I neglected to mention it in my game analysis(shame on me) but Thomas had a very Ed Cota-like game last night. He played only 11 minutes and had eight assists versus one turnover. Thomas, who struggled through his freshman and half of his sophomore season with acclimating to the game pace has rounded into a very good backup PG with Bobby Frasor’s injury. Thomas has tremendous court vision and passing ability and he definitely fits the mold of a PG who focuses on ball handling/passing but does not shoot much. King Rice, Derrick Phelps, and Ed Cota fell into this category and were the engine to Final Four teams. The key aspect of Thomas’ play is that is give the Tar Heels offense continuity with Lawson on the bench. One of the major weaknesses of the 2005 title team was when Raymond Felton went to the bench, the offense struggled with Thomas at the point. This season with Thomas playing at the level he was recruited to play at, it adds more quality to the vaunted UNC depth.
And let me also take a minute to rip into ESPN’s Mike Patrick for insisting upon trashing Thomas at almost every turn. Patrick made constant references to his past struggles and even when he was playing well the compliments struck me as backhanded. It was like he was going out of his way to say negative things about Thomas and even made a remark like “well that is why you do not want him to shoot the ball” after he missed a three. At one level I do mind it being mentioned and even the Doris Burke commentary on how he felt last season when he was struggling was a nice backstory but Patrick repeatedly made references to the issues he had and did not, in my opinion, give enough deference to the fact he was playing one of the best games of his career. So, let’s see if Patrick gives Greg Paulus the same grief tonight seeing that his stats(with more mins played mind you) in the assist to turnover area are infinitely worse than Thomas.
Somehow I doubt that will be happening.