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Basketball Grades: FSU and Syracuse

Carolina is 4-0 in conference play.

Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

The Heels got a game for the ages from Brice Johnson before beating Syracuse in Coach Boeheim's return to the bench last week. Carolina is 4-0 in conference play and ranked #5 in the country with the highest rank of any team in the ACC. The Heels have been a bit inconsistent at times but at the end of games the Heels have always played their best ball and powered through to wins. This has been where the Heels have shown their veteran experience and their high quality. Carolina has been the better team in each game of conference play so far and the Heels have been able to put it all together down the stretch of every game. The Heels' consistency will need to improve if the Heels are to run the table going forward in conference play.


Brice Johnson Stays Out of Foul Trouble: A

Brice Johnson annihilated all comers last week with his 39-23 inspiration against Florida State before an equally impressive eight assist dismantling of Syracuse. Johnson played 70 of 80 potential minutes last week and only picked up 5 fouls, three against the Seminoles and two against the Orange. Whatever has happened with Johnson, it has all finally clicked for the Carolina Senior who is comfortably the Heels best player on both ends of the floor. The only limit on Johnson so far this year has been minutes due to foul trouble. When he stays on the court, he's been as good as anyone in the nation.

Isaiah Hicks Creates: A

Hicks did not play a ton of minutes last week, especially against Florida State, but when he did, he was very productive. Since so much of the offense moved through Johnson, Hicks did not have the ball in his hands much but he showed his versatility by going to work as a very effective cutter off the ball and many of Johnson's assists against the Orange went right to Hicks. Hicks has excelled in every roll he's assumed this season and should be able to create off the dribble in matchups where that's necessary.

Joel Berry Improves His Shooting: A-

Berry shot above 50% from the field this past week and missed only one free throw. The only aspect of his play that needs to improve now is his shooting from distance. Berry went 3-8 last week which is a decent percentage but it would be great for the Heels if he can get his three point percentage into the mid 40s. Teams currently sag off Berry as they fear his driving to the rim more than his shooting. If Berry can start hitting all of his open threes then he'll command more respect from defenses and become a complete offensive player.

Justin Jackson Improves His Consistency: C

Jackson started the week with a terrible 3-12 performance before going 8-11 against Syracuse. This is emblematic of Jackson's issues this season. Jackson is often very good for a game or two but then puts up a stinker like he did against Florida State. As conference play continues, Jackson needs to really dedicate himself to improving his consistency if the Heels are to win post season titles.

Paige Improves His Efficiency: B-

Marcus Paige had the quietest 30 points possible against Florida State but he then followed that up with a 1-8 and 1-6 from 3 tire fire in Syracuse. For the week, Paige was 11-29 (37.9%) from the field and 6-17 (35.3%) from three. Paige has to play better and be more efficient if the Heels are to beat the best teams in the ACC. The Florida State game is what Paige is fully capable of but does not happen nearly enough. Paige is a preseason All American, he should be able to score at high levels consistently and efficiently, especially when playing against teams that aren't particularly good. Paige has not yet hit his ceiling but Carolina is also 4-0 in ACC play. If Paige plays up to his potential, then the rest of the country should watch out.