On Tuesday, Louisville head coach Rick Pitino told the Louisville Courier-Journal that he had stripped junior star Montrezl Harrell of the Cardinals’ team captaincy. While Pitino claims that the decision was “no big deal,” it is yet another disappointment from one of the ACC’s two preseason AP All-Americans. Statistically speaking, Harrell has not regressed from his sophomore season, but he hasn’t really improved all that much either. His scoring is up about a point per game (14.0 to 14.9 PPG) and he is grabbing nearly an extra rebound per game (8.4 to 9.2 RPG), but while the junior shot the ball more efficiently last year, his level of impact looks and feels about the same. Still, Harrell turned down NBA Draft riches to return to Louisville, and expectations were that he would develop into elite impact territory. Perhaps the most concerning aspect of Harrell’s season has been his play against good competition; in Louisville’s three losses to Kentucky, North Carolina and Duke, Harrell scored nine, nine and 10 points, respectively — shooting 12-of-29 from the field in those games. With so much of the Cardinals’ offense dependent on him for success, it’s no surprise that Louisville lost each of those contests.
Harrell isn’t the only preseason All-American from the ACC who has been underwhelming this season. North Carolina guard Marcus Paige entered the year as the highest vote-getter in preseason All-America polls, returning to Chapel Hill following a stellar sophomore campaign in which he had often carried the Tar Heels offensively. Expectations were certainly very high for his junior campaign. Paige limped out to a slow start, shooting only 35 percent in North Carolina’s first four games, including an unlikely loss to Butler. And like Harrell, Paige’s statistics in the Tar Heels’ four losses tell the story: 15.0 points per game on 33 percent shooting. To his credit, Paige has been dealing with plantar fasciitis, and he may be turning the corner in conference play given his “clutch gene” play against Louisville and a 23-point, nine-assist outing at N.C. State. Still, Paige needs to find better consistency and efficiency to support his candidacy for any postseason award.