Tag Archives: Malcolm Brogdon

Soak It Up

This is it. The final weekend of the 2015-16 college basketball season. No matter what happens in NRG Stadium, this will be the final time we will see this edition of the North Carolina Tar Heels. Marcus Paige, Brice Johnson, and Joel James will only pull on their Tar Heel #5, #11, and #42 jerseys once more, maybe (hopefully) twice more. As fans, we find it easy to get wrapped up in defining a season by the final game. Whether or not Carolina can win tomorrow against Syracuse and subsequently knock off Villanova or Oklahoma on Monday night, this will go down as one of my favorite (if not the favorite) teams of all time. So here’s what I want to say: before we get enraptured in the games this weekend, make sure to take time to stop, appreciate this team, and soak it up.

Make sure to think back on the careers and development of Paige, Johnson, and James.

 

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Marcus Paige, Joel James, Brice Johnson, & JP Tokoto with Coach Roy Williams for their freshman picture

 

The biggest thing I’ll remember from this year is the Marcus Paige emotional roller coaster. Here is my stream-of-consciousness thinking of Mr. Paige’s senior year thus far: “Marcus is finally healthy and primed for a huge All-American senior year; reminiscent of his sophomore campaign! He broke his hand. Oh no! Which hand??? His non-shooting hand? Okay. Whew. Dodged a bullet. When will he come back? How will the team play until then? 5-1 with an undesirable, but understandable loss in a true road game at Northern Iowa. How will he look when he finally suits up? 20 points, 5 assists, 2 steals, 1 turnover in 34 minutes at home against Maryland, an early contender for the national championship? We’ll take it. Marcus is ready to go. Then the slump. Poor Marcus. His shot looks so pretty, why won’t it go in? He’s not hitting his free throws either. Oh man he hit a couple 3s this game, he’s back!! Nope he’s not. Well the good news is Marcus is still doing everything else he should as a teammate. I just hate for his senior year to play out this way. Maybe, just maybe he’ll pick up in March. Yes – 4 of 7 from deep against Notre Dame in the ACC semifinals. Here we go. Marcus is on in March. Spoke to soon. 0-7 from deep against Virginia. But man did he do a number guarding Brogdon. 2 solid, but unspectacular, games to start the NCAA tournament. But then Indiana, ohhhhh the Indiana game. With each successive 3 to start the game, I jumped higher and yelled louder. 21 points, 6 assists, 0 turnovers. That’s Marcus Paige. He’s back.” Marcus might score 30 points against Syracuse or he might score 0. The Tar Heels might win and the same stats are possible against Oklahoma/Villanova. Either way, Marcus Paige will be one of my five favorite Tar Heels of all time.

NCAA BASKETBALL: FEB 01 North Carolina at Louisville
February 1, 2016: North Carolina Tar Heels head coach Roy Williams speaks with North Carolina Tar Heels guard Marcus Paige (5) during the game against The Louisville Cardinals and North Carolina Tar Heels at The KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, KY. Louisville defeated North Carolina 71-65. (Photo by Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire).

Raise your hand if you thought Marcus Paige would have the struggles he’s had this year and yet, the Tar Heels would find themselves in the Final Four as the favorites to cut down the nets. The reason is because of two words: Brice Johnson. Let me use some numbers, so that we can try to wrap our heads around what a historical year he’s had. With his next rebound (just one), Johnson will have 400 for the season and will become the single-season rebounding leader in North Carolina Men’s Basketball history (and is on the doorstep of moving into the top 10 in ACC single season history). Just stop and think about that. For every rebounder that’s ever put on a UNC jersey, he has the most rebounds in any one season. And it’s not just this season. Brice is 1 of only 8 Tar Heels to have 1000 career rebounds. The others on the list are some gentlemen named Hansbrough, Perkins, Lynch, Cunningham, Jamison, Kupchak, and Daugherty. Heard of any of them? He’s currently number 6 on that list and has a realistic shot to move past Antawn Jamison for 5th. And it’s not just the rebounds, it’s also the points. Brice has scored 648 points this year, good to tie him with NBA champion Harrison Barnes’ 2011-12 campaign for 18th in one season. He will definitely continue moving up this list; whether UNC plays 1 or 2 more games will determine exactly how much further. Along similar lines, Johnson has moved into 19th on the career scoring list, again with extremely realistic chances to continue moving up. This also means that this team boasts 2 of the top 20 scorers in Carolina history (Paige is currently at #12). The combination of scoring and rebounding a lot means that Johnson has accumulated 23 double-doubles this season, again the most in a single-season in UNC history. He currently is averaging 17.1 ppg and 10.5 rpg this year. Only 4 Tar Heels have averaged a double-double since 1975-76. Their names? Antawn Jamison, Sean May, Tyler Hansbrough, John Henson. Mr. Brice Johnson, we thank you for giving us one of the greatest single years any player has ever had in Chapel Hill. I think all that yelling Roy has done just might have made a difference.

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I will remember this year as the year that the “not tough” Tar Heels suffered 6 losses (to this point), but only by a combined 22 points. And they never lost by more than 6. And they had a lead at some point in EVERY GAME THEY PLAYED. In fact, the Heels also had a least a tie in the 2nd half of every game they played. Probably the most impressive of these stats is that, of Carolina’s 38 games to date, they’ve held a 2nd half lead in every game but one (@ Virginia).

I will remember the collapse at home to Duke. As that game wore on, and the Heels struggled to create separation, I thought, “there’s no way we lose this game”. However, there were images of Austin Rivers floating in the back of my head. I will readily admit that after that loss, I really wondered what this team would amount to come tournament time. But now we have answer. The Tar Heels of the 2016 ACC Tournament were a thing of beauty. This team is tough.

I will remember this as a Carolina team that returned almost completely intact (we miss you JP!) and added a couple nice pieces in Luke Maye and Kenny Williams. I will remember this as the year that a Carolina team with no “superstars” and possible NCAA sanctions looming moved past several years of uncertainty (early departures after 2011-12, the PJ Hairston debacle, Paige’s injury-riddled junior year, etc), joined together, and rose above it all to make the Final Four with as good a shot as you’re going to get at winning a national championship.

It’s been a great year. We still have 1, maybe 2, games left. So soak it up Tar Heel fans and let’s enjoy this epilogue.

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Quick Hitters – Virginia (ACC Championship Game)

Quick Hitters from Carolina’s 61-57 win over Virginia in the ACC Championship Game

  1. So is Carolina tough now? Can we agree on that? Okay thank you, moving on.
  2. The first possession for each team was indicative of the defense that would be played. Carolina had a turnover when Virginia doubled the post. Virginia had a shot clock violation when Carolina played 30 seconds of tight defense.
  3. Carolina plain and simple had too many turnovers (8) in the first 13.5 minutes of the game. After that there were only 2 more the entire game. So no turnovers in the last 7:26 of the 1st half and no turnovers in the last 17:53 of the 2nd
  4. It was these early turnovers and offensive rebounding (16-5 in favor of UVa) that kept Virginia in the game. In an interesting twist, Carolina did the work on the defensive end that allowed these lapses to be overcome. In the end, 51.1 FG% for UNC and 36.5 FG% for Virginia.
  5. Though it took him a couple minutes to get settled, Brice Johnson marvelously navigated the double teams from Virginia – ably deciphering when to score and when to pass. In fact, to go along with his pretty standard 12 point, 9 rebound night, Brice lead the team in assists with 5, against 2 turnovers. It felt similar, although not quite as prolific, to the first game against Syracuse in which Brice simply picked the Boeheim zone apart. Would love for Brice to get some more double-doubles to break the Carolina single-season record, but if sacrificing a couple points or rebounds means being able to get teammates involved, so be it.
  6. Not sure how Virginia plays as tough defensively as they consistently do without fouling (or getting caught at least), but they do, it’s impressive, and you have to be ready to respond to that. On this night, Carolina not only responded, but showed their own version of Virginia-defensive toughness without fouling. And because of the result, you might say that the Tar Heels out-Virginia-ed Virginia.
  7. On a similar note, the 1st half (and what a fun first half it was!) only had 6 fouls and 3 free throws between the two teams. There were only 20 total by the time the game was over. Marcus Paige took the first 1-and-1 free throws of the game with 7.9 seconds left as Virginia was fouling to extend the game.
  8. The single most important factor in Carolina’s win: Marcus Paige’s defense on Malcolm Brogdon. Paige (6-2, 175), while giving up several inches and pounds (6-5, 215), did about as good a job as you could guarding the ACC Player of the Year. While Brogdon did score 15, it took him 22 shots to get there. Any coach can live with that. Expanding to the whole backcourt, Brogdon and Perrantes shot a combined 9 of 36. I’ll take those numbers any day of the week. Yes they missed some shots they often hit, but Coach Bennett said a lot of that should be contributed to Carolina’s consistent defensive pressure.
  9. On the offensive side of the ball for Paige, he was 0-7 from deep, including two ill-advised early shot clock 3s. However, by and large he did an incredible job aggressively driving to the hoop (AND finishing). Love seeing him find huge ways to contribute on O and D, even when the outside shots aren’t falling.
  10. Getting back to defense on Brodgon, Paige wasn’t the only one who did a solid job on him. Insert Mr. Kenny Williams. He came in at the 15:11 mark of the 2nd His assignment, starting at the 14:21 mark? Guard the ACC Player of the year. When Williams went back out the 9:11 mark after playing 6 minutes, he had played 5 possessions of defense on Brodgon. During that stretch Brogdon was 0-2 with a turnover. Well done young man.
  11. Virginia’s shot fakes were highly effective in this game.
  12. What a great move and finish for Isaiah Hicks with 30 seconds left on what might have been the biggest offensive possession of the game. Miss that shot and Virginia can hold for one shot and a 3 to tie the game. Make it and you just have to hit your free throws.
  13. In case you were wondering just exactly how dialed in the Tar Heels are defensively right now: Virginia did not score a field goal from 9:51-1:38 of the 2nd half.