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Basketball Grades: State, Wake Forest, Virginia Tech

Carolina swept all 3 games but Marcus Paige has struggled with a really poor run of shooting.

Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Carolina is 7-0 in ACC play and the second ranked team in the nation. However, many are still a bit anxious about this team as Marcus Paige and Justin Jackson have laid enough bricks for a small house over the past few games. The Heels have been powered by Joel Berry and Brice Johnson with Isaiah Hicks and Kennedy Meeks supporting them and occasionally starring. The Heels need to get all their starters on track heading into the final stretch of ACC play which features Louisville, Miami, Notre Dame and the delightfully awful Duke Blue Devils.


Keep Up the Free Throw Shooting: B-

Carolina has seen their impressive free throw shooting cool off a bit recently. The Heels currently have no player shooting above 80% from the line on the season and a few games recently have seen the Heels shoot in the 60s from the charity stripe. Some of this is regression towards the mean but the Heels still need to focus on their free throws as conference play heats up and the games get closer. The play of Paige and Jackson has been particularly damaging here as Paige is shooting 78.6% and Jackson 65.2% on the season. Paige is shooting 5% worse than he did his freshman year and has seen his attempts stay about where they did last year when he was hurt for most of the season. Jackson is a further enigma, Jackson is 6% worse on free throws this season compared to last year and his slump is probably the most worrying for fans.

Limit Offensive Rebounds: B

Carolina struggled with giving up offensive rebounds against State and Wake Forest but recommitted themselves admirably against Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, only giving up six offensive rebounds to the Hokies. A large portion of Carolina's struggles on the defensive glass have been a function of Brice Johnson being in foul trouble. In games where Johnson plays a lot of minutes, the Heels are a great defensive rebounding team due to Johnson's excellent run of play on the boards.

Kennedy Meeks Re-Integrates: B+

Meeks led the Heels in their win over NC State and has been a strong player for Carolina since returning from injury. Meeks was a bit disappointing against Wake Forest and Virginia Tech but he carried the Heels when they needed him. Going forward, Meeks needs to increase his field goal percentage and keep working on his free throws. However, Meeks seems to have moved right back into the lineup with few hiccups and fans should not have to worry much about Meeks going forward.

Guards Create Effectively: B-

Joel Berry has been the guard carrying the Heels so far through conference play while Marcus Paige has struggled. Berry has been the Heels best guard on the season and leads the team in three point percentage. At the same time, Paige has had his well publicized shooting slump and it seems as if his confidence is finally shaken from these struggles. Paige needs to snap out of it at some point if Carolina wants to lock down another regular season ACC title.

Justin Jackson Heats Up: D+

Justin Jackson has also struggled as conference play had progressed. Although he has been better than Paige over this most recent stretch, Jackson seems to have regressed since last year. When Jackson had 20+ points three games in a row early in the season, fans thought he had moved to another level. However, Jackson has regressed since then and has not been able to get out of the funk he's been in for more than a month now. Just like Paige, Jackson needs to be better since the games are about to get a lot harder and this is a team that wants to contend for a national title.