#8 North Carolina: 2010-11 Basketball Preview
Overall Rank: #8
Conference Rank: #2 Atlantic Coast Conference
2009-10: 20-17, 5-11
2009-10 postseason: NIT
Coach: Roy Williams (196-53 at North Carolina, 614-155 overall)
North Carolina had all the talent they needed last year and that is why many pegged them to compete with Duke for the Atlantic Coast Conference title. Instead, the Tar Heels had an awful season, at least by their standards. Much of the talent is gone as Coach Roy Williams loses four starters, but another superb recruiting class and a few holdovers should have UNC back in the mix. Coach Williams will not allow this team to finish as poorly as they did a year ago.
Key Losses: F Ed Davis, G Marcus Ginyard, F Deon Thompson, F David Wear, F Travis Wear
It is possible that the starting backcourt could be all freshmen. Point guard Kendall Marshall, shooting guard Reggie Bullock and wing Harrison Barnes are all more than capable of starting in the ACC from day one. Marshall has some competition, but he is a big pure point guard who could see a ton of minutes if he can keep the turnovers down. At 6-7, Bullock has nice size for a shooting guard. He can easily hit the long ball by shooting over opposing defenders and his size also makes him a strong defender. Those are two skills the Tar Heels could use right now. Barnes is the star of the class and will be a lottery pick sooner than UNC fans would hope. He can do it all and has the toughness to do it as a freshman. What this team really needs is depth in the frontcourt. They got more than just depth when they picked up Alabama transfer Justin Knox. Knox is the only senior on the roster and will be eligible to play immediately after averaging 6.3 points and 3.7 rebounds for the Tide last season.
Dexter Strickland and Leslie McDonald spent their freshmen campaigns coming in off of the bench and will likely do the same as sophomores. Strickland showed flashes last year, but McDonald needs to shoot better if he wants to see quality playing time. Justin Watts even saw some minutes last year, but the walk-on should be relegated to even a lesser role, but is a decent enough player to throw out there on occasion if Strickland or McDonald fail to improve. On most teams in this situation Strickland and McDonald would step into a starting role after learning the ropes as freshmen. However, with Bullock and Barnes coming into the equation, the returning guards will stay on the bench.
John Henson tried to play on the wing, but he really grew as a player at the power forward position. Now physically trained to bang in the basket by adding 25 pounds of muscle, Henson is ready to be the player that most thought he would be last season. Henson only averaged 15.8 minutes per game during the 2009-2010 campaign, but he did score 5.7 points per game and grabbed 4.4 rebounds. Henson also proved to be a solid shot blocker. With more minutes and more weight, the 6-10 sophomore should be in for a big season. A healthy Tyler Zeller would be nice too. Zeller has all the talent in the world, but is continually slowed by injuries. Averaging a mere 17.4 minutes per game last year, the 7-0 junior still averaged 9.3 points and 4.6 rebounds. If he can stay on the floor for 20 to 25 minutes per game and be healthy at the same time, he will be a superstar.
Who to Watch:
Larry Drew II has a tenuous hold on the starting point guard spot. Drew II had a decent sophomore campaign, averaging 8.5 points and 6.0 assists, but his shooting numbers are sub par and the turnover numbers were not any better. A lot of the blame for last season unfairly fell on his shoulders, but this is a team that needs a leader in the backcourt who can run this team up and down the floor, but also keep it under control. If Drew II is not that guy, Marshall better be.
The addition of Knox is huge, especially with the injury concerns that are always surrounding Zeller. Barnes can play the four if he has to, but if Henson, Zeller and Knox can handle nearly all of the minutes in the paint, this team is really, really good. Yet, the real question is at the point where Drew II has to improve or Marshall has to be ready to take over or it could be another disappointing season in Chapel Hill.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Larry Drew II, Junior, Guard, 8.5 ppg
Reggie Bullock, Freshman, Guard, DNP last season
Harrison Barnes, Freshman, Forward, DNP last season
John Henson, Sophomore, Forward, 5.7 ppg
Tyler Zeller, Junior, Forward, 9.3 ppg
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