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ACC Preview # 3- UNC

White= full time
Gray=walkon, scrub, or redshirt
Blue=football commitment
50 Brian Bersticker F/C 6-10 232 Jr
31 Adam Boone G 6-2 182 Fr.
11 Michael Brooker G/F 6-6 219 Sr.
25 Jason Capel F/G 6-8 224 Jr.
22 Ronald Curry G 6-2 200 R-S
35 Jim Everett F 6-8 220 Sr.
13 Neil Fingleton C 7-6 295 Fr.
40 Joseph Forte G 6-4 185 So.
00 Brendan Haywood C 7-0 264 Sr.
14 Jonathan Holmes G 6-0 175 So.
44 Will Johnson F 6-8 211 So.
42 Kris Lang F/C 6-11 243 Jr
32 Orlando Melendez F 6-8 200 Jr.
3 Brian Morrison G 6-2 175 Fr.
24 Max Owens G/F 6-5 198 Sr.
45 Julius Peppers F 6-6 280 So.
15 Kenny White G 6-0 174 Sr.

| Maryland

Probably the most interesting team this season in many respects will be UNC. 
Already faced with a tough transition from Ed Cota to (probably) Adam Boone, UNC
got a major twist in the summer when Bill Guthridge unexpectedly called it quits
after two final fours in three years and the best first three years as a head
coach in NCAA history, pushing past Everett Case for the honor.

After almost everyone, including us, bought into the idea of
Roy-as-inevitable, Roy shot that down, and after a scintillating Duke-KU game in
the Eastern Regionals which seemed like a preview of things to come to boot.
Interestingly, Williams had come in for a milder version of the same sort of criticism
Gut had - not doing enough to maintain a University's great tradition. It was
grossly unfair on both accounts. And  in his case, after agonizing for a
week, KU fans forgave him for any shortcomings and were ecstatic to welcome him
back.  Not that the criticism will end if he doesn't go as far in the
tourney as fans expect, but at least it was a mid-career
honeymoon, and that can be sweet.  

For their part, UNC then pursued Larry Brown and  George Karl before
going down the list to Matt Doherty, who was broadly seen as a fourth or fifth
choice. Next up was Randy Weil, and after that, even Dean Smith said he'd have
to go outside the family.

A lot of people had some fun at Doherty's expense, including this site. 
But while we had fun, we're also smart enough to notice a few facts about

  1. he's young
  2. he's driven
  3. he's not afraid to buck Smith and Guthridge and did so quickly by
    telling them that he would only take the job if he could retain his
    assistant coaches

#3 led to some immediate issues. According to Barry Jacobs, there was a near
mutiny in the basketball office. Things have apparently
settled down, but feelings were obviously hurt. And in fairness, it's hard to do
things one way for almost 40 years and then turn overnight.

And on top of that, some of his new players reportedly weren't thrilled with
the transition either.

Simultaneously, Doherty had some guilt about abandoning his Notre Dame
charges.  So it wasn't an easy transition by any means.

In spite of this, he hit the recruiting trail and stole Jackie Manuel from
Billy Donovan, who said that that he had never lost a kid who had verbally committed
before.   He then got  Jawad Williams out of Maryland's reptilian
clutches.  Melvin Scott is also pretty much a done deal. He did lose
freshman Jason Parker to a bizarre plot twist, but Parker wasn't his recruit.

So now the season is almost upon us, and while it is clear that Doherty has
more energy than the UNC basketball office has seen in years, his coaching
ability is still unknown. That's not a dig. He did a nice job at Notre Dame last
season, but that is the sum of his record as a head coach.  Nonetheless,
the impression we had was that he was a rising star in the profession, and we
still believe that.

Depending on a number of wild card factors, he may need all his talent this

UNC starts with probably the best inside-outside combination in college hoops
in Brendan Haywood and Joseph Forte, and that's a great block to build on. 
Capel will likely start, and Lang also.  The general consensus is Boone
will start at point, and how he will do is an open question.  

Boone, who Duke recruited as a backup and a redshirt candidate, is undeniably
a good kid and a quality student who wants to be a doctor someday. 
However, his athleticism has been questioned. If he can't get the job done, UNC
will have to improvise until Curry is ready, and if UNC goes to a bowl game,
that would mean no Curry until January.  Brian Morrison is a tremendous
athlete, but he's not a trained point, and UNC would likely have some growing
pains.  That's the key for this team early on, and it's hugely
important.  If the Duke game in Durham was a preview of a Cota-less Heels,
there's big trouble coming if they can't get the point straight in short

The second problem is depth.  If you look at the table to your right,
you'l see that the only proven players are Capel, Forte, Haywood, Lang, and
Peppers, and all of these have issues: Capel isn't hugely athletic, though he
overcomes that with smarts, and Forte apparently rubbed some teammates the wrong
way last season. Ed Cota alluded to this at one point, though we can't find the
quote now. Haywood has at times in his career not seemed particularly inspired,
and Lang had a season of injuries last year which belied his promising freshman
campaign.  And Peppers, marvelous as he is, is a part-timer.

Of the rest, Bersticker is fleet but not always savvy (and last time we saw
him, skinny), Holmes is savvy but not very fleet,  and ditto for
Johnson. Melendez is supposedly extremely athletic, yet rarely plays. 
Owens has some real offensive ability but hasn't played defense well enough to
keep his minutes, and while Brooker can shoot, he's never shown much else. 
Boone and Morrison we have discussed previously.  We will say that while
Boone is probably more critical, Morrison as of now, seems to be the  
better player.
He really is something.

Non-Conference Schedule
Winthrop/NABC Classic
Az State or Tulsa
Appalachian State
Michigan State
Texas A&M
Richmond or Charleston

So here's Doherty's dilemma: until Curry and Peppers show up, he has an
effective roster of ten significant players and no proven point guard. 
Haywood is the only big man certain to perform well and he tends to drift from
time to time. Lang had great difficulty
last season with shin splints, possibly the result of gaining a great deal of
weigh rapidly, and Bersticker returns from two foot injuries. After Haywood,
Lang and Bersticker, the next tallest  significant player is Jason Capel at 6-7.  Of
these players, the best two athletes are probably Forte and Morrison, meaning
that UNC may be vulnerable to pressing teams again - particularly if Boone

There are a number of variables here. First of all, a lot of players will get
a fresh start, including Owens and Melendez, and you never know how that will
pan out.  The flipside of that is a guy like Haywood, who hasn't been easy
for anyone to motivate so far, but our guess is a fat NBA contract will be
sufficient motivation.  But if he continues to disappear for stretches -
and to be fair, as Brad Daugherty said last year the stretches were shorter and
shorter - UNC has a problem.  It is important to note, though, that like
the other players, Haywood will get a fresh start with Doherty, and expect
Doherty to be demanding.  

There are a lot of question marks for UNC, but youth has urgency, and it has
been years since the UNC basketball program has truly seemed hungry.  Our
guess is they will be supremely conditioned. There are a lot of questions to
answer but energy, which Bill Guthridge admitted was a problem, clearly no
longer is in doubt.  Doherty is aggressively shoring up the foundation, and with
Manuel, Williams, and Scott on the way, things are looking good for the future.