Expectations for the 2015-16 North Carolina Tar Heels


Jan 5, 2015; Chapel Hill, NC, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels head coach Roy Williams with guard Joel Berry II (2) and guard Marcus Paige (5) and forward Kennedy Meeks (3) and forward Brice Johnson (11) in the second half. The Fighting Irish defeated the Tar Heels 71-70 at Dean E. Smith Center. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

At the end of the roller coaster 2014-15 basketball season, the North Carolina Tar Heels began to look like the squad many of us thought they would be. After getting over the loss in Sweet 16 to Wisconsin, my attention quickly went to next season and what could be. UNC brings back all their key players minus J.P. Tokoto – so keep ya head up Tar Heel fans because 2015-16 could be a special one in Chapel Hill.

Now it is way too early to talk about rankings for next season but when you look they way the teams are shaping up, it’s not going out on much of a limb to say that the Tar Heels will have one of the more talented teams in the country. UNC will be led by its senior inside-outside combo Marcus Paige and Brice Johnson. Paige lead Carolina in scoring last season at 13.9 points per game but he never quite lived up to the expectations of the preseason. As a senior I think Marcus will have a huge year as well as cement his legacy as one of the best UNC point guards ever.

When it comes to Brice Johnson, many of the Carolina faithful have even bigger expectations for him. Brice lead the team in rebounding (7.7 per game) and was second in scoring at 13.2 points per night but when you watch this young man, you walk away saying there is so much more there. In my opinion Johnson has the best offensive skill of any big man in  the country, now he needs to produce. One game Johnson would be dominant on both looking like a lottery pick, then the next game he would pick up two silly fouls before the first TV timeout and he never would recover from that. Should the long and freakishly athletic forward come into his senior campaign focused and a little stronger… It will mean trouble for ACC and the rest of the county.

North Carolina Tar Heels
North Carolina Tar Heels /

North Carolina Tar Heels

The guy who is likely to make the biggest jump between seasons is sophomore to be Justin Jackson. The 6’8″ wing started off his freshman season slow but by the end of the year Jackson’s talent and ability was very clear. Justin’s timid play really hurt UNC early, being that he was supposed to give the squad some much scoring punch from the perimeter. However, once the game began to slow down for him – Jackson began to gain confidence and play really well including performances of 14,16 and 15 points in the NCAA Tournament. As a super soph Justin will be better. He should have no problems being more aggressive, his jump shot will be much more consistent and when you put them together: The Heels should have one of deadliest offensive weapons in the nation.

With another year of seasoning under his belt, center Kennedy Meeks will continue to grow. The 6’9 big man showed glimpses of greatness as sophomore but his lack of explosiveness and bad habit of missing layups kept him from being great. During the off-season I suspect Meeks will drop a few a more pounds and pick up a few more post moves which will help him become a better finisher around the basket. Should that happen, the wide bodied Junior and the aforementioned Brice Johnson will make up one of the top two or three inside combo’s in all of college basketball.

With the departure of J.P. Tokoto, the Tar Heels will need a new starter and likely answers to that question are sophomore point guard Joel Berry or fellow second year player guard/forward Theo Pinson.  If Berry gets the nod, Marcus Paige will slide over to the two which could be UNC’s best offensive line-up. If it’s Theo, Carolina would be better defensively and although they wouldn’t be as good on the offensive end – the drop wouldn’t be a drastic one because I think Pinson is in for a pretty good sophomore year. Which ever of those two loses out on the starting gig will be the leader of a solid second unit. That group will consist of juniors forward Isaiah Hicks and guard Nate Britt, as well as senior center Joel James and incoming freshman forward Luke Maye. Hicks is the best of the rest and he’s a guy could easily average double figures as a key reserve.

Like I said, it’s too early to call any team the favorite for the 2015-2016 season – However, I really really like this Tar Heel team and their chances next season. Not to sound like a brat but it time for UNC to get back to the Final Four and I think Ol’ Roy has the squad to do just that. This team has all the parts to win the ACC and they will be one of the favorites to win the whole thing. For the first time since 2012 it will be a real disappointment if Carolina doesn’t reach the Final Four – I know those are lofty expectations but this team should be that good!