UNC Basketball: Player Review Series Redux Part II


Before the season I did a player by player review series of the UNC Tar Heels basketball roster.  I did my best to outline what the team needed from each player.  While trying my hand at predicting who would deliver and how each player would fit into the team.  Now that the ballots are in, the curtain has closed, and the fat lady has sung.   In other words, now that the regular season is over, let’s take a look back and compare results vs expectations.  For the full preseason review series, click HERE.  In the second part of the series we’re taking a look at the Heels big men.

John Henson PF
Expectations: I see Henson improving his overall offensive game while continuing his dominance defensively.  I can’t see him being a big time scorer but I do see him becoming a decently reliable offensive threat.

Result: Henson had an absolutely dominate junior season.  If not for his teammate Tyler Zeller, Henson would be my pick for ACC Player of the Year.  He went from a one-dimensional slam dunk only offensive player his first two years.  As a junior he became a complete offensive big man.  Henson now has a bevy of post moves and can shoot with either hand, therefore equally dangerous on both blocks.  A great rebounder and shot blocker, Henson is the complete big man for Carolina.

The Verdict: I knew my crystal ball wasn’t expired just yet!  Henson became a perfect third option in the Tar Heel offense averaging 14 ppg.  As good as his defense was last season, he improved by cutting down on his personal fouls as a junior.

Preseason Series

Tyler Zeller C
Expectations: I expect Zeller to continue his improvement as he has every single year of his college career.  Somewhere between 16-18 points per game, 6-8 rebounds and maybe a block shot or 2.

Result: Big Z put it all together in his senior season and is emerging as a favorite for ACC POY award.  It was Zeller, not Barnes who became the Heels on-court leader.  Zeller was the rock, the most consistent player, game in and game out.  Even in the 33 point loss to FSU, Zeller played well, and he played hard.  Z’s game is well polished and looks ready for the NBA in my eye.  A big time rebounder on both ends of the floor, Zeller runs the court better than any big man in the nation.  An excellent free throw shooter with range just inside the three point line and an excellent post game, he’s the complete package on offense.  What he doesn’t get credit for is his defensive game.  It was Zeller, not Henson who’s widely regarded as UNCs best defensive big man who was recognized by the coaching staff as the defensive player of the game the most times this season.

The Verdict: Pretty much nailed it but nobody can claim they knew this type of year was coming from Zeller.  Even if you predicted his offensive game would continue to evolve like I did.  The way he has stepped up on the defensive end of the floor has been huge.

Preseason Series

James Michael McAdoo PF
Expectations: Expect Roy Williams to play McAdoo about 15 or so minutes per game at the start of the season, gradually increasing his playing time as he becomes more comfortable in his role.  Perhaps his biggest challenge as a freshman will be learning to move without the ball, play with his back almost exclusively to the basket.

Result: McAdoo struggled to adapt to the college game and looked lost on both ends of the floor the first half of the season.  The freshman struggled to find a way to let his athleticism shine through on the court.  During a real rough patch in the middle of the year, McAdoo watched his minutes dramatically fall to below ten per game.  The last month of the season was his best as James Michael started to figure out where he needed to be on the court and played less timid basketball.  His athleticism is finally started to come through the last five or so games as we’ve seen a couple thunderous dunks and powerful rebounds out of McAdoo.  I’ve predicted his breakout game is coming shortly and I’m not backing down from that claim.  Despite his small impact this season, I am convinced we’ve got a future All-American in McAdoo.

The Verdict: My crystal ball did me well in evaluating McAdoo.  Knowing Zeller and Henson would dominate the playing time it’s easy to see how a freshman, used to being the star can struggle to adapt.  Moving without the ball and posting up consistently continue to be McAdoo’s struggles at the conclusion of the regular season.

Preseason Series

Justin Watts G/F
Expectations: Justin Watts enters his senior season at UNC as an end of the bench role player who’s role in the locker room will more than likely impact the Tar Heels this season than what he does on the court.

Result: Watts role has increased because of several injuries and freshman struggles this year.  With Strickland and McDonald out for the year with injuries and Hairston’s struggles, Watts has seen an increase in time on the wings.  In the middle of the year he played a little power forward when McAdoo’s struggles were at their peak.  He even chipped in and played some point initially when Strickland first went down.  He’s played the role of the Tar Heel Swiss Army knife quite well.  Watts is not a big time athlete or threat on the offensive end but he’s played well on the defensive end and contributed as a rebounder no matter the position he’s played.

The Verdict: Again tough to call, I didn’t expect him to play and neither would anybody else who’s not in the injury prediction business.

Preseason Series