Now that the season has ended, let's take a final look at how the individual players fared starting with the guards.
There really isn't much to say about Paige's season other than, "Wow." The sophomore guard had a break-out season stepping up to fill the void left by the attrition at the wing positions and then some. In short, Paige became a star and gained the reputation of being a clutch player who often carried his team when the chips were down. As much as Paige was a second half of the game player, he was a second half of the season star as well as evidenced in his overall improvement from the first 16 games of the season.
Paige's numbers improved across the board with his shooting numbers rising a full 3% on all shots and from three and his offensive rating improved as well. The only dips in his production came at the free throw line. For the season Paige had 11 games where he scored 20 or more points and two games over the 30 point mark. Over the final four games of the season Paige averaged 22.2 ppg.
The biggest knock on Paige this season and through his first two years at UNC has been ball security. Paige had an assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.9 last season and that only improved to 2.0 in his sophomore campaign. As much as Paige's heroics carried the Tar Heels, his turnovers versus Belmont and Iowa State proved costly. Still, Paige's turnover rate was only 15.6%, only slightly worse than Ty Lawson's 14.4% in 2009. Still, this is an area Paige can improve on going into the next season.
McDonald didn't have an ideal final season at UNC. Between the initial nine game suspension for improper benefits to being a symbol of UNC's early ACC struggles to never consistently finding his three point shot. McDonald drew plenty of ire from fans for his shortcomings, maybe even a little too much given UNC didn't have many options on the wings.
Despite his struggles, McDonald did come through in probably UNC's two biggest games of the season and during the Tar Heels' best offensive outing of any sort. In the first game against Duke, McDonald kept UNC afloat and had the game of his career as the Heels knocked off the Blue Devils. He followed that up with another solid performance in UNC's 105-72 win over Wake Forest two days later. In the final game of the season, McDonald hit four threes including one to stake UNC to an 81-78 lead over Iowa State. That seemingly stemmed the Cyclone run except McDonald didn't get back in transition and a quick ISU three tied the game again.
That sequence, more or less, was McDonald's season and career. There were moments where McDonald did good things like breaking up a pass at NC State that shaved two seconds off the clock. Then McDonald fouled T.J. Warren who made both free throws to send the game to over time. In short, McDonald was probably never as bad as people thought but at the same time never quite did "enough" on the plus side of the ledger to mitigate his mistakes.
That is except for one night against Duke and if he's lucky, that is what he will always be remembered for.
After losing his starting job to the lineup reconfiguration early in ACC play, Nate Britt continued to be a decent contributor in games. His free throw shooting was solid rising to 79% which included hitting pressure free throws in several close games in ACC play. Britt also developed a penchant for hitting long two pointers. In the home finale against Notre Dame, Britt hit two such jumpers which cause the Irish's defensive plans of covering Marcus Paige and making Britt beat them backfire.
Overall, Britt had a relatively good freshman season all things considered. Given his drop in the high school rankings, expectations were tempered. At times early in the season Britt was clearly uncomfortable but later settled down. There were times when he made plays and times when he played like a freshman. The most important thing was he looked like a player that could be an important contributor and a reliable back-up at point guard in the future. If he can improve on the defensive end and picks his spots using his quickness, there will be a place in the rotation for Britt next season and beyond.