Why The Tar Heels Can Surprise: How did we get here? The reigning national champions certainly lost a ton of a talent, but this is not as inexperienced of a team as they appear to be when they are on the floor. The good news is one of the senior leaders has stepped up his game in the frontcourt. Deon Thompson was supposed to have his breakout year and it would be considered a breakout year if anybody was paying attention to North Carolina. The 6-8 senior is averaging a solid 13.6 points and 6.2 rebounds. There is not much else he can do for this team.
The frontcourt gets pretty young after Thompson. Tyler Zeller is a good interior scorer when he is healthy and he is finally healthy again. He lacks the toughness to hit the glass effectively, but he is getting better every day. John Henson has stepped in nicely as a freshman. He is not much of a scorer at this point in his career, but he can step outside and hit the mid-range jumper and battle in the paint. Add Travis Wear to the mix and UNC has plenty of talented options to supplement Thompson up front. However, it would be even better if Ed Davis was around, but a broken left wrist will keep Ed Davis on the sidelines in March.
Why The Tar Heels Can Disappoint: Believe it or not most of the experienced players are in the backcourt. But that is where this team struggles so much. The defense is awful at times and nobody wants to hit an outside shot. This is a team full of athletes and nobody wants to play defense or shoot the ball. Well plenty of people want to shoot the ball, but it would be helpful if somebody could make it. Yet, it is the turnovers that are the biggest problem. Larry Drew II has done an admirable job. Not only is he one of two legitimate shooting threats on the team, but he also dishes out 6.0 assists per contest. The turnovers are high for the sophomore and the Tar Heels cannot win if their turnovers stay as high as they have been. Marcus Ginyard and Dexter Strickland are also capable ball handlers and can score by attacking the basket.
Who To Watch for North Carolina: The one consistent shooter on this team is Will Graves. The 6-6 wing connects on 37.0 percent of his attempts from long range and hits about two per game. Most of his shooting does come from the perimeter, but Graves is smart enough to know that the frontcourt needs his help on the glass and he provides it. Another intriguing guard on this team is Leslie McDonald. He was supposed to be the great shooter on the team, but his numbers are not pretty. Yet, he has been playing his best ball late in the year.
North Carolina By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 75.7 (44th in nation, 3rd in conference)
Scoring Defense: 72.6 (274, 12)
Field-Goal Percentage: 44.7 (108, 7)
Field-Goal Defense: 41.4 (86, 8)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 4.8 (287, 10)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: na
Free-Throw Percentage: 65.6 (266, 10)
Rebound Margin: 5.5 (23, 2)
Assists Per Game: 15.6 (26, 2)
Turnovers Per Game: 15.6 (294, 10)
Joel’s Bracket Says: First Round loss to William & Mary
By Joel Welser
CollegeSports-fans.com Senior Basketball Writer