2007-08 North Carolina Basketball Preview
North Carolina Tar Heels
Overall Rank: #3
Conference Rank: #1 ACC
2006-07: 31-7, 11-5, 1st (t)
2006-07 postseason: NCAA
North Carolina is completely loaded. If we wanted to find a weakness it would be three-point shooting, as the team returns just one player who averaged over one long ball per game. The 2006-2007 Tar Heels were extremely young, but still managed to tie for the ACC regular season title and win the conference tournament. Now a year wiser, they should be able to do it again…and maybe even more.
Coach Roy Williams does lose a couple starters though. Brandan Wright ranked second on the team in points and rebounds, averaging 14.7 points and 6.2 rebounds. Wright, who left early for the NBA, was easily the best shot blocker on the team and somebody will have to step up and be that big presence under the basket. Small forward Reyshawn Terry was the only starter not to average double digit scoring, but he was pretty darn close at 9.7 points per game. Often overlooked, Terry did a great job on the wing grabbing some rebounds and consistently hitting the long ball. Speaking of shooting from behind the arc, that is pretty much all Wes Miller did. He saw less action during his senior year due to an influx of talent, but he was always a good sharpshooter off the bench.
The versatile William Graves is the lone newcomer. The 6-6, 245 pound forward redshirted last year and has dropped 30 pounds since setting foot on campus. Graves’ ability to play on the wing and hit the outside shot or use his big body to battle in the paint will be an asset, but conditioning and his capability to run up and down the floor in UNC’s fast paced offense remains a concern.
Who to Watch:
Losing Wright is a problem, but there are a couple options besides Graves. Deon Thompson will likely get the starting nod after averaging 4.7 points and 2.4 rebounds in just 12.4 minutes per game. He had a good summer at the U-19 World Championships and proved he could at least be a solid rebounder and shot blocker. He is a decent scorer in the post as well and has a knack for finding his teammates and getting them the ball if he does not have a shot himself. Alex Stephenson only played 6.4 minutes per game last year, but he will have to be ready to step up and become a solid contributor off the bench. Of course the frontcourt will revolve around Tyler Hansbrough. The 6-9 forward is not your typical big man. He will score a ton around the basket and will constantly put his opponents in foul trouble, but he is not much of a defensive presence under the hoop. But as long as he puts up 18.4 points and 7.9 rebounds again, Thompson, Stephenson and Graves can handle the defensive side of things.
Besides Miller, virtually the entire North Carolina backcourt was comprised of underclassmen. The two biggest stars, Ty Lawson and Wayne Ellington were freshmen. Lawson is what makes the high octane offense go. He is insanely quick and will get to the basket with ease. The most impressive numbers are his 5.6 assists and 2.2 turnovers. That is extremely impressive for a freshman on a team that loves to run and push the tempo. Lawson, who averaged 10.2 points per game, can score too, but as long as he continues to find his teammates, he will be a huge part of the team’s success. Ellington is the shooter of the team, although he could stand to develop more consistency. He is really the only candidate to be the big outside shooting threat that the team needs and if his shot is not falling, it could be trouble for the Tar Heels. Danny Green, Marcus Ginyard and Bobby Frasor all averaged at least ten minutes a game last year mostly off the bench. One of them will have to start for Terry this year and all of them will need to see an increase in minutes. Green is a tough player who can hit the outside shot, Ginyard is the best rebounder and Frasor has the most consistent shot. Any of them have enough talent to start, but Ginyard’s defensive ability and rebounding should get him the starting nod.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Ty Lawson, Sophomore, Guard, 10.2 points per game
Wayne Ellington, Sophomore, Guard, 11.7 points per game
Marcus Ginyard, Junior, Guard, 4.1 points per game
Deon Thompson, Sophomore, Forward, 4.7 points per game
Tyler Hansbrough, Junior, Forward, 18.4 points per game