely forthcoming, two major changes on offense must soon be made.
More Facilitation By Marcus Paige
Marcus Paige is a completely different type of point guard than Kendall Marshall, but he would benefit from watching some tape of the former UNC distributor.
The freshman is simply shooting too much.
In 27.7 minutes per contest, he is jacking up eight shots per game and has a field-goal percentage of 32.0. He is also taking 3.9 threes per game and making just 29.4 percent of them. Put it all together, and he has an anemic effective field-goal percentage of 39.1, which is among the worst in America.
It has gotten even worse in ACC play, too. In 10 conference games, Paige is shooting 28.0 percent but still taking 8.2 shots per game.
At 6'0", 157 pounds he doesn't yet have the strength to get inside and score among the trees (he has attempted just 25 free throws in 22 games), but his jumper has also abandoned him.
Paige can't completely ignore wide-open shots, but at this point he needs to start looking for open teammates. The Heels, who are 19th in America in assist-to-turnover ratio, are much better when they are either in transition or crisply swinging the ball from side-to-side.
Paige has three potentially deadly shooters around him in Reggie Bullock, P.J. Hairston and Leslie McDonald, and he is clearly a capable distributor—he is third in the ACC with 4.5 assists per contest.
Right now the Tar Heels, who are 114th in the nation in points per possession, need a true conductor at the point guard spot, not a staggeringly inefficient scorer.
This quote from Roy Williams at halftime against Miami tells the story (via CBS Sports' Seth Davis):
North Carolina is eighth in the country with 37.4 rebounds per game, but part of that is because of the lightning-fast pace it plays. It's rebounding percentage is a much more pedestrian 58th in America (and even worse in conference play).
Giving freshman Brice Johnson more minutes is a good way to solve that.
The youngster is averaging just 12.9 minutes, but is still pulling down 4.2 rebounds per contest. His rebounding percentage of 18.6 is easily best on the team.
Not only that, but he gives the 'Heels a much-needed offensive ability in the low past, whereas James Michael McAdoo thrives working from the mid-range.
Johnson is second on the team with 22.8 points per 40 minutes, first with a field-goal percentage of 54.9 and third with a true shooting percentage of 55.6. In limited minutes, the extremely talented newcomer has arguably been the most impressive offensive player for the 'Heels.
He is still fairly limited on the defensive end, but Roy Williams desperately needs Johnson's offense on the court.