#1 North Carolina Men's Basketball 2015-2016 Preview

North Carolina Tar Heels

2015-2016 Overall Rank: #1
Conference Rank: #1 ACC

North Carolina Team Page#1 North Carolina Men's Basketball 2015-2016 PreviewBuy North Carolina Basketball Tickets

It’s hard to fathom, but it seemed as though the North Carolina Tar Heels became the number one team in the nation under the radar. Part of it makes sense. The top is up for grabs for the most part. In the preseason AP poll, UNC came in number one with 1,566 points and 35-first place votes. Kentucky wasn’t far behind though at 1,520 points, and 30 first-place votes went somewhere other than Carolina. In the coaches’ poll, the top was even tighter as UNC and UK tied with 749 points, UNC getting the slightest of edges, 12 first-place votes to 11. But still, there is something disarming about the University of North Carolina being the top team in the country and it not seeming like it’s real. That may speak to the level of parity within the top 25 of college basketball this season. No one seems like a sure thing, not even the best club.

2014-15 Record: 26-12, 11-7
2014-15 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Roy Williams
Coach Record: 332-101 at UNC, 750-202 overall

Who’s Out:
With so much depth and talent returning for this roster in 2015-16, it would be easy to overlook the departures that could have an impact. The main cog gone from last year’s squad is bouncy wing J.P. Tokoto. Tokoto was not a good shooter, but he did pretty much everything else really well. He was arguably the team’s best on-ball defender; he could finish nearly anything around the rim; he also had some nice passing skills for a 6-6 small forward. In a pinch last year, Tokoto could bring the ball up and allow Marcus Paige to play off the ball, opening the latter up for better shooting opportunities. Tokoto’s stats will be easily filled, but his flexibility was definitely an asset the team will miss. Outside of him, the only other departures were senior big men Desmond Hubert and Jackson Simmons. Neither ever played heavy minutes or was relied upon for important plays, but both were useful pieces, especially on the defensive end where North Carolina really struggled at times. They were also hustle guys who came in when the starters weren’t getting the job done. Again, the production will be easily replaced, but the intangibles need to be as well.

Who’s In:
Because of problems surrounding the university stemming from the athletic scandal and because of the lack of openings for playing time in the coming season, a lot of the top-tier high school prospects looked elsewhere. For the first time in quite a long while, the UNC class fails to contain a player who graded out any higher than mid-80s (according to ESPN 100 scouting). Instead, two 4-star recruits enter the fray, which wouldn’t be a bad haul for a normal school. Shooting guard Kenny Williams and power forward Luke Maye may be two of the team’s top three-point shooters from day one. Williams is a lethal three-point shooter, something this team has been lacking for years now. And Maye is a prototypical stretch four at six feet, eight inches tall. Even if they don’t bring much else to the table in their freshmen seasons, their shooting strokes will be beneficial. Former UNC football quarterback Kanler Coker has also been added to the roster as he transitions to basketball in his junior year. Coker was unable to play football again because of an elbow injury and joins Roy Williams’ roster as a 6-4 guard.

Who to Watch:
At this point, fans know what they are getting from the big guns Marcus Paige, Brice Johnson and Kennedy Meeks. Justin Jackson will hopefully shoot better in his sophomore season, but his role is established as well. The interesting portion of this squad will be the bench and who claims the fifth starter’s spot. Joel Berry seems to be the front-runner. He can play a quality point guard, allowing Paige to shift over to shooting guard on offense. No one is going to be a defensive replacement for the departed Tokoto, but Berry, or even Nate Britt, make the offense work. UNC could also decide to play big and start Theo Pinson on the wing, though that would put a lot of pressure on Paige to always bring the ball up and initiate the offense. If defense becomes a problem with Berry playing alongside Paige, North Carolina will have to figure out an alternative on the fly. There aren’t many holes on this roster in terms of talent, but that could be one of them.

Final Projection:
Last year, the Tar Heels were a very poor shooting team and were prone to huge lapses in defense. The former will hopefully be addressed by the incoming freshmen and improvements from returning players like Justin Jackson. The latter may continue to be a problem though this season. Although good inside and on the glass, UNC lacks elite perimeter defenders pretty much across the board. Depth and effort can help to cover some of those shortcomings. Besides, if the Heels put everything together offensively, there is no one in the country who can stop them.

Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA

Projected Starting Five:
Marcus Paige, Senior, Guard, 14.1 points per game
Joel Berry, Sophomore, Guard, 4.2 points per game
Justin Jackson, Sophomore, Forward, 10.7 points per game
Brice Johnson, Senior, Forward, 12.9 points per game
Kennedy Meeks, Junior, Forward, 11.4 points per game

By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 77.7 (15th in nation, 3rd in conference)
Scoring Defense: 68.8 (242, 13)
Field-Goal Percentage: 47.6 (23, 3)
Field-Goal Defense: 39.8 (44, 3)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 4.8 (310, 12)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 35.8 (104, 4)
Free-Throw Percentage: 70.1 (134, 5)
Rebound Margin: 7.7 (9, 2)
Assists Per Game: 17.4 (2, 1)
Turnovers Per Game: 12.7 (189, 12)

Madness 2016 NBA Draft Rankings:
#17 Justin Jackson
#26 Bryce Johnson
#45 Theo Pinson
#52 Marcus Paige

Madness 2015 Men’s Basketball Recruit Rankings:
#94 Kenny Williams
#137 Luke Maye


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