ACC Team Breakdowns: North Carolina

Ed Zurga

Don't look now, but UNC has a very solid core of young and talented players.

2013-2014 Outlook: Last season, the North Carolina Tar Heels abandoned their traditional inside-outside team balance in favor of a four guard lineup. By doing so, UNC was able to put more of its best players on the court and compensate for a relatively weak frontcourt. The result was improved play with a dependence upon highly accurate long range shooting (37.6 3s%, 7.6 3s/g), excellent ball-handling (17.1 apg, 1.4 a/to to 0.8 a/to for UNC’s opponents), and pressure on the opponents’ perimeter (15.5 tpg, 8.4 spg).

The only frontcourt player who saw significant minutes last season for the Tar Heels, 6-9 Jr PF James Michael McAdoo (14.4 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 29.9 mpg), was a 2nd Team All-ACC selection. The frontcourt gets an infusion of talent this season with the arrival of 6-8 Fr PF Isaiah Hicks, the RSCI consensus #14 recruit in the nation and a 5 star prospect. 6-9 Fr C Kennedy Meeks, the #56 recruit and a 4 star prospect gives the Heels another option if he can develop the discipline to eat less and get into playing condition.

A better prospect inside is 6-9 So PF Brice Johnson (5.4 ppg, 51.1 FG%), but Johnson must develop physically. No other returning inside player averaged more than 10 minutes played per game, but 6-10 So C Joel James (2.3 ppg, 51.7 FG%), 6-10 Jr PF Desmond Hubert (1.1 ppg, 54.3 FG%), and 6-7 Jr PF Jackson Simmons (1.8 ppg, 65.8 FG%) all have the ability to contribute in various ways as they develop and gain experience.

The frontcourt for North Carolina should be improved significantly, but the backcourt will miss the talent of UNC’s best player last season, 6-7 Jr WG Reggie Bullock (13.9 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 2.3 a/to, 43.6 3s%, 2.5 3s/g). Bullock, a 2nd Team All-ACC performer, elected to enter the NBA Draft early and became the 1st round, #25 pick of the Los Angeles Clippers. Bullock led the Tar Heels in long range shooting accuracy and almost matched 6-6 Jr WG PJ Hairston (2.6 3s/g) in three point shots made (2.5 s/g). Compared to Hairston (1.2 a/to), Bullock was a much better ball-handler (2.3 a/to). Only 6-1 So PG Marcus Paige (1.9 a/to) and 6-5 Sr WG Leslie McDonald (1.8 a/to) among returning playrs were close to Bullock and 6-3 Sr PG Dexter Strickland (3.3 a/to) as ball-handlers in terms of assists to turnovers.

Even without Bullock, the Tar Heels are loaded with backcourt talent with the return of Hairston (14.6 ppg, 39.6 3s%, 2.6 3s/g), an Honorable Mention All-ACC player, Paige (8.2 ppg, 4.6 apg, 1.9 a/to, 34.4 3s%, 1.3 3s/g), an All-ACC Freshman Team member, and 6-5 Sr WG Leslie McDonald (7.2 ppg, 35.9 3s%, 1.4 3s/g). 6-1 Fr PG Nate Britt, the #93 recruit in the nation, may help as well even though he is not rated as highly as the typical Carolina recruit due in part to an injury filled high school senior season.

If Hicks and McAdoo can form a solid frontcourt as expected, then Hairston, Paige and McDonald will give UNC an outstanding starting lineup with plenty of top quality depth. Given its overall talent level and better balance between its frontcourt and backcourt this season, North Carolina is likely to return to the national top 25 rankings and a place near the middle of that elite group.

If everything goes well for UNC, it will challenge Duke and Syracuse for 1st place in the expanded ACC, move back among the nation’s top 10 teams, and return to the NCAA Basketball Tournament as a high seed and Final Four prospect. By doing so, North Carolina can avoid another disastrous early round matchup against Coach Roy Williams’ nemesis, Coach Bill Self’s Kansas Jayhawks.

2012-2013 Starters Lost (2):

6-7 Jr WG Reggie Bullock (13.9 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 2.9 apg, 2.3 a/to, 48.3 FG%, 43.6 3s%, 2.5 3s/g, 76.7 FT%, 1.6 ft/g, 31.4 mpg) (2nd Team All-ACC) (NBA Draft, 1st Round, #25 Pick, Los Angeles Clippers); 6-3 Sr PG Dexter Strickland (7.8 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 4.2 apg, 3.3 a/to, 0.1 bpg, 1.2 spg, 43.6 FG%, 17.4 3s%, 0.1 3s/g, 69.4 FT%, 1.9 ft/g, 27.9 mpg)

2013-2014 Returning Starters (3):

6-9 Jr PF James Michael McAdoo (14.4 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 1.1 apg, 0.4 a/to, 0.4 bpg, 1.5 spg, 44.5 FG%, 0.0 3s% (0 for 2), 0.0 3s/g, 57.8 FT%, 2.8 ft/g, 29.9 mpg) (2nd Team All-ACC); 6-6 Jr WG PJ Hairston (14.6 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 1.4 apg, 1.2 a/to, 0.4 bpg, 1.3 spg, 43.1 FG%, 39.6 3s%, 2.6 3s/g, 77.9 FT%, 2.6 ft/g, 23.6 mpg) (Honorable Mention All-ACC); 6-1 So PG Marcus Paige (8.2 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 4.6 apg, 1.9 a/to, 0.1 bpg, 1.4 spg, 35.6 FG%, 34.4 3s%, 1.3 3s/g, 83.6 FT%, 1.5 ft/g, 29.2 mpg) (All-ACC Freshman Team) (All-ACC Academic Team)

2013-2014 Other Key Players:

6-8 Fr PF Isaiah Hicks (RSCI Consensus #14 Recruit) (ESPN: #18 Recruit, 92 Rating, #8 Power Forward Prospect, 5 Star Recruit); 6-5 Sr WG Leslie McDonald (7.2 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 1.2 apg, 1.8 a/to, 0.1 bpg, 0.5 spg, 35.7 FG%, 35.9 3s%, 1.4 3s/g, 79.5 FT%, 1.0 ft/g, 17.7 mpg); 6-9 So PF Brice Johnson (5.4 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 0.3 apg, 0.5 a/to, 0.5 bpg, 0.5 spg, 51.1 FG%, 57.7 FT%, 0.4 ft/g, 10.6 mpg); 6-9 Fr C Kennedy Meeks (RSCI Consensus #56 Recruit) (ESPN: #59 Recruit, 86 Rating, #6 Center Prospect, 4 Star Recruit); 6-1 Fr PG Nate Britt (RSCI Consensus #93 Recruit) (ESPN: 80 Rating, #27 Point Guard Prospect, 4 Star Recruit)

  • 2012-2013 Season Team Stats:
  • Record: (25-11); ACC (12-6), 3rd place
  • NCAA Basketball Tournament (#8 Seed, Lost in Round of 32)
  • PPG: 76.7 to 69.2 (+7.5)
  • FG%: 44.1 FG% to 42.3 FG%
  • 3s%: 37.6 3s% to 34.6 3s%
  • 3s/g: 7.6 to 6.9
  • FT%: 67.5%
  • FT/g: 12.3 to 11.3
  • RPG: +1.6
  • APG: 17.1 to 12.2
  • TPG: 12.3 to 15.5 (+3.2)
  • A/T: 1.4 to 0.8
  • SPG: 8.4 to 6.8
  • BPG: 3.3 to 3.7

2012-2013 Major Team Strengths: Record Overall (25-11); ACC Record (12-6); ACC Finish (3rd Place); Selection to NCAA Basketball Tournament (#8 Seed) (Lost in Round of 32); Scoring Offense (76.7 ppg); Scoring Differential (+7.5 ppg); Three Point Shooting (37.6 3s%, 7.6 3s/g); Assists (17.1 apg); Turnovers Forced (15.5 tpg); Turnovers Differential (+3.2 tpg); Ball-handling Differential (1.4 a/to to 0.8 a/to); Steals (8.4 spg)

2012-2013 Major Team Weaknesses: Three Point Shooting Defense (34.6%, 6.9 3s/g); Free Throw Shooting (67.5%); Steals Allowed (6.8 spg); Blocks (3.3 bpg)

2012-2013 Roster Players Not Returning:

Seniors: 6-3 PG Dexter Strickland (7.8 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 4.2 apg, 3.3 a/to, 0.1 bpg, 1.2 spg, 43.6 FG%, 17.4 3s%, 0.1 3s/g, 69.4 FT%, 1.9 ft/g, 27.9 mpg)

Juniors: 6-7 WG Reggie Bullock (13.9 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 2.9 apg, 2.3 a/to, 0.3 bpg, 1.3 spg, 48.3 FG%, 43.6 3s%, 2.5 3s/g, 76.7 FT%, 1.6 ft/g, 31.4 mpg) (2nd Team All-ACC) (NBA Draft, 1st Round, #25 Pick, Los Angeles Clippers)

2013-2014 Roster:

Seniors: 6-5 WG Leslie McDonald (7.2 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 1.2 apg, 1.8 a/to, 0.1 bpg, 0.5 spg, 35.7 FG%, 35.9 3s%, 1.4 3s/g, 79.5 FT%, 1.0 ft/g, 17.7 mpg)

Juniors: 6-9 PF James Michael McAdoo (14.4 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 1.1 apg, 0.4 a/to, 0.4 bpg, 1.5 spg, 44.5 FG%, 0.0 3s% (0 for 2), 0.0 3s/g, 57.8 FT%, 2.8 ft/g, 29.9 mpg) (2nd Team All-ACC); 6-6 WG PJ Hairston (14.6 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 1.4 apg, 1.2 a/to, 0.4 bpg, 1.3 spg, 43.1 FG%, 39.6 3s%, 2.6 3s/g, 77.9 FT%, 2.6 ft/g, 23.6 mpg) (Honorable Mention All-ACC); 6-10 PF Desmond Hubert (1.1 ppg, 1.7 rpg, 0.1 apg, 0.3 a/to, 0.8 bpg, 0.2 spg, 54.3 FG%, 21.4 FT%, 0.1 ft/g, 9.4 mpg); 6-7 PF Jackson Simmons (1.8 ppg, 1.7 rpg, 0.3 apg, 1.3 a/to, 0.2 bpg, 0.1 spg, 65.8 FG%, 64.3 FT%, 0.3 ft/g, 7.3 mpg); 6-0 PG Luke Davis (0.4 ppg, 0.2 rpg, 1.2 apg, 3.4 a/to, 0.0 bpg, 0.1 spg, 100.0 FG% (2 for 2), 100.0 3s% (2 for 2), 0.1 3s/g, 100.0 FT% (2 for 2), 0.1 ft/g, 4.1 mpg)

Sophomores: 6-1 PG Marcus Paige (8.2 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 4.6 apg, 1.9 a/to, 0.1 bpg, 1.4 spg, 35.6 FG%, 34.4 3s%, 1.3 3s/g, 83.6 FT%, 1.5 ft/g, 29.2 mpg) (All-ACC Freshman Team) (All-ACC Academic Team); 6-9 PF Brice Johnson (5.4 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 0.3 apg, 0.5 a/to, 0.5 bpg, 0.5 spg, 51.1 FG%, 57.7 FT%, 0.4 ft/g, 10.6 mpg); 6-10 C Joel James (2.3 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 0.2 apg, 0.3 a/to, 0.3 bpg, 0.2 spg, 51.7 FG%, 56.3 FT%, 0.3 ft/g, 9.4 mpg); 6-5 WF JP Tokoto (2.6 ppg, 1.7 rpg, 0.7 apg, 0.8 a/to, 0.1 bpg, 0.5 spg, 48.8 FG%, 9.1 3s% (1 for 11), 0.1 3s/g, 38.5 FT%, 0.3 ft/g, 8.6 mpg)

Freshmen: 6-8 PF Isaiah Hicks (RSCI Consensus #14 Recruit) (ESPN: #18 Recruit, 92 Rating, #8 Power Forward Prospect, 5 Star Recruit); 6-9 C Kennedy Meeks (RSCI Consensus #56 Recruit) (ESPN: #59 Recruit, 86 Rating, #6 Center Prospect, 4 Star Recruit); 6-1 PG Nate Britt (RSCI Consensus #93 Recruit) (ESPN: 80 Rating, #27 Point Guard Prospect, 4 Star Recruit)

(*Explanation of RSCI and ESPN Ratings for Freshmen and Recruits Appears Below)

2014 Recruits: 6-7 WF Justin Jackson (ESPN: #8 Recruit, 95 Rating, #1 Wing Forward Prospect, 5 Star Recruit); 6-6 WF Theo Pinson (ESPN: #13 Recruit, 94 Rating, #3 Wing Forward Prospect, 5 Star Recruit); 6-0 PG Joel Berry (ESPN: #14 Recruit, 94 Rating, #3 Point Guard Prospect, 5 Star Recruit)

2014 Redshirts: 6-0 So PG Stilman White (2011-2012 Stats: 0.9 ppg, 0.4 rpg, 0.9 apg, 6.4 a/to, 0.0 bpg, 0.2 spg, 20.0 FG%, 15.8 3s%, 0.1 3s/g, 58.3 FT%, 0.4 ft/g, 5.8 mpg, began 2-year Mormon mission after 2011-2012 season)

(*) RSCI (Recruiting Services Consensus Index) ranked the top 100 high school seniors in the Class of 2013 based upon an averaging of the rankings of 6 of the better recruiting experts: (1) Van Coleman; (2) ESPN; (3) Scout; (4) Rivals; (5) Prep Stars; and (6) 24/7 Sports. For prior years, these and other recruiting experts were used to rank the top 100 seniors.

(*) ESPN Recruit Ratings: 90-100 (5 stars): Player demonstrates rare abilities, should have an immediate impact in the ACC, and has the potential for early entry into the NBA Draft. 85-89 (4 stars): Player could be the centerpiece of an ACC team and a 3-4 year starter. 80-84 (4 stars): Player has potential to make a significant contribution over 4 years in the ACC. 70-79 (3 stars): Player can contribute at ACC level and would be a standout in a weaker conference. 65-69 (2 stars): Player would be a multi-year starter in a weaker conference but an ACC bench player. 60-64 (2 stars): Player would be a role player even in a lesser conference than the ACC. 50-59 (1 star): Player would be a bench player in a weaker conference than the ACC. NR: Player has not been observed and graded by ESPN recruiting experts.

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