UNC Basketball Preview: #4
Overall Rank: #4
Conference Rank: #1 Atlantic Coast Conference
2008-09: 34-4, 13-3
2008-09 postseason: NCAA
Coach: Roy Williams (176-37 at North Carolina, 594-138 overall)
North Carolina has been here before. This is not the first time the Tar Heels lose a whole slew of talent and it will not be the last time. Rebuilding and fitting the pieces together is what Coach Roy Williams does and he does it better than anybody. While players like Wayne Ellington, Ty Lawson and Tyler Hansbrough dominated the headlines during UNC’s National Championship run, younger players were sitting on the bench waiting for their turn. Now it is their turn.
Key Losses: G Wayne Ellington, G Bobby Frasor, F Danny Green, F Tyler Hansbrough, G Ty Lawson
But there are also five incoming freshmen who are more than capable of contributing right away. Dexter Strickland and Leslie McDonald will have to play an important role on this slim backcourt. Both could end up starting sooner or later. Strickland can handle the ball very well and will battle for the starting point guard position. If he loses that battle, he will still get minutes as the backup or as a starter on the wing. McDonald is expected to be the next great Tar Heel shooter. That alone will make him a valuable player whether he starts or not. Those two are important newcomers, but believe it or not, the best freshmen heading to Chapel Hill are in the frontcourt.
Larry Drew II will be given the opportunity to win the starting point guard spot. That is what he was expected to do once Lawson left, but he did not have the greatest freshman campaign. But to be fair he averaged less than ten minutes per game and was never really given a real opportunity. He will get it now. Wing Marcus Ginyard, who missed nearly all of last season with an injury could run the point, but Strickland would be the likely successor if Drew II fails. Another wing, Will Graves, would then join Ginyard providing valuable experience and depth on the perimeter.
The frontcourt already has three great players and that is not even counting the three incoming freshmen. Deon Thompson started all but one game last season and averaged 10.6 points, 5.7 rebounds and 1.1 blocks. Even at 6-9 and 245 pounds, Thompson could end up spending much of his time at the small forward position due to the vast amount of talent in the frontcourt. Ed Davis averaged less than 20 minutes per game, but he still tallied 6.7 points, 6.6 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per contest. With Davis under the basket it will not be long before UNC fans forget about Hansbrough. Tyler Zeller, a seven-foot center, averaged a mere 7.8 minutes per game last year and it is hard to see where he will find any more.
Who to Watch:
There has to be a spot somewhere in the starting lineup for John Henson. The 6-10 freshman is on top of nearly every recruiting list and will be a dominating force under the basket once he gains some strength. For now he could spend some time at the small forward position where his lack of toughness will not be as big of a concern. Yet, Davis’ lack of size was an issue last year too and he did just fine under the basket. David Wear and Travis Wear are almost afterthoughts in this recruiting class, but both were McDonald’s All-Americans.
This team will all come down to chemistry. North Carolina has more than enough talent to win the National Championship again, but this is a young team. Coach Williams will find the right pieces and put them in the right places and that should be enough to get this team on top of the Atlantic Coast Conference standings, but the inexperience will get the best of them sooner or later.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Larry Drew II, Sophomore, Guard, 1.4 points per game
Marcus Ginyard, Senior, Guard, 1.3 points per game (injured)
John Henson, Freshman, Forward, DNP last season
Deon Thompson, Senior, Forward, 10.6 points per game
Ed Davis, Sophomore, Forward, 6.7 points per game
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