2012-13 Tar Heels Will Be One of the Best Shooting Teams Under Roy Williams

Rollin Yeatts@@TSBRollinFeatured ColumnistOctober 31, 2012

I guess you could say that headline is a bit of a stretch, considering the Tar Heels' abysmal shooting performance in their exhibition versus the Shaw Bears.

As a team, North Carolina shot 43.8 percent from the floor, 18.8 percent from downtown and 53.8 percent from the charity stripe in that game.

However, what you need to understand is the amount of rotations by Roy Williams that night.

Inside Carolina mapped out 18 different lineups he used in the exhibition, with none playing together more than five minutes at a time.

That's how you work an exhibition when you aren't sold on a starting lineup. But it also contributes to a lack of consistency in shooting the rock. The opener against Gardner-Webb on Nov. 9 should give us a better indication of where they will stand this season.

But none of that will stop me from voicing my opinion on what I see this team being. The potential is there—it's simply a question of whether or not they will live up to this potential.

We saw that last season with P.J. Hairston, who failed to live up to expectations in his first year at Chapel Hill.

Hairston has come around, blowing up the NC Pro-Am and taking home MVP hardware. He also dropped back-to-back treys in the second half of the exhibition, sparking a huge Carolina run that left Shaw wilted and sucking air.

I'm beginning to have more and more confidence in Hairston's game.

I was also pleasantly surprised with Dexter Strickland's stroke in the exhibition. It looks a little more refined, and I can see him making more jumpers than we have been accustomed to from Dex.

I don't expect him to be one of the top shooters by any means, but he should be a stronger contributor than he has been in the past.

Then there is Reggie Bullock, who was the top marksman last season, knocking down 38.2 percent of his threes. Unfortunately, his shooting was awful last Friday. He shot 1-of-6 from the floor and was 0-for-3 beyond the arc.

That just isn't going to cut it. But I have seen better from Bullock, and I know that streak will not continue.

Leslie McDonald seems to be back to his old form, shooting 3-of-5 from the field, 1-of-2 from downtown and 5-of-6 from the line. Before he tore his ACL in the summer of 2011, he was the incumbent sharpshooter for the 2011-12 season.

We never got to see him in action last season. But if the NC Pro-Am and this exhibition is any indication, it appears he hasn't lost his stroke—it might be even better.

Of the returners, James Michael McAdoo is probably my biggest concern. He had a pretty darn good all-around game on Friday, but not many shots were falling. He did shoot a commendable 7-of-15 and 2-for-2 from the line, which was somewhat promising.

McAdoo isn't a great shooter, but if he takes quality shots, he will have a better chance to reach the 50-percent mark we have come to expect from Carolina bigs.

As far as major contributors, that leaves the young freshmen in question. The good news is they were some of the most impressive Tar Heels in the exhibition.

Joel James owned the show, in my opinion. He was 6-of-7 from the floor, making hook shots and a few jumpers. He puts a really nice touch on his shot, so I don't think this performance was a mere fluke.

My biggest concern is that he went 1-of-6 from the free-throw line. But I have seen enough free throws from James not to be that concerned. He is a much better free-throw shooter than the guy that was on the line Friday.

Brice Johnson's game was on fire that night. He was 4-of-6 from the floor, which included a sweet turnaround jumper fresh off the bench. This young man's game is impressive, and I'm excited to see him grow in Chapel Hill.

Another top shooter this season should be Marcus Paige. That wasn't the case on Friday, though.

Paige appeared to be a little nervous in his first start, and that showed with his stroke. He seemed to be forcing it more than usual, instead of just letting it fly. When that happens, shooters tend to push the ball too much and catch a lot of rim.

Paige was 2-of-7 on the night, missing all four of his three-point attempts. Considering he shot 44 percent beyond the arc in prep, this should just be an anomaly.

J.P. Tokoto has game, but so far shooting isn't a part of it. That was his M.O. coming in, so I don't expect a quick turnaround. But he probably won't be in the game enough this season to really have an effect on the team's shooting.

So what kind of numbers are we looking at to make the 2012-13 squad one of the best shooting teams Roy Williams has had?

Here are the shooting statistics for Roy's top three Carolina squads:

2004-05: 49.9% FG, 40.3% 3PT

2007-08: 48.8% FG, 37.2% 3PT

2008-09: 48.0% FG, 38.7% 3PT

While I don't think this team can top the 2004-05 squad's numbers (five players shot over 50 percent), they have a really good chance to match 2007-08. That team was a year from a title, just as I feel this team could be.

One thing you can be sure of, they will shoot better than Carolina teams have in the last three seasons. Over that time, Roy's teams have shot 45.1 percent from the floor and 33.1 percent from bonus land.

That's just sad.

In a year where Roy Williams will be replacing four starters, that would be unacceptable. What will make this team is their relentless defense and their shooting. If they don't have the shooting, it could be a very long season.

Have faith though, Tar Heel Nation.

This team is guard-heavy and has retained their top two three-point shooters in Bullock and McDonald. Paige is a better shooter than Kendall Marshall, and Strickland seems to have a more mechanically-sound form on his jumper. Hairston was awful last season, but assistant coach Hubert Davis has worked out some kinks and Hairston's confidence is high.

So is my confidence in this 2012-13 group of Tar Heels.


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