North Carolina sophomore guard Marcus Paige is already making the case that he is a first-team All-American.
Paige has pulled a 180 from last season, where he tended to be more passive on offense and too complacent to be a passer. This season, Paige is becoming the exact player coach Roy Williams needs him to be, whether or not Leslie McDonald and/or P.J. Hairston ever become eligible.
Sure, Paige put on a show against Louisville Sunday with 32 points, but he has been becoming more of a star all season. Paige has hit 17 of North Carolina’s 19 3-point field goals this season. He has also played more of a passing off-guard with Nate Britt acting as the backcourt ball-handler.
This small switch fits Paige’s game more because now he is forced to feel like a scorer. He is coming off of screens on the wing for open jumpers, making passes on the curls when he is covered, and is using his speed off of defensive rebounds to become the perfect connection on outlet passes. Paige is acting more like a scorer than previous point guards at North Carolina have and with the depletion of the Tar Heels, it comes at a perfect time.
He is also taking his confidence from offense to defense. Paige is committing more fouls because he much more aggressive — which is a positive. He is playing hard on perimeter screens and is positioning himself better in transition. Paige’s length helps break up passes and creates difficult angles for opponents. On the season, Paige is averaging 22 points, 3.6 assists and 1.4 steals. He also shooting 53 percent from three and 93 percent from the foul stripe.
Carolina definitely needs its ineligible players back, but if Paige can continue his terrific play, he will force voters to put him on their All-American ballots.