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Joe Boozell | | December 17, 2018

5 things we learned from a loaded college basketball Saturday

UNC rises as Michigan remains No. 1 in Andy Katz's new Power 36

There may not have been many upsets on Saturday, but plenty of interesting things happened.

Here are five things we learned from Saturday's games.

North Carolina still has as much firepower as anyone

All things considered, this season has probably been pretty frustrating as North Carolina fan. The defense hasn't been great. It feels like the pieces haven't quite meshed.

But boy, are the Tar Heels talented, and they showed it on Saturday against Gonzaga in a 103-90 win. North Carolina went 13-for-25 from 3-point range and shot 54.7 percent on the evening. They just have so many guys who can beat you. Cameron Johnson scored 25 points and made six 3s, while Luke Maye went for 20 points and 16 boards.

Proof of how loaded North Carolina is: It brings Nassir Little, one of the best freshmen in the country, off the bench. Now, we can argue if Little should be coming off the bench. But the fact that Roy Williams can do so and still boast a high-octane starting five is incredibly impressive.

North Carolina may not have the high-end star power of Duke, and it still needs to be more consistent. But it can beat anyone.

Lagerald Vick is one of the biggest shot-makers in the game

Look at the box score of Kansas' three-point win over Villanova, and you'll come away impressed by Vick. He went 9-for-15 from the floor and scored 29 points. The Jayhawks wouldn't have won without him. But the manner in which he scored his 29 points was even more impressive than the total itself.

MORE: college basketball home | Scoreboard | Latest rankings

Vick makes some tough shots. Hand in the face, off balance, it doesn't matter. Vick was a good shooter last year, but he's flat-out nuclear in 2018-19. He's now shooting 53.3 percent from 3 on a whooping 6.7 attempts per game.

Villanova was playing plenty of attention to Vick, but it didn't matter. There might not be another college basketball player you'd trust to take a 3 in crunch time more than him.

Keldon Johnson needs more shot attempts

Kentucky's standout freshman scored 24 points in the Wildcats' blowout win over Utah on Saturday. He took all of nine shots.

Kentucky looked like it had great depth going into the season, but the offensive hierarchy was in question. More than a month into the season, it still is. But it really shouldn't be. Johnson should be the team's No. 1 option, followed by Reid Travis.

MORE: Watch Indiana's Rob Phinisee nail buzzer beater to beat Butler

Johnson isn't going to make close to 90 percent of his attempts like he did against the Utes, of course. But he's averaging 16.1 points on 53.6 percent shooting this season. With a reasonable rise in volume, Johnson could easily average 20. And Kentucky would be better for it; the Wildcats have had inconsistent guard play, and if some of the shots the freshmen guards took went to Johnson, the offense would be better off.

Look for Johnson to be more assertive once SEC play begins, and for John Calipari to funnel more of the offense through him.

Tennessee's offense is catching up to its defense

Just about everyone liked Tennessee coming into the season, but the defense was more of a reason for optimism than the offense. The Volunteers ranked sixth in defense last year; they ranked 36th in offense. That's solid, but not championship-level good.

Tennessee has made an offensive leap this season, and its 102-point outburst against Memphis on Saturday helped matters. Tennessee is up to 10th in offensive rating after the performance.

Admiral Schofield is the biggest reason why. He's having a remarkable season, averaging 19.1 points and 6.6 rebounds while making 42.6 percent of his 3s. Grant Williams was the more accomplished guy coming into the year. But Schofield has been every bit as good, if not better.

The Volunteers still don't have any star players in the backcourt, but Williams and Schofield make up for that with their advanced playmaking. These guys are definitely championship contenders.

It's hard to know which version of Syracuse will show up on a given day

Syracuse, a trendy darkhorse Final Four pick coming into the season, lost to Old Dominion on Saturday.

But it's not as if the Orange lack talent. They have solid wins over Ohio State and Georgetown, and when you look at their roster, there are a lot of names to like. Tyus Battle is playing extremely well.

MORE: Notre Dame is young, motivated to avoid March heartbreak again

Still, the offense just hasn't improved as much as many expected. Syracuse ranks 48th on that end and has a team effective field goal percentage of 47.5, which ranks 271st in the country. They aren't even making 30 percent of their 3s.

That's problematic for a team that likes to shoot a bunch of them, and it's the main reason why this team has so much variance. The 3-point percentage will creep up, but duds like Saturday will continue to happen. That being said, Syracuse is still really good on defense. On the right night, they can catch any team in the ACC.

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