Posted April 18, 2013

With draft decisions made, Carolina is ready for its next NCAA run

NBA, NBA draft, North Carolina
North Carolina's P.J. Hairston could become a bigger impact player with Reggie Bullock's departure. (Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

North Carolina’s P.J. Hairston could become a bigger impact player with Reggie Bullock’s departure. (Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

The three North Carolina players who were entertaining draft decisions all appear to have made sensible choices. Reggie Bullock maxed out his college value this season, especially when the Tar Heels moved to a smallball lineup in the latter part of the year. One more season in Chapel Hill, especially with the way the roster and rotation may change next season, wasn’t going to help a kid who grew up poor and wants to help his family by earning a living.

Fellow wing P.J. Hairston wasn’t at Bullock’s all-around level this season, and he could become a bigger impact guy next season with Bullock’s departure. James Michael McAdoo needs to develop more actual basketball skill after two seasons of looking the part but not showing any consistent numbers that would foot with his size and athleticism. He shot under 45 percent from the field this season, all from two-point range, which is truly poor for a 6-foot-9 forward. His draft stock won’t sink any more than it already has, and there’s a reasonable chance that he can improve it next season, especially being allowed to play more of his normal position with the arrival of two more promising freshman bigs and the other returnees from this season’s roster.

All in all, Carolina is in very good shape after these draft decisions. Increased depth along with more experience for the returning core puts the Tar Heels, an 8-seed in this past season’s NCAA tournament, strongly back in the mix for the ACC crown next year.

What stood out more during an examination of how the Tar Heels will look this season is how well, relative to perception, the Tar Heels have weathered downturns in light of personnel changes. The 2010 NIT season and the first half of 2010-11, before Kendall Marshall took over at the point, stand out in the minds of a lot of people, but that was really the outlier blip despite what feels like a sizable perception of Roy Williams’ “dips” in team performance in Chapel Hill as he reloads.

After losing everyone off the 2005 national champions, Carolina (fueled by freshman Tyler Hansbrough) was actually a 3-seed in the 2006 NCAAs. That’s a footnote because they were dumped in the Round of 32 by eventual Final Four Cinderella George Mason. Then the 2007 NCAAs started a run of five Elite Eights in six seasons, including two Final Fours and Roy’s second national title in 2009. The 2012 team was also a huge title contender until Marshall broke his wrist against Creighton in the Round of 32. They still nearly made the Final Four.

It’s funny to feel like Roy is underappreciated, especially in light of Mike Krzyzewski’s last decade of NCAA tournament underachievement (against seed expectation), but Duke (and Kansas) are 1- or 2-seeds every season, even during what should be roster transitions. That earns a ton of perception equity, and rightfully so. There are no 8/9 games or home NIT dates with William & Mary. Then again, those programs haven’t experienced en masse departures like North Carolina (although Kansas is facing one right now).

Anyway, after a season of upheaval in the ACC, we should be right back where we normally are next season. Duke should be excellent once again and Carolina should have every opportunity to win the league as well. They have more than enough other capable shooters to make up for Bullock, and with the increased size on the roster for next season, they can also compensate for his rebounding and defensive capabilities. Given Roy’s NCAA tournament track record, another run to the Elite Eight or better looks very possible. That would make it seven of those in a decade, with at least three Final Fours and two national titles.

Would you have guessed that? Neither would I. Wonder if Andrew Wiggins knows?

11 comments
nambaza
nambaza

You say that neither Duke nor Kansas has experienced the kind of en masse departures that Roy and UNC have been subject to, but is that really the case for Kansas? After they won the title in 2008, KU lost all 5 starters and all but one player that got minutes in the title game. They responded by winning the Big XII (with a better record in conference than the national title team, fwiw), and getting a 3 seed in the NCAA tournament. Two years later, KU lost Sherron Collins, Cole Aldrich, and Xavier Henry off of a team that earned a #1 seed and lost in the round of 32 to Northern Iowa. They responded by again winning the Big XII, this time also reaching #1 in the polls at one point in the conference season and ending up with a #1 seed.

How do those two examples not count as rebounding from "en masse" departures?

AndreAnderson
AndreAnderson

With the arrival of former Big East teams to the ACC, North Carolina will become more and more irrelevant. So stop the fanboying.

seant
seant

i guess coaching staffs dont need to recruit when people like Glockner are on their knees servicing Huckleberry with alarming regularity doing that job for them

LanceABoyle
LanceABoyle

Considering the high caliber of talent Roy brings in consistently, he does a great job of keeping them around longer than expected.  As an almost sure-fire lottery pick after LAST season, who would have even expected McAdoo to be back this past year, much less next year? But Roy was able to get him back long enough to knock him out of this year's lottery. The key to winning it all in '09 was keeping Hansbrough around and Roy masterfully kept him on board long enough for Tyler to be awarded a degree despite his reading level. Roy's commitment to the well-being of his players above all else, along with a guaranteed diploma, is part of why my Heels have been able to recruit so well for decades. He learned from the Master.

gary41
gary41

It's getting harder to get excited about the next college season, with all the top freshmen heading to Kentucky every year. 

AndreAnderson
AndreAnderson

@billy b They won't report on this because that would cause them to practice, gulp, JOURNALISM.

TTouch23
TTouch23

@AndreAnderson ND, Pitt, or Syracuse scare UNC? Please. Next time you're in the Dean E. Smith Center, look up.


AndreAnderson
AndreAnderson

@TTouch23 @AndreAnderson Been there, looked up, and saw about as many banners as UConn. Didn't say they were scared, my point being, here will be more TOUGH teams for them to compete with, other than Duke all the time, and whatever ACC team is hot at the time.

KjamesB
KjamesB

@AndreAnderson @TTouch23 Your math skills need work.  UConn (unless you're talking about the women) only have 2 NCAA Championships (so does, Cincinnati, Louisville, Ohio St., etc.,) and UNC 5.  There is a difference.