Since Roy Williams took over UNC, we have seen outstanding point-guard play from Raymond Felton, Ty Lawson and Kendall Marshall. Two of those players finished with titles, and there was a lot of potential for Marshall before he was injured and left early for the NBA.
Though they played with some great athletes, it was clear that Roy's point guards are the spark plug to Carolina's engine. It just doesn't fire without them.
Look at 2009-10 when Larry Drew II was running point. UNC lost to Dayton in the NIT championship. Yes, I said the NIT.
After a 78-58 loss to Georgia Tech in 2011, Coach Williams put Marshall in, and the rest is history. The freshman helped lead the Heels to an Elite Eight appearance with a 17-3 record as a starter.
When Marshall went down in the 2012 NCAA tourney, the Tar Heels fought all they could with walk-on Stilman White. But the offense was never the same, as they had trouble creating their own shots.
The team made a valiant effort, marching their way to another Elite Eight, but they just couldn't get over the hump without a premier point guard like Marshall.
There is a slim possibility Dexter Strickland will be the starting point guard when the season tips off, but I just don't see that happening. I believe that job will be left in the hands of freshman Marcus Paige.
The perimeter game will be a focus in 2012, and that is something Paige definitely has over Strickland.
In his senior season at Linn-Mar, Paige was forced to be more of an offensive weapon than a passer, with the lack of premier talent on his squad. While he only averaged 3.3 assists, he put up 28.1 points per game on 53 percent shooting.
Those numbers will shift the other way at Carolina, but his ability to score shouldn't be overlooked.
As we saw with Marshall when he started to put up treys, defenses have to play honest with a shooter. That leaves them susceptible to dribble drives that can be taken to the bucket or kicked out on the wing for one of Carolina's many sharpshooters.
Beyond just his offensive prowess, Paige is also a pesky defender. He averaged 3.1 steals per game last season with the Lions. His footwork and hands are excellent, so we can expect that to translate to about 1.5 or so per game at the college level.
According to Matt Morgan at Inside Carolina (subscription required), Paige's high-school coach Chris Robertson had this to say about his star point guard:
“He’s not a scorer -- he’s a point guard. But to go through his senior year and score 28 points a game, he did everything in his power.”
“He just had an impressive career and an impressive senior season. I would say, in a lot of ways, we probably overachieved what was expected out of us and I think a lot of that fell on Marcus this year.”
Perhaps Roy Williams will say the same of Marcus Paige when the 2012-13 season reaches its conclusion.