UNC Basketball: Why Guard-Heavy Strategy Will Make Heels Even Better in 2012-13

Rollin Yeatts@@TSBRollinFeatured ColumnistJuly 11, 2012

NEWARK, NJ - MARCH 25:  Dexter Strickland #1 of the North Carolina Tar Heels dunks the ball against Darius Johnson-Odom #1 of the Marquette Golden Eagles during the second half of the east regional semifinal of the 2011 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at the Prudential Center on March 25, 2011 in Newark, New Jersey.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Nick Laham/Getty Images

Like it or not, Roy Williams' inside-out game looks to be taking a vacation in 2012-13. The double post threat of John Henson and Tyler Zeller has ridden off into the sunset, along with Williams' trademark scheme.

With experience, an overload of guards in the frontcourt and youth in the backcourt, the Tar Heels may employ a guard-heavy strategy.

That isn't to say the double post won't be used at UNC or that James Michael McAdoo, Brice Johnson, Desmond Hubert and Joel James will be ineffective. But I don't expect the group to dominate the post next season—at least not at the level of the Dynamic Duo.

The Tar Heels may have to rely a little more on penetration from Marcus Paige and company.

Remember when Henson went down last year with the wrist injury? That's when Kendall Marshall got aggressive. He had to take it to the hole to pull defenders in.

McAdoo had no post game, so Zeller was the only option to work it inside-out. That wasn't enough to keep defenses honest. Penetration was a must in order to get the outside looks.

That will be the duty of not only freshman point guard Marcus Paige but every guard on the floor. Fortunately for the Heels, every guard on the roster is capable of doing just that.

The most glaring hole in the lineup that forces a guard-heavy strategy is the lack of a small forward.

With Harrison Barnes gone, there is no returning player that was recruited as a 3. Freshman J.P. Tokoto is the only player on the roster for that position.

Though I like the potential of Tokoto, I don't expect him to start and Coach Williams to rotate Reggie Bullock, Leslie McDonald, P.J. Hairston and Dexter Strickland at the 2. That's too much experience and talent to ride pine.

There will be a 3, of course. And we can call the position “small forward,” but in reality it is more of a 3-guard. These guys are fast, and they are shooters without a developed post game.

They are also shorter than your average small forward. That's why I have Bullock (6'7”) and Hairston (6'6”) taking the 3. Harrison Barnes was 6'8”.

That makes a difference when you lose two to three inches going from Henson to McAdoo. Then another inch or two from Zeller to James or Hubert.

That's a scary thought, considering UNC has towered above everyone else for years. But Roy Williams isn't just about being big, he likes his teams to run—get as many possessions as possible and just run.

This is where the guard advantage begins.

What makes a fast team even faster? A three-guard set. This team may lack size, but speed and athleticism is all over the court.

Paige, Strickland, McDonald, Bullock, Hairston, McAdoo and Tokoto can all turn on the afterburners in transition. After knocking off 50-60 pounds, Joel James can get up and down the floor too—and nobody wants to get in the way of that 260-pound runaway train.

I've also predicted this team to lead the NCAA in steals. If my prediction is correct, there will already be a boost in fast-break opportunities.

With Leslie McDonald back, Marcus Paige taking point and P.J. Hairston (hopefully) breaking his freshman slump, the perimeter game is back in Chapel Hill. And though he only attempted one three, Dexter Strickland led the team in field-goal percentage at 57 percent.

The marksmanship on this team could be record breaking. That could lead to lopsided scores when this group gels.

Last year, it almost seemed as if the only way they scored was off a rebound or post work from Henson and Zeller. The 15-22 footers just weren't going down the way they should.

That shouldn't be a problem in 2012-13.

Fewer missed shots means even less time running down on the shot clock. Less time spent on each offensive set means more possessions. More possessions means more points.

Are you catching my drift?

No, this won't be the same UNC we have seen over the last few years. The Tar Heels have exchanged size for athleticism. And that isn't necessarily a bad thing—for viewership or the scoreboard.

At least not for North Carolina's scoreboard.


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