The North Carolina Tar Heels face off with Garner Webb in the season opener. The first test for Carolina in what I believe will be a bumpy start for UNC this season. The Heels lost a lot of firepower with Kendall Marshall, Tyler Zeller, Harrison Barnes and John Henson being selected amongst the top 17 picks in the NBA Draft.
This years Heels team will look a lot different than in years past with a loaded back court and limited size in the paint. Roy Williams said on Thursday that he was set on four of his five starting positions he’s gone back and forth daily on the center position. Roy elected to go with sophomore Desmond Hubert in the exhibition against Shaw and says he’s between him, freshman Joel James and Brice Johnson and even threw out Jackson Simmons as a possibility. James played terrific in both the scrimmage against Shaw and the inter-squad game at Late Night and is the popular pick amongst fans. Due to his unsettled mind, I expect the pick to be Hubert for now with James taking over by the Maui invitational.
Garner Webb is coming off a 12-20 overall record last season, including a 6-12 mark in the Big South Conference. They return all five starters and should be a better team than last season. They still do not come anywhere near Carolina in terms of talent and on paper this should be a blowout. Only it’s not that simple as this is not just a game against a much weaker team, this is the first step towards the group answering a ton of questions.
James Michael McAdoo is expected to step up and be the star and leader of this team, will he be able to become the prime focus in the paint and put this team on his back when they need him? Several players are stepping up and playing bigger roles this season than ever before in their careers. Reggie Bullock goes from fifth option to someone Roy will rely on to be an offensive force. Can he and PJ Hairston and Leslie McDonald provide the outside shooting this team must get in order to make a successful transition from a post dominate team to one that must have reliable outside shooting? How will McDonald and Dexter Strickland respond from season ending ACL injuries?
That’s a lot of questions, for most programs having that many uncertainties would mean the program was destined for a rebuilding year and while that may be true this teams ceiling is still very high. UNC should win this game easily, even if they struggle in the early going they don’t need much to go right to put together a couple of runs good enough for a double digit win.
None of the teams many questions will be answered in one game but it’s the beginning of what should be a very exciting journey for Carolina.