The No. 9-ranked North Carolina Tar Heels are ramping up to take on the Butler Bulldogs in the semifinals of the 2012 Maui Invitational on Tuesday night. It’s going to be a tough battle, but North Carolina is heavily favored against its Atlantic-10 foe—and for good reason.
Coach Roy Williams has led his squad to a hot 4-0 start in 2012, including a 95-49 blowout victory over Mississippi State to kick off the Hawaii-based tournament.
Let’s take a look at some of the players who have made this early season a success and some who will need to step up in order to overcome the Bulldogs for a trip to the finals.
James Michael McAdoo
Projected by many to be a lottery pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, the Tar Heels are fortunate that McAdoo elected to return for his sophomore season in Chapel Hill.
While he didn’t see a ton of minutes off the bench in 2011-12, he stepped up big when John Henson went down with an injury late in the season and has continued that incredible play this year.
McAdoo, whose second cousin is NBA Hall of Famer Bob McAdoo, is averaging 18.3 points, 9.5 rebounds and 1.5 assists through four games. The 6’9”, 230-pound forward is a large reason why UNC is second in the nation in rebounding (51.5/game) and should only get better as he gains more experience.
His interior presence will also be needed against a Butler unit that has struggled from outside, hitting on just 27 percent of its three-point attempts on the year.
The Bulldogs will likely have to turn to Khyle Marshall to generate points, and we expect McAdoo will have a large role in shutting him down.
The 6’7” junior guard has shown the ability to do it all when he’s out on the court. He’s averaging 11.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.0 assists per contest and has incredible range on his shot, hitting 11-of-21 attempts from deep this season.
Against Mississippi State, he shot 4-of-5 from beyond the arc and contributed five rebounds and two assists, an incredible all-around game that helped UNC earn an easy victory.
His size also allows him to defend smaller guards with ease, and it would be an extreme mismatch for him to go against 6’0” guard Rotnei Clarke, one of Butler’s best players and its top scorer.
This freshman guard is struggling to replace the playmaking abilities of Kendall Marshall, who was one of the top set-up men in the nation last year.
Paige had a mediocre game against Mississippi State, which is surprising considering most of his teammates excelled. He connected on just one of his seven shot attempts, missed all three of his treys and committed three turnovers to just three assists.
Which team will win?
On the season, Paige is averaging just 6.3 points and 3.3 assists with an awful 3.8 turnovers. He has to be more careful with the rock and get teammates more involved if he’s going to help lead this team through the NCAA Tournament.
Hopefully he can turn things around on Tuesday night against the Butler Bulldogs.