North Carolina Tar Heels
2013-2014 Overall Rank: #7
Conference Rank: #2 Atlantic Coast
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Well that was certainly a quick turnaround. North Carolina was supposed to be in the midst of a rebuild and last year's ho-hum season was evidence of such. But in college basketball, a rebuild only lasts as long as your next, good recruiting class. And Roy Williams has brought in a stellar one, along with an impressive group of returning starters. While Duke should still be elite, and the ACC has brought in a cavalcade of new opponents, this season should be a return to form for Williams and the Tar Heels, if you can even consider a third round out in the NCAA Tournament a disappointment last year.
2012-13 Record: 25-11, 12-6
2012-13 Postseason: NCAA Tournament third round
Coach: Roy Williams
Coach Record: 282-79 at North Carolina, 700-180 overall
Although a ton of talent returns for this Tar Heels squad, Roy Williams and company lost a number of main contributors, not least of all was senior leader Dexter Strickland. Strickland was the team's lone veteran presence and best on-ball defender. He also was a reliable shooter and ball-handler. His numbers will be easier to replace than his actual affect on the team. Reggie Bullock is also gone, having left after his junior year to enter the NBA draft. Bullock was UNC's best outside shooter, the only man on the team to shoot over 40 percent from three. It would be simple to replace him if returning junior P.J. Hairston was eligible to play but he has been suspended indefinitely for a number of off-court issues. Overall, the lack of these two (and a half) players can be overcome but their responsibilities on this team added up to more than just their numbers. Case in point, not counting Hairston, the leading three point shooter on this roster is point guard Marcus Paige, who made just 45 threes last season, on 34 percent shooting.
The good thing about coaching at a school like Carolina is Roy Williams can bring in an overhauled roster in under two years. The returning sophomores should be much improved. That includes Paige, Brice Johnson, J.P. Tokoto, and Joel James. The incoming freshmen should also be game-changers: guard Nate Britt and forwards Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks. All three rated out as four-star or better recruits coming out of high school. This team is loaded with young talent. (And if you peak ahead to early commits for 2014...watch out rest of the country!) All the young guys won't be alone either. They are aided by a few returning veterans in forward Desmond Hubert, who started 18 games last season, and guard Leslie McDonald, as well as perhaps the team's very best player: James Michael McAdoo.
Who to Watch:
For what's seemed like forever (but in actuality has only been two years), college fans and NBA scouts alike have been waiting on James Michael McAdoo. NBA guys have been waiting for him to turn pro but also waiting for him to showcase what everyone thinks he is capable of. And college folks are waiting for that leap as well. His numbers are very good: averaged 14.4 points and 7.3 rebounds as a sophomore last year. But he always leaves something to be desired, especially if you watch his games. He never seems to dominate or take over. He doesn't always play as Carolina's best player, even if he always is. Whether right or wrong, his pro stock has dipped considerably since he came out of high school. There are three distinct ways this can go for McAdoo: either he's still improving and his stock goes back up; he is what he is and people had too high of expectations for him; something isn't clicking at UNC and he will flourish at the next level. Unfortunately, two of those three are not positives for North Carolina.
Although the record was solid last year, the Tar Heels didn't seem like themselves. They relied heavily on freshmen who weren't ready and a star player who didn't always act like one. Entering this season, troubles could be the same. They will still be relying on incoming freshmen, as well as those same players from last year who are now sophomores. And they will still be relying on a star player who isn't necessarily a star. The difference is there is just way more talent this time around. Of course the length of Hairston's suspension will help determine their regular season ceiling but come tournament time, UNC should be ready to compete.
Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Marcus Paige, Sophomore, Guard, 8.2 points per game
Leslie McDonald, Senior, Guard, 7.2 points per game
J.P. Tokoto, Sophomore, Forward, 2.6 points per game
James Michael McAdoo, Junior, Forward, 14.4 points per game
Brice Johnson, Sophomore, Forward, 5.4 points per game
By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 76.7 (16th in nation, 3rd in conference)
Scoring Defense: 69.2 (241, 9)
Field-Goal Percentage: 44.1 (124, 8)
Field-Goal Defense: 42.3 (149, 8)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 7.6 (49, 1)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 37.6 (35, 4)
Free-Throw Percentage: 67.5 (234, 10)
Rebound Margin: 1.6 (124, 5)
Assists Per Game: 17.1 (3, 1)
Turnovers Per Game: 12.3 (90, 7)
Madness 2014 NBA Draft Rankings:
#21 James McAdoo
#24 P.J. Hairston
#91 Joel James
Madness 2013 Men’s Basketball Recruit Rankings:
#12 Isaiah Hicks
#47 Kennedy Meeks
#81 Nate Britt