The North Carolina Tar Heels do not fare so well last year, ending up 20-17 overall and 5-11 in ACC play. Instead of making the Big Dance and competing for a national title, UNC ended up in the NIT. Roy Williams can’t be happy about having his streak of 20 straight years with at least one NCAA tournament win broken, and he thinks he has to get tougher on his players and slightly mix up his schemes. This team had plenty of depth in the past last year, but top scorer Deon Thompson graduated and leading rebounder Ed Davis entered the NBA. Plus, twins David Wear and Travis Wear decided to transfer to UCLA. North Carolina has plenty of things going for them though, including freshman Harrison Barnes, Reggie Bullock and Kendall Marshall. They are all very talented on offense, which is vital when the Tar Heels managed their third-worst field goal percentage since 1960, their worth free throw percentage since 1954 and its worst 3-point percentage all-time last year. Looking at Williams’ track record, last year probably left the worst taste in his mouth of any season since he started coaching. So the ACC should be prepared fora Tar Heel team that plays with not only a lot more heart, but a lot more talent also.
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Sophomore John Henson improved quite a bit last year when he made the move from the three spot to the four. He was lanky last year, but he after gaining 25 pounds he should be on of the best rebounders and shot-blockers in the league this season. Junior Tyler Zeller is very talented and looks great healthy, but he has shown to be injury prone in his first couple of years with the Tar Heels. Justin Knox, a senior forward who transferred from Alabama, should also help the Tar Heels’ depth inside. Harrison Barnes was the top recruit in the nation, and everyone is excited about what he can bring to the floor.
The Tar Heels have a history of great point guards so it’s easy to see why people are so hard on Larry Drew II. Even if he’s not in the same class as Ty Lawson, he is a pretty good player. Drew could surprise some people this year if he keeps playing as well as he did in the second-half a year ago, including a tremendous showing in NIT play. Reggie Bullock hits from outside the arc to help spread the court. Kendall Marshall is a solid backup to Drew at the point. Dexter Strickland and Leslie McDonald have been working all summer to get better after disappointing and humbling freshman campaigns.
Jack’s Prediction: 2nd Place in the ACC – After posting a .441 field goal percentage and a 1.02 assist-to-turnover ratio last season, there’s no question the Tar Heels are going to be a lot better offensively. Getting better on offense along with the return to health of a few players and also being motivated to show last year was a fluke will have UNC ready to put together a big season. The problem is that they still have a lot of room to grow before they reach their potential, and expectations for Tar Heel fans are for the team to compete for not only conference titles, but national championships. I believe both of those goals will be within reach this year.
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