The North Carolina Tar Heels will look much different in 2012 than they did in 2011 with the losses of Kendall Marshall, Harrison Barnes, John Henson and Tyler Zeller to the NBA, Justin Watts to graduation and Stillman White who going on a religious mission.
UNC will rely on four new incoming freshman Brice Johnson, Joel James, JP Tokoto and Marcus Paige along with increased responsibility for many of the returning players to fill the void. The Tar Heels are without a proven star and have plenty of questions as to how they will replace the 55.2 points, 27.3 rebounds and 13.1 assists that has vanished from the roster.
Head coach Roy Williams has a tough task in front of him, setting the starting lineup will be tricky. Reggie Bullock and James Michael McAdoo are the only starters you can assume with complete confidence in my view. Everybody is counting on McAdoo to break out into a star in his sophomore campaign. And although Bullock looked good as a starter last season in Barnes’ shadow, the Heels are loaded on the perimeter and nothing will be handed to him, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that someone will beat him out.
Roy has always shied away from starting freshman at the point guard position, even opting to start Larry Drew III over Marshall during his freshman season. The Heels are thin at the point and their main backup, Dexter Strickland is not a natural PG. So do you start the freshman and take the bumps along the way or do you hand the job to Strickland who will make less mistakes but cannot run the up tempo offense Carolina employs?
Beside McAdoo inside Roy has almost the same question to ponder. Between Brice Johnson and Joel James, does he go with the freshman who shows he’s the most ready to play or Desmond Hubert, the sophomore who is more prepared to play now but not as talented as the others?
If you pencil in Bullock at the small forward position who gets the spot at shooting guard? Strickland got the nod last season despite being the only backup PG with experience and that backfired badly. Leslie McDonald has been lights out in the last two NC-Pro Am’s but after a year off is he the best choice amongst a very deep pool? PJ Hairston had an awful freshman season but has looked good in summer competition and if he shows his confidence and more importantly, his shot is back, is he the guy?
Given all the factors, here’s how I think the rotation will look like in 2012.
Starting 5: Paige, McDonald, Bullock, McAdoo, James
6th man: Strickland, backup PG and perimeter defensive stopper
1st Big off the ping: Hubert
Bench scorer: Hairston
Role Players: Johnson, Tokoto, Davis
What do you think the lineup will look like?
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