Lack of Point Guard Play Leads to North Carolina Loss in ACC Opener

By Jared Mintz

After putting together one of their most impressive games of the season last Saturday in a win over number-20 UNLV, Mr. Hyde showed up for the North Carolina Tar Heels on Sunday night as they lost their ACC opener on the road against Virgina.

While junior forward Reggie Bullock continued his scoring streak, going 7-for-9 from the field en route to a game-high (and season-high) 22 points, the rest of his teammates shot only 12-for-42 from the field for a pathetic 28.6 percent. In UNC’s (10-4, 0-1) 61-52 loss,  the poor ball movement seems to have led to the even worse shooting, which has to lead back to Roy Williams just not having a viable option at the point guard position.

Kendall Marshall‘s don’t grow on trees. To be able to have had Raymond Felton, Ty Lawson and then Marshall was an uncanny string of floor generals unlike any team has really had in college basketball history. While it’s a lot of pressure for freshman Marcus Paige to live up to that kind of hype, Williams has put a ton of pressure on senior Dexter Strickland, who despite having the best season of his career, might be the least impactful lead guard in the conference, and it showed Sunday night as he was outplayed by not just Joe Harris, but Jontel Evans as well.

Paige has had a handful of big games, but nine assists – which was second worst only to Carolina’s eight assist performance in their loss to then number-one Indiana – for a team isn’t going to cut it in a conference that’s going to be as competitive as the ACC will be this season, and the flow of the offense has to be improved out of the backcourt. Bullock, P.J. Hairston and of course James Michael McAdoo give the Tar Heels a bevy of talented frontcourt players, but when your guards combined to go 2-for-13 from the floor with just five assists, it makes it easier to stay back and watch out for the scoring threats, like Virginia did on Sunday night.

A lack of ball movement led to a stretch where UNC was held to just four points over about an eight minute span. They went just 2-for-7 and turned the ball over 3 times over that period, as they watched a five point lead turn into a five point deficit, from the 16:27 mark all the way down to just over the nine-minute mark.

We’ve seen the young North Carolina team look great, and we’ve seen them look awful like they did Sunday and in their disappointing loss to a then struggling Texas team, but if they continue to get such little production out of their point guards, then it’s going to be a long couple of months playing against some of the better backccourts in the country in the ACC.

For hoops, hip-hop and other random sports and pop culture commentary, follow Jared Mintz on Twitter @JaredMintzTruth

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