As UNC gets set to defend their national title, a number of interesting questions loom.
|1||<! a href="http://tarheelblue.cstv.com/sports/m-baskbl/mtt/ginyard_marcus00.html">Marcus
|21||<! a href="http://tarheelblue.cstv.com/sports/m-baskbl/mtt/thompson_deon00.html">Deon
|13||<! a href="http://tarheelblue.cstv.com/sports/m-baskbl/mtt/graves_will00.html">Will
|44||<! a href="http://tarheelblue.cstv.com/sports/m-baskbl/mtt/zeller_tyler00.html">Tyler
|32||<! a href="http://tarheelblue.cstv.com/sports/m-baskbl/mtt/davis_ed00.html">Ed
|11||<! a href="http://tarheelblue.cstv.com/sports/m-baskbl/mtt/drewii_larry00.html">Larry
|24||<! a href="http://tarheelblue.cstv.com/sports/m-baskbl/mtt/watts_justin00.html">Justin
|31||<! a href="http://tarheelblue.cstv.com/sports/m-baskbl/mtt/henson_john00.html">John
|15||<! a href="http://tarheelblue.cstv.com/sports/m-baskbl/mtt/mcdonald_leslie00.html">Leslie
|5||<! a href="http://tarheelblue.cstv.com/sports/m-baskbl/mtt/strickland_dexter00.html">Dexter
|34||<! a href="http://tarheelblue.cstv.com/sports/m-baskbl/mtt/wear_david00.html">David
|43||<! a href="http://tarheelblue.cstv.com/sports/m-baskbl/mtt/wear_travis00.html">Travis
First is the simple question of replacing Tyler Hansbrough, Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington, Danny Green and Bobby Frasor.
Hansbrough can't really be replaced; he was a very unique player, and UNC doesn't have another Lawson handy to crank up the break. Lawson, Ellington, Green and Frasor took most of the three point shooting with them too - the best returning shooter is Will Graves at .278 and he sat out the end of the season for unspecified violations of team rules. Next is Larry Drew II at .271.
On top of that, UNC is an overwhelmingly young team, with only one meaningful upper classmen being Marcus Ginyard and Deon Thompson, both seniors. Everyone else other than Graves is a sophomore or freshman.
But that's not to say they're lacking talent.
Ed Davis would have been a high pick had he come out this year. He's a tremendous rebounder and offensive force around the basket. Tyler Zeller gambled a redshirt year and played late to help the team win the title. He's 7-0 and runs as well as any big man at UNC in a long time. He may bring back memories of Bobby Jones before he's done.
Ginyard sat out last year with an injury, but he's a solid defender and can improve offensively, although he's never been asked to do very much offensively.
Thompson has probably been in Hansbrough's shadow, and it's entirely possible he'll thrive with Hansbrough out of the picture. He'll never match his intensity or desire, though, and it may not be easy to keep his spot, even with UNC's traditional bias towards seniors.
The biggest question mark among the returnees is at point where UNC will go with Drew, who did little to distinguish himself as a freshman. Compared to Lawson, he was a mere mortal afoot, and just never really gave the sense that he was an heir apparent. People will reserve judgment until he shows a big jump in his game. Developing a nice shot would be helpful in many ways.
Justin Watts didn't play a lot as a freshman, and likely has a ways to go to play much more as a sophomore, although certainly you can't rule a surprise improvement out.
Among the freshmen, the most intriguing player is John Henson. Like a lot of big men, Henson learned the game as a guard before shooting up. He's a beanpole, but he's fast and agile and likely to make his mark as a freshman on the defensive end and in transition. At 195, he'll get beat up a lot, but with Zeller and Henson, UNC has a pair of really, really fast bigs, so the breaks should be interesting.
The Heels also bring in twins David and Travis Wear, both 6-10 though Travis is heavier (235) than is David (225).
UNC also brings in Leslie McDonald and Dexter Strickland, 6-4 and 6-3 respectively. If one of them can establish himself offensively, Roy Williams will be very gratified.
Still, UNC's problems appear to be pretty clear: experience, outside shooting, and leadership with such a young roster.
And a side effect of a young team is that defensive habits haven't been established. This will be one of the key responsibilities for Ginyard. An excellent defender, UNC will lean on Ginyard to help teach the freshmen, and to be the on-court coach as well. Someone's got to do it, and no one has ever accused Thompson of being UNC's most passionate defender.
However, he has also toiled mostly in Hansbrough's rather large shadow until now. He had a couple of good games last year when Hansbrough was out, and UNC will expect a lot out of him as a senior. It wouldn't be shocking at all to see him hit another level now that Hansbrough's moved on. That's no knock on Hansbrough, but a great player is sometimes tough to live up to. He may have a different problem in this regard as Ed Davis moves into prominence.
Davis's offensive skills are understood, but we're not sure yet how good he'll be on defense. And by that we don't mean blocked shots or steals or defensive rebounds, though all those are big positives. A lot of defensive skills can't be easily quantified. You can analyze someone's footwork, but not necessarily their anticipation. He's a very talented player, but we'll reserve judgment until we see what he can do.
Same for Zeller. In both cases, though, the potential is there. We'll be interested to see how much weightlifting has changed Zeller's body and game. He's listed at 240, up 20 from high school.
Defensive potential is also clearly there for Henson, as we mentioned above, although someone like Derrick Favors might break him in half.
UNC, like it or not, will have to rely a lot on freshmen McDonald and Strickland.
Strickland is an explosive athlete and a guy who will fit into ol' Roy's love of running. If Drew struggles at the point, Strickland may spend some time there, although he's not a natural fit. Neither is McDonald. Both guys can do it, at least on a part-time basis, but neither was recruited strictly as a point. In fact, we won't be surprised at all if Ginyard ends up spending some time there at least as a backup.
Both guys are athletic enough to defend at this level, but despite Roy's protestations to the contrary, his teams have always been better coached offensively than defensively.
That's fine. It's not the way things are done at Duke, but you can do some real damage with a high-octane offense even if the defense lags a bit behind.
Still, the basic issues - a solid point guard and three point shooting - are critical. UNC has a lot of talent inside and the ability, at least individually, to get up and down the court in a hurry. The break, though, won't be as coherent as it was with Lawson running it as an experienced and lightning-fast junior, and teams will probably have more luck slowing UNC down than they have lately. Davis, Thompson and Zeller will get their points inside, but when other teams zone UNC -and they will until the Heels prove it to be bad strategy - someone has to step up and hit threes.
There's a lot of talent, to sum it up, but it's young and unproven with a lot of rough edges. They'll still win a lot of games, don't get us wrong, but it's not a finished product.
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