UNC Basketball: Breaking Down Brice Johnson's Importance to Tar Heels in 2013-14

Doug Brodess@DougbrodessCorrespondent IFebruary 26, 2014

North Carolina's Brice Johnson rcelebrates following a basket late in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Duke in Chapel Hill, N.C., Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014. North Carolina won 74-66. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
Gerry Broome/Associated Press

North Carolina's Brice Johnson is one of the most dynamic sixth men in college basketball. 

The 6'9" sophomore has played a vital role in the Tar Heels current nine-game Atlantic Coast Conference win streak. In one month, Johnson has helped UNC climb from the conference basement to currently sit at No. 19 in the AP poll and fourth place in the ACC.

In the last two weeks, Roy Williams' squad has pulled off an impressive string of victories, knocking off Pitt, Florida State, Duke and Wake Forest.

Even though he is averaging less than 20 minutes per game off the bench, the Orangeburg, S.C., native figures heavily in the Heels' plans.

Let's break down Johnson's importance to North Carolina as the Tar Heels close out the regular season, enter the league tournament and launch into this year's March Madness.

Sudden Scorer

Johnson usually does not take long to put points on the board.

Within moments of stepping on the floor, he normally gets free in the lane and effortlessly takes the ball to the rim.

He scores the most points for the Heels per 40 minutes (20.9 points/40 minutes) and is the No. 4 scorer overall (10.3 PPG).

Johnson is shooting 55 percent from the field on the season. In the last four games, he is connecting on 68 percent of his FG attempts.

Because Johnson has an excellent, nonstop motor, his energy is contagious. It is no shock when UNC goes on a run following his entry into the Carolina lineup.

Relentless Rebounder

Because of his slight build (210 lbs), Johnson may not be able to bang under the boards, but that does not stop him from pulling down more than his share of rebounds.

He has great hops and is also a great second-leaper, getting back up off the floor after his initial jump.

Even playing limited minutes, Johnson is the Heels' leading defensive rebounder (4.15 DRPG) and the team's No. 2 overall rebounder (6.4 RPG).

Recently, he pulled down 11 boards in 21 minutes against Florida State.

By having a big-time glass cleaner like Johnson coming off the bench, the Tar Heels are one of the best rebounding teams in the nation (No. 15; 41 RPG).

Serious Shot-Blocker

UNC opponents cannot be too casual about putting up shots when Johnson is in the game or else he is likely to swat their stuff. He combines a great vertical leap with exceptional anticipation.

Johnson is the Tar Heels' leading shot-blocker (36; 1.3 BPG; 2.7 blocks/40 mins). His five blocks against Pitt recently was his career high.

Along with his 36 blocks, Johnson has forced a number of shots to be adjusted, which sometimes is just as important as an actual rejection.

Looking Ahead

The Tar Heels' remaining games are critical as they wind down the 2013-14 regular season.

They will continue to look for Johnson to be an off-the-bench catalyst, sparking big comebacks or building significant leads in any of their upcoming contests.

Anything can happen for UNC as it heads into the postseason. If Johnson can step everything up a notch, the Tar Heels will make a deep run in this year's NCAA tournament.


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