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Sunday March 7th

Analysis: Here are the top five seasons from a UNC point guard this century

<p>Guard Joel Berry II (2) raises his fist to start an offensive possession against Bucknell on Nov. 15 in the Smith Center.</p>
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Guard Joel Berry II (2) raises his fist to start an offensive possession against Bucknell on Nov. 15 in the Smith Center.

If there's one thing North Carolina basketball isn't short on, historically speaking, it's point guards.

Phil Ford. Kenny Smith. Ed Cota. All grace the annals of Tar Heel lore, setting the precedent for those that came after them. But what have been the five best years from a UNC point guard this century? We limited our list to one season per player and picked the most impressive of the bunch.

5. Marcus Paige, 2013-14: 17.5 points, 4.2 assists

Everyone remembers Paige's miraculous game-tying shot as a senior in the NCAA title game against Villanova. But he actually peaked statistically two years earlier as a sophomore, leading the Tar Heels to a 24-10 record and third place in the ACC. Paige also shot 38.9 percent from deep that season and put up a memorable 35 points to overcome N.C. State in overtime on the road.

4. Kendall Marshall, 2011-12: 8.1 points, 9.8 assists

If Marshall didn't break his wrist against Creighton that season, would the Tar Heels have gone on to win that title? It's a question that haunts every UNC fan. Still, Marshall was the engine that made North Carolina go all year, helping them put up a monster 81.3 points per game and post a 32-6 record. On a team that had Harrison Barnes, Tyler Zeller and John Henson, among others, Marshall was the most crucial cog — which made his season-ending injury that much more painful.

3. Joel Berry II, 2016-17: 14.7 points, 3.6 assists

Berry's stats were actually better the following season, when he put up 17.1 points per game as a senior. The junior year version gets the nod here, mostly because of his gritty play in leading the Tar Heels to a national championship, their third under Roy Williams. His stat line in the title game against Gonzaga — seven of 19 from the field, four of 13 from deep — doesn't jump off the page. But his timely threes in the second half, playing on what were essentially two sprained ankles, proved to be the difference.

2. Raymond Felton, 2004-05: 12.9 points, 6.9 assists

As a first-year, Felton was on a Tar Heel team that went 19-16 under Matt Doherty and finished seventh in the ACC. Fast forward two seasons, and Felton was the linchpin of a UNC team that brought Williams his first championship. Felton got it done on both ends, averaging two steals per contest in his junior season, and went on to have a long and productive career in the NBA.

1. Ty Lawson, 2008-09: 16.6 points, 6.6 assists

Finally, we have the player who got Williams his second title and was instrumental in one of the most dominant seasons in college basketball history. The Tar Heels pummeled their way to a 34-4 record in 2008-09, winning every NCAA Tournament game by double digits. A big reason for that was Lawson, who won ACC Player of the Year and was an All-American; the speedster also gathered 2.1 steals per game and shot a blistering 47.2 percent from 3-point range. 


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