Alex Conway & John Gwaltney Jr
It appears not all is lost in the world of basketball in
Chapel Hill just yet. After a disheartening loss to
Belmont in their third game of the season, the UNC basketball
squad got a huge victory over the defending national champion
Louisville Cardinals last Sunday.
They learned a couple things in the win. For starters,
Marcus Paige is one of the best players in the nation
right now. Also, Kennedy Meeks has the makings of
a special player himself.
The Tar Heels got an entire week off before they have to travel
to Alabama to take on UAB. They'll need to put aside the
leftover turkey sandwiches and get refocused if they want to keep
the momentum rolling against the Blazers.
Let's a take a look at some storylines as UNC gets back at it on
the hardwood this weekend.
Let's all get used to seeing Paige's name as a common them in Tar
Heel games this year. With Nate Britt still getting up to
speed and P.J. Hairston modeling his best bench attire,
Paige has become the unquestioned leader of this year's team.
Roy Williams talked about handing the reigns to Paige
during an offseason practice during his weekly radio show earlier
"This summer I gave it to him verbally in front of everybody. I
said 'The leaders of this team are Marcus and James Michael. You
know why? Because I never have to talk to them about bad things. I'm
tired of talking to the rest of you idiots,'" said Williams. "Those
are going to be the team leaders, I don't care what class they are
or anything. Everybody's just got to accept it and it's not going to
change. You can accept it or you can fight it and you're going to
During back-to-back games last weekend, Paige set a career high
in points during a game with 26 and 32 respectively. He's
becoming a better player each and every time he steps foot on the
court and by the end of the season could be a finalist for the Bob
The area that has seen the most improvement by the second year
point guard is in the shooting department. He has yet to shoot
under 46 percent in a game and against Louisville he shot a
staggering 75 percent. His efficiency, leadership and scoring
prowess are all areas that were concerns for this team before the
games got under way but it appears Paige has given Williams some
answers in all those categories early on.
Tar Heel fans got their first real glimpse at the kind of talent
Meeks has when he put up a 13 point, 12 rebound and 8 assist
performance against Louisville.
Whether it was heaving a beautiful outlet pass to a streaking
teammate, grabbing a rebound with two hands and holding on to it
like a mother protecting her baby or moving without the basketball
at just the right time to just the right place, it seemed like Meeks
could do no wrong.
That was in stark contrast to his performance against Richmond
the night before.
"On Saturday he was as bad as anybody I'd ever put in a game and
then on Sunday he was about as good as anybody I'd ever put in a
game," said Williams. "That's what you have when you have young
players. On Saturday he only played five minutes. I talked to him
after the game and said 'You've got to be more ready. You've got to
be prepared to play."
After finding out just how good he can be, the next step in
Meeks' evolution is to find the kind of consistency that can make
him a starter. Let's face it, if he keeps performing like he
did on Sunday, he'll soon find himself replacing Joel
James' minutes sooner rather than later.
"Kennedy Meeks was the Kennedy Meeks that I hoped we'd find and I
hope we'll find again. His play gives you possibilities of getting
easy ones because he can throw it the length of the court with the
outlet pass," said Williams. "I've been after our guys all year,
'Let's run. Let's run.' He has a skill, let's take advantage of
There is a lot of weight being moved around on the Tar Heels
basketball team. It looks like the weight that has fallen off
Meeks and James has found the once rail-thin frames of Paige and
Johnson in particular has become a much stronger player, both
physically and mentally. He's finishing around the basket with
consistency and has displayed a little bit better effort on the
defensive end of the court.
He's yet to score below double digits in a single game thus far
and has averaged 14 points per game on the year.
vs. #16/16 North Carolina
UAB at a glance Location: Birmingham,
Forest Green & Gold Conference:
Conference USA Arena:
Bartow Arena (8,500) 2012-2013 Record:
(7-9) Last Game:
W 85-73 over Florida A&M on November 27. More on the Blazers: Schedule
| Stats |
Roster Official Site |
Last starting line-up
F - Rod Rucker F - C.J. Washington C - Fahro Alihodzic
G - Chad Frazier G - Jordan Swing
Statistical Leaders Scoring: Chad
PPG) C.J. Washington (16.9 PPG)
Rebounding: Rod Rucker (9.9)
C.J. Washington (7.7 RPG)
Assists: Chad Frazier
APG) Jordan Swing (2.3 APG)
Points Per Game: 81.1 Rebounds Per Game: 48.6 Assist Per Game: 13.6 Field Goal Percentage: .438 3-pt Field Goal Percentage: .315
North Carolina at a glance Last starting line-up
F - Jame Michael McAdoo F - J.P. Tokoto F - Joel James
G - Marcus Paige G - Nate Britt
Statistical Leaders Scoring: Marcus Paige (22.4 PPG) James Michael
McAdoo (15.4 PPG)
Johnson (7.2 RPG) James
Michael McAdoo (6.4 RPG)
(3.6 APG) J.P. Tokoto (3.0 APG)
Points Per Game:
80.2 Rebounds Per Game: 40.0 Assist Per Game: 16.4 Field Goal Percentage: .495 3-pt Field Goal Percentage: .396
Meeks and James have been productive after there were concerns that
they might not be able to get up and down the court enough in Williams'
system to be effective. Heck, if Meeks doesn't feel like running from
defense to offense he'll just bullet a pass to a wide open teammate and
pick up an assist.
Nobody, has seen weight come his way like Paige, both figuratively
and literally. Williams has said the Iowa native has packed on
almost 15 pounds and the weight of the team's success is currently
resting on his shoulders as well.
Paige and the rest of his teammates that put up a great effort last
weekend, will look to continue that transfer of expectations in the
right direction against the Blazers Sunday afternoon. They've gone
from a team expected to contend for the ACC crown, to one that might be
NIT bound, back to a team that can beat anybody in the nation.
With games against Kentucky, Michigan State and Texas sprinkled in
with games against Conference USA level opponents, it's imperative the
Heels find a way to get up for every game like they did against
Louisville. This will be a test of their focus and it's one
everyone should keep a close eye on.