North Carolina needs Marcus Paige to be at his best in the ACC tournament. ROBERT WILLETT
CHAPEL HILL — About to get on the road to Greensboro, where tonight North Carolina plays Florida State at 9:30 in the quarterfinals of the ACC tournament at the Greensboro Coliseum.
The Tar Heels are coming off a disappointing performance in a loss against Duke on Saturday, but they’re hopeful that the early-season struggles they endured have prepared them to respond.
Onto the preview …
North Carolina (22-9, 12-6) vs. Florida State (18-14, 10-9)
When: 9:30 p.m.
Where: Greensboro Coliseum, Greensboro
The game in a couple of sentences: North Carolina and Florida State meet in a rematch of last season’s ACC tournament championship game. The Tar Heels have defeated the Seminoles twice this season, but FSU, which entered the season among the conference favorites, has won five of its past six.
Projected starting lineups
G Aaron Thomas 6 ppg, 2.3 rpg
G Michael Snaer 14.5 ppg, 4.4 rpg
G Devon Bookert 6.3 ppg, 2.5 apg
F Okaro White 12.2 ppg, 6.1 rpg
C Michael Ojo 0.7 ppg, 1 rpg
G Marcus Paige 7.6 ppg, 4.6 apg
G Dexter Strickland 7.8 ppg, 4 apg
G Reggie Bullock 14.2 ppg, 6.4 rpg
G P.J. Hairston 13.6 ppg, 4.2 rpg
F James Michael McAdoo 14.6 ppg, 7.6 rpg
Player to watch
Marcus Paige, freshman, North Carolina
After a slow start, Paige progressed significantly during the second half of the season. But he struggled through UNC’s final two regular season games, and committed a combined 13 turnovers during the Tar Heels’ victory at Maryland and loss against Duke on Saturday. Paige’s best games came after UNC began using a four-guard starting lineup, and if the Heels are to make a run in Greensboro he’ll need to break out of a slump.
This is the 10th time that UNC enters the ACC tournament as the No. 3 seed, but first since 1999. The Tar Heels won their only championship as a No. 3 seed in 1997. … UNC coach Roy Williams is seeking his third ACC tournament title, and first since 2008. … UNC is 115-30 all-time in games played in Greensboro, and 109-27 in the Greensboro Coliseum. Eight of UNC’s 17 ACC tournament championships have come in Greensboro, but the Tar Heels’ haven’t won a championship there since 1998.
Three keys for UNC:
1. Get off to a fast start.
The Tar Heels trailed 14-0 against Duke on Saturday and it was pretty much over then. UNC never cut the Blue Devils’ lead into single digits. A lot of the Heels’ losses have come after slow starts, and there’s no better way for UNC to show it’s over the Duke loss than to play well from the start tonight.
2. Marcus Paige needs to play well.
Paige, UNC’s freshman point guard, made an important 3-pointer late in his team’s victory at Maryland last week but he also committed eight turnovers during that game. He had five turnovers against Duke. The 13 combined turnovers the past two games are a season high for Paige in back-to-back games. It’s difficult to see UNC making much of a run this week unless Paige plays to his potential.
3. Shoot well from the outside.
As UNC coach Roy Williams has often said, basketball is a pretty simple game. Teams look a lot better when the ball is going through the basket. Which is part of the reason why the Heels looked so awful on Saturday. They made just one of their 14 3-point attempts, which by far represented their worst shooting performance since going to the four-guard starting lineup.
The teams have shot an equal percentage from the floor, though Florida State has done a far worse job of taking care of its possessions. UNC has been the better rebounding team, by far, and the Seminoles have done a better job of getting to the free throw line.
See you in Greensboro …