#1 North Carolina Men's Basketball Preview

North Carolina Tar Heels

Overall Rank: #1
Conference Rank: #1 ACC
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2010-11: 29-8, 14-2
2010-11 postseason: NCAA
Coach: Roy Williams (225-62 at North Carolina, 643-163 overall)

North Carolina returns five starters to a team that reached the Elite Eight last season. With a couple impact freshmen also being thrown into the mix, North Carolina is not only a more experienced team, but a much deeper one as well. The Tar Heels will once again rely on a very strong frontcourt, but the development of point guard Kendall Marshall could be the difference between an Elite Eight appearance and a National Championship. Marshall took over the starting job in the middle of last season and emerged as a superb pass first point guard. He has the strength to fight his way to the basket and he can do some scoring. However, Marshall knows there are better scoring options on this team and he will find his teammates first and foremost.
Who’s Out:
Marshall took over for Larry Drew II after he left the program. Drew II was also a pass first point guard, but he was not as effective of a scorer as Marshall. UNC went through the meat of last season without Drew II, so surviving without him this season will not be a problem. The only other significant, a term used lightly in this case, loss is Justin Knox. The 6-9 bruiser averaged 14.4 minutes per game last season and was a nice option off of the bench due to his toughness and rebounding. This team does lack in experienced frontcourt depth with Knox gone, but the newcomers can fill the void.

Who’s In:
James Michael McAdoo will provide most of the minutes off the bench in the frontcourt. McAdoo, the MVP at the McDonald’s All-American game, is a great athlete who can fill in at both post positions. McAdoo would be starting right away on most teams, but he will have to make his impact off of the bench as a freshman. In 2012-2013, if he is still around, McAdoo will be a superstar. Jackson Simmons and Desmond Hubert will need some time before they can crack the regular rotation. The same is true for guard Stillman White, who will go on a two-year Mormon mission following this season. The star of the backcourt newcomers is P.J. Hairston. The 6-5 wing is extremely strong and can get to the basket like few others. Despite the returning talent in front of him, Hairston could crack the starting lineup this season if he lives up to his potential. At the least, he will help North Carolina have a very deep backcourt.

Who to Watch:
The frontcourt is not particularly deep like the backcourt, but with McAddo there are four future NBA players. Harrison Barnes, John Henson and Tyler Zeller were the team’s top three scorers and rebounders last season. A year of experience should allow them to dominate the ACC even more. Barnes is the versatile small forward who can stretch out the defense with his outside shooting ability and battle around the basket. A little more consistency from long range would be nice, especially on this team that lacks a shooter, but Barnes will score a ton of points even if his shot is not falling. Henson is more known for his rebounding and shot blocking, but he too was a double digit scorer last season. The 6-10 junior averaged 11.7 points, 10.1 rebounds and 3.2 blocks during the 2010-2011 campaign. Zeller is the more consistent interior scorer. The seven-footer averaged 15.7 points during his junior campaign and added 7.2 rebounds. Justin Watts is a little undersized to be a small forward, but he is a tough player who can provide some depth at the three spot.

Final Projection:
Dexter Strickland figures to start at the shooting guard position again this year. He proved to be a decent scorer and solid defender, but if Hairston’s shot is falling, the Tar Heels could use a shooter in the starting five. Reggie Bullock will be in the mix for minutes on the perimeter after seeing limited action as a freshman. Bullock is a better shooter than his 29.6 percent shooting from long range would indicate and he could emerge as the shooter this team needs. Leslie McDonald had a good sophomore season coming in off of the bench. He averaged 7.0 points per game and knocked down a team high 38.1 percent of his attempts from long range. However, an injured knee will keep him out for a while and possibly the entire season. Fortunately for North Carolina, the backcourt has more than enough depth to move on without McDonald. But his outside shooting may be missed. This is certainly a team that will play through the frontcourt, but if a shooter emerges, the opposition will have no chance of stopping the North Carolina offense.

Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA

Projected Starting Five:
Kendall Marshall, Sophomore, Guard, 6.2 points per game
Dexter Strickland, Junior, Guard, 7.5 points per game
Harrison Barnes, Sophomore, Forward, 15.7 points per game
John Henson, Junior, Forward, 11.7 points per game
Tyler Zeller, Senior, Forward, 15.7 points per game

Madness 2012 NBA Draft Rankings:
#8 Harrison Barnes
#9 James McAdoo
#11 John Henson
#34 Reggie Bullock
#35 P.J. Hairston
#49 Tyler Zeller

Madness 2011 Men's Basketball Recruit Rankings:
#8 James McAdoo
#22 P.J. Hairston
#119 Desmond Hubert

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