The enigma showed up for a battle of historically great programs, bringing a stroke and efficiency that hasn’t been seen since last year.
Marcus Paige was named ACC preseason co-player of the year, along with Malcolm Brogdon of Virginia.
The 6-foot-1 smooth senior guard had struggled after missing the first six games of the season, but returned to average 16 points a game while lighting the Maryland Terrapins up in a December 1st meeting that had some anointing UNC champions that night.
Paige looked in vintage form in North Carolina’s 101-86 win over Indiana on Friday night in the Sweet 16 of Philadelphia’s East Regional.
Paige was 5-of-12 from long distance in the Tar Heels’ first two NCAA Tournament games, after going 0-for-7 from 3-point range in the ACC Tournament title game. Paige scored 21 points and was 6-of-9 from 3-point range in the victory, including hitting four triples in the first half.
“I felt good,” said Paige, who led the Tar Heels (31-6) with 21 points, and set up a third-contest with conference rival Notre Dame in the Tarheels first regional final appearance since 2012. “As a shooter, when you get the first one to go down, it’s always a good thing for your confidence. That really helped me get going, and I think other guys fed off that.”
UNC thumped the Fighting Irish by 31 in the ACC Tournament, but the Regional Final will be a different monster.
Notre Dame beat Wisconsin in the final seconds to advance to the Regional Championship on Sunday, which will tip-off at 8:49 p.m. EDT in Philadelphia.