The North Carolina Tar Heels tip off the 2012-13 season tonight against Garner Webb let’s preview the season before they hit the hardwood.
This season is filled with both questions and potential. Roy Williams faces one of his biggest challenges after losing four of the top 17 picks in the NBA Draft from last seasons roster. Will this team end up like the 2006 or 2010 team? Coach Williams is coming off a cancer scare that has given him a new perspective on coaching and he says he will enjoy things more. Whether or not he enjoys this season will depend on how some of the many questions around the team are answered.
Who will step up?: Roy has openly stated that no leaders have separated themselves yet on the roster, he has pointed to James Michael McAdoo and Reggie Bullock as the two that need to step up but will they? McAdoo is a trendy pick to be the superstar this season and he will be given every opportunity to do so. Bullock stepped in for the injured Dexter Strickland and became the defensive stopper Carolina needed, this season he needs to be that and an offensive force.
Aside from leaders, Carolina needs scorers after losing so much firepower to the NBA. McAdoo, Bullock, PJ Hairston and Leslie McDonald will be relied upon heavily to provide that lift along with the freshman class, mainly point guard Marcus Paige.
How will the freshman do?: Though all four of the incoming freshman will be relied upon to play big minutes this season, the biggest burden lies on Paige. Replacing Kendall Marshall will be no easy task and Paige will have to learn on the fly as Roy has anointed him the starter from the gate. With all the talent on the roster, UNC will find ways to put the ball in the basket, how Paige leads the team will be the biggest factor in how far this team goes.
Joel James and Brice Johnson will team with sophomore Desmond Hubert and McAdoo to try and replace what was the nations top big man tandem in Tyler Zeller and John Henson. Both have played well in what limited action we’ve seen, especially James, they will be tested all season and need to grow on both ends of the floor. Swing man JP Tokoto rounds out the class and is the only one that won’t be relied upon heavily to make a major impact with a roster full of perimeter stars.
Will this be a better shooting team as expected?: Hairston had an awful shooting season as a freshman and his confidence took a huge hit, he ended up shooting less than 30% from downtown. Bullock has spent his Carolina career as the fifth option on the floor, both came to Chapel Hill with the reputation of being big time shooters. Before his injury that forced him to miss the entire 2011-12 season, McDonald was the shooter off the bench for the Heels and will have to transition to being on the main threats this year. Paige improves the shooting and scoring from the PG position immediately. His presence will force defenders to play the position honest instead of cheating on the shooters as they did with Marshall at the point.
Ceiling: The biggest thing working in the Heels favor this season is the lack of an elite team in college basketball. If things come together, UNC has as much talent as anybody in the nation so the sky is the limit. The inexperience and amount of things that need to go right for Carolina make it extremely unlikely this team could contend for a national title but it could happen.
Floor: Just like everything could go right, it all could go wrong also. If it does, we could be looking at a repeat of 2010.
Prediction: 2010 will not happen again, neither will a shocking title run. UNC will compete for the ACC title and I believe be a top 10 team in the country. I see the run ending in the Sweet 16.