Welcome to Part II of our early view of the 2012 Tar Heels. Today we’ll take a look at the Tar Heels front line. For Part I, a look at the back court click HERE
The North Carolina Tar Heels will look much differently in 2012 than they did in 2011. Now we know what the 2012 North Carolina Tar Heels basketball team will look like. With John Henson, Kendall Marshall and Harrison Barnes going pro. Freshman James Michael McAdoo has officially announced his return. The Tar Heels are pursuing Connecticut transfer Alex Oriakhi and seem to have the inside track based on rules that he cannot go to a Big East or SEC school on a one year transfer unless it’s for academic reasons. Roy Williams has put together another stellar recruiting class and may still look to add to the class.
Let’s take a quick look at what the roster should look like.
PG: Marcus Paige, Dexter Strickland
SG: Leslie McDonald, Dexter Strickland, PJ Hairston
SF: Reggie Bullock, PJ Hairston, JP Tokoto
PF: James Michael McAdoo, Brice Johnson, Desmond Hubert
C: Joel James, Brice Johnson
SF: The small forward position is hard to project because it depends a lot on who’s going to be the rotation at shooting guard. And that partly depends on how the minutes at point guard are handled. So it’s complicated to say the least. Reggie Bullock who started at the two guard spot when Dexter Strickland tore his ACL is likely to slide to the SF spot with Harrison Barnes gone. Bullock has the size at 6-7 to handle the position defensively and give the team what it needs on the boards from the position. With Strickland likely to split his minutes between the guard spots, I expect McDonald to start at SG. That leaves Bullock, PJ Hairston and freshman JP Tokoto at SF.
Given Bullock’s performance this past season and his defensive superiority over the others, I see him becoming the starter. Roy should have the benefit of bringing along Tokoto slowly. I see his role being similar to the one Hairston played this year in his freshman season. The perimeter is the deepest position group on the Tar Heels roster going into next season. UNC will be a little thinner in the post than in years past. The depth on the perimeter should prove vital to the Heels fast break game. Roy Williams will have the ability to shuffle players in and out and keep fresh legs on the court.
PF: The news that James Michael McAdoo will return to Chapel Hill for his sophomore season is huge. McAdoo is the unquestioned starter at the PF position and is primed to be the Heels star this upcoming season. McAdoo shined in the postseason for Carolina when given a chance to finally play some extended minutes with John Henson out of the lineup. Expect McAdoo to play big minutes as Carolinas go to man in the post. Freshman Brice Johnson and Joel James will battle for the starting spot at the center position, the loser to backup McAdoo along with sophomore Desmond Hubert. Expect more from Hubert as a sophomore. A three star recruit who came in under the radar for Carolina as a freshman, Hubert could break out next year. He’s long and is a very good rebounder and should provide some solid minutes off the bench.
C: The center position is another tough to call spots for the Tar Heels right now. Roy is going hard after Alex Oriakhi the senior transfer from Connecticut. If Oriakhi chooses Carolina over Duke, Kentucky and Missouri he will be the starter. Oriakhi would be a huge pickup for UNC. Adding him would essentially be adding a slightly lesser version of John Henson on the defensive end of the floor and on the boards. Oriakhi would immediately step in as the teams best defensive player and rebounder, taking a lot of pressure off incoming freshman Brice Johnson and Joel James. If Oriakhi chooses to go elsewhere, the Heels will have to start one of those freshman. James is the natural center at 6-10, 280 pounds, he much bigger than Johnson 6-9, 200 lbs and will have an easier time defensively and on the boards. Most observers believe Johnson is the more talented of the two and I won’t argue with that, but I don’t think he would start over James. James is not as offensively equipped as Johnson but he’s ready to play defense now and won’t get pushed around in the paint. If Oriakhi isn’t on campus, expect James and Johnson to split minutes at center. McAdoo’s return allows Roy the flexibility to play the freshman who’s game adapts to the college level faster.