Tuesday, June 29, 2010

ACC basketball preview: North Carolina


2009-10 record: 20-17 overall, 5-11 ACC (10th)

Postseason: NIT (4-1, lost to Dayton)

Projected starting lineup: G Larry Drew II, G Reggie Bullock, F Harrison Barnes, F John Henson, F Tyler Zeller


• Instant offense

Freshmen Harrison Barnes and Reggie Bullock give UNC two players capable of scoring points and carrying a perimeter offense.

Barnes can create his own shot and Bullock can hit an outside shot, two big problems for last year's UNC team. UNC's perimeter options on last season's team were concisely summed up by Deon Thompson, who said after the Heels' home win over Virginia Tech:

"He's our best shooter; everybody on this team knows that."

Thompson was talking about Will Graves. When you're UNC and you just rolled out Wayne Ellington, Ty Lawson and Danny Green in the same lineup, that's a major problem.

And that's not a knock on Graves, he's a perfectly acceptable player, but he's not the caliber of talent UNC previously featured. And, really, he was the only player on the roster who could hit an outside shot.

UNC scored less than 65 points in six ACC games last season. With Barnes and Bullock, and, yes, Graves, that's not going to happen again.

• Motivation

I wrote this last summer and it was a huge part of what went wrong with UNC last year. Picked to finish first in the ACC, and in the top 10 nationally, that team had too many people telling them how good they were before they ever played a game.

Instead of being motivated by a perceived media snub, like the 2006 team was, UNC had nothing to rally against last season.

After a 5-11 season that ended in the NIT, there's plenty of motivation for this UNC team.

Williams handled just about every peripheral aspect of last season poorly, but he's well-versed in stoking the motivational flames, certainly one that has been dissed as many times as the returning UNC players


• Defense

Just adding Barnes and Bullock won't solve all of UNC's problems. They were a poor defensive team last season, and worse, sometimes indifferent (hello, 32-point loss at Duke).

"I’ve never coached effort," Williams memorably said last February. "I always coached execution. But with this group I’ve had to coach effort."

That comment was meant to be a compliment to his former players at Kansas and UNC, but it made Williams sound pretentious. You don't coach effort? That's the essence of your job.

Defense is all about effort. Save for shot-blocking, defense is not about talent rather desire and the willingness to work hard and communicate with your teammates.

UNC needs to take a major step up from the league-worst 71.9 points per game it allowed last season.

Sophomore John Henson playing in the correct forward position, and protecting the rim, should help the cause, but this team needs to improve its mindset without the basketball.

• Clarity at the point

Junior point guard Larry Drew II took a lot of heat for what went wrong last season, some of it justified. Drew's not Ty Lawson or Ray Felton, and he shouldn't try to play like those championship point guards.

Now Drew has company at the point in freshman Kendall Marshall. Will Drew keep his job? For how long? Is Marshall dynamic and have the ability to get his own shot or is he cut in the same pass-first mold as Drew?

For an offense that is so dependent on its point guard, those are unsettling questions.

Bottom line

That was Roy Williams' first and last 5-11 season. You can book that. The was the definition of an aberration in a 21-year career that has been nothing short of excellent.

That being said, the Final Four is not calling this team either.

The Heels will be better on offense, they have no other choice but to be better on defense and they will be sufficiently motivated.

Still, there are issues at the point, forward depth and team leadership (it's tough for any freshman to lead, particularly one that plays off the ball).

The ceiling looks like 10-6, maybe 11-5, but the basement's not going lower than 8-8.

Returning players
F Will Graves Sr. 9.8 4.6 0.9
F Tyler Zeller Jr. 9.3 4.6 0.3
G Larry Drew II Jr. 8.5 2.7 6.0
F John Henson Soph. 5.7 4.4 0.9
G Dexter Strickland Soph. 5.4 1.5 2.0
G Leslie McDonald Soph. 3.4 1.5 0.6
F Deon Thompson 13.7 6.7 0.8
F Ed Davis (NBA) 12.9 9.2 0.9
G Marcus Ginyard 7.7 4.8 2.8
F Travis Wear (transfer) 3.5 2.2 0.2
F David Wear (transfer) 2.9 1.7 0.4
F Harrison Barnes Fr. 6-6 205 1
G Reggie Bullock Fr. 6-6 185 16
G Kendall Marshall Fr. 6-3 180 29

Recruiting analysis by Dave Telep, scout.com:

Barnes: "Barnes conducts himself like a guy gunning for two things: a national title and the eventual top pick. Both could happen if the string plays out long enough. His competitiveness and talent are second to none in the league. Look out, ACC."

Marshall: "The future maestro of the attack. He's the guy who doesn't hunt his offense and knows what to do with his weapons."

Bullock: "He'll provide wing scoring pop right from the start. He needs to stay aggressive and if they coax him to take more shots, his production will be strong as a freshman. Unselfish and talented, when the game is on the line he steps up. "


Anonymous said...

"That was Roy Williams' first and last 5-11 season. You can book that."

It could also get WORSE without the Wears, the graduates, and the early NBA entries. Roy might be having a nervous breakdown and a new coach will be needed SOON.

Anonymous said...

Justin Knox should be under "New" as well.

Anonymous said...

Here is the most recent information on the new guys:
Barnes: 6-8, 210
Bullock: 6-6, 190
Marshall: 6-4, 195

The favorite to start at the 2-spot is Strickland. The only way I see Strickland coming off the bench is if Roy wants him paired with Marshall so Strickland can guard the 1-spot and Marshall the 2-spot on defense.

Anonymous said...

Here's to Roy once again throwing his players under the bus. Expect another 5-11 or worse season this year while Ol' Roy has some more Haiti/Presbyterian fan payback.

Anonymous said...

Ah keep dreamin haters! LMAO! Look at their little comments. Hilarious! I guess they can hope! GO HEELS!

Anonymous said...

Did you forget Justin Watts? The Heels are sooooooo overrated, once again. So ya gonna sit Graves, your best shooter? drew will still start, there is no bulk under the basket and zero toughness. Oh, yeah and Roy still has a problem coaching' em up. Sixth place at best.

Anonymous said...

Can't wait for another prime-time humiliation of the unc-ch at the hands of the Devils! Ol' Roy is just starting his decline to the cellar of the ACC. LOL!

Anonymous said...

Leaf it to the haterz to crak on Roy.LOL! We will alwayz be the best and dont forgt it!Loserz! Coack K can shut up!