With my shovel in hand, and one more week of offseason staring me in the face, I'm ready to dig myself a deeper hole before the season officially begins on Nov. 9 with Gardner-Webb.
I've already predicted every game on North Carolina's ACC schedule, along with the statistical leaders in every major category. Now it's time to break down season statistics for every Tar Heel in 2012-13.
There's nothing quite like blind predictions to make or break a writer.
After all, there are four freshman in place of the Big Four that left for the NBA—not to mention a group of bench-dwellers looking for more playing time this season. We don't even know the starters yet.
On top of that, we have hardly even seen them play together. Our only indicators have been individual performances at the defenseless NC Pro-Am, the "Late Night with Roy" scrimmage and Roy Williams' game of musical chairs in the Shaw exhibition last week.
Making predictions now lends only slightly better chances than picking the winning numbers in the lottery.
But I love predictions, you love predictions, and what would a preseason be like without them?
Fortunately, yours truly is blessed with the fortitude to lay them down anyway. A blank page won't stop me from writing, so it won't stop me from pulling predictions out of my backside, either.
Let's do it.
Despite a subpar performance against Shaw, Marcus Paige is still slated to be the starter on opening night. And I'm still predicting a solid season from the freshman.
Paige is a point guard with high basketball IQ coming in and a great understanding of pace. He also comes with a much more potent scoring package than his predecessor, Kendall Marshall.
Though he has been discredited by many for his size, he alleviates those setbacks with the ability to hit floaters in the lane and step back for three. He's normally a consistent shooter with decent stroke, but I strongly feel nerves got the best of him in his first start.
Paige's struggles will likely continue through the first few weeks of the season, but he will eventually settle into the speed of the college game. By the time ACC play rolls around, we should see a much more consistent Marcus Paige.
47.1% FG, 37.9% 3PT, 81.2% FT, 6.1 AST, 1.4 STL, 2.1 REB, 9.7 PTS
Where will Dexter Strickland fit in this season?
The lone senior is coming off a torn ACL, and it doesn't appear that he will have the starting job at point. With Carolina being loaded at the wing, minutes won't be easy to come by for the guards. Whether he starts or not, I have to imagine Roy will find him at least 25 minutes per game to do his thing.
He's just too good and too electric not to. Not to mention the fact he is the best perimeter defender on the squad.
Strickland has been a jump-shooting liability in the past, but from what I saw in the exhibition, it would appear that Hubert Davis has helped smooth out his stroke. Dex had plenty of time to do just that, while he wasn't allowed to run and make cuts.
While his field-goal percentage may seem slightly high for someone that isn't known as a jump shooter, he is a slasher and gets to the rim in transition, too. Through the 19 games he played last season, he actually led the team in field-goal percentage at 57.0.
Don't expect many threes from Dex, as he only shot one last season. But he will probably attempt 10 to 15 this year.
56.1% FG, 23.9% 3PT, 71.3% FT, 3.9 AST, 1.8 STL, 1.4 REB, 0.2 BLK, 8.7 PTS
I'll be the first to admit I'm a little scared about my previous predictions of Reggie Bullock after his showing in the exhibition.
I've already labeled Bullock the next go-to guy at Carolina and went on to predict that he will lead the team with 15.9 points per game. That was a much more solid prediction before he went 1-of-6 from the floor, 0-for-3 beyond the arc and 0-2 from the line against Shaw.
Though my confidence is shaken, I still have faith in the returning junior.
Bullock is a solid jump shooter that can also cut to basket with slightly better explosion and dribbles than Harrison Barnes. Moving to the 3 this season, Coach Williams would like to see Bullock get in the paint a little more and work the post—both of which he is perfectly capable of doing.
He almost did that to a fault in the exhibition, though. Bullock passed up some open jumpers to attempt to drive instead. His poor shooting may have played a part in that, but he needs to take the open looks when he has them.
I may be sticking with my earlier predictions to a fault, but I'm not turning back now.
49.3% FG, 39.8% 3PT, 78.7% FT, 1.8 AST, 1.1 STL, 5.2 REB, 0.6 BLK, 15.9 PTS
I'm also on record saying James Michael McAdoo will not live up to expectations. That isn't to say he will be awful, but his game just isn't complete yet.
McAdoo isn't a good jump shooter, he isn't physical and he lacks a strong post game—at least from what I've seen thus far, dating back to last season. The media has almost made him a god, and that's simply not where he is at this point in his career.
One thing I can guarantee is that he will be taking a lot of shots. The biggest question is whether or not he will make them.
Even with a low shooting percentage, he will still be right behind Bullock in scoring. This will be due to alley-oops, putbacks and his defensive prowess in the passing lanes.
One thing I certainly can't knock McAdoo for is his innate ability to pick passes and take them coast-to-coast for a jam. Like clockwork, he seems to get at least two of those in every game he plays.
And despite his lack of physicality, his motor never stops. That allows him to snag rebounds he really isn't in position to get. He won't be on the level of John Henson or Tyler Zeller, but there are enough solid rebounders on this squad to make up for that.
44.8% FG, 69.9% FT, 0.4 AST, 2.4 STL, 7.8 REB, 0.9 BLK, 15.1 PTS
Back in July, I put it out there that Joel James would be a true sleeper this season. With only three years of experience in the sport, he was very raw coming into Chapel Hill.
But James had a great base to work with, and Roy Williams is one of the best in the game at developing post men at this level.
On top of that, James is a 260-pound beast of a man-child. He will not be easy for anyone to box out, with perhaps the exception of Miami's Reggie Johnson. I don't know about you, but I'll be looking forward to that wrestling match.
I did go a little crazy earlier in the offseason, predicting a whopping 12.3 rebounds per game. Needless to say, I caught a lot of flack for that, and I'm sure there will be more to come. But like Thurgood Jenkins, "I stick by my story."
In both the exhibition and the scrimmage, James displayed great touch on his shots. It didn't matter if it was a hook or a jumper, he just nailed it.
With that kind of a touch, his size and defensive abilities, Joel James will be a force in the paint this season.
61.2% FG, 70.1% FT, 0.5 AST, 0.6 STL, 12.3 REB, 2.2 BLK, 10.2 PTS
With an offseason to work out his shooting kinks with Hubert Davis and an NC Pro-Am to boost his confidence, P.J. Hairston will have a much more impressive sophomore campaign.
Haiston was a huge disappointment last season, shooting only 27.3 percent from three. He had a nice start and a pretty good ending, with a horrible showing in between.
His confidence was fragile, wilting away with each miss.
The summer has restored his confidence, and it showed in his MVP performance in the NC Pro-Am and his second-half shooting in the exhibition.
Hairston didn't fall off the map because he wasn't making his shots in the first half. He came back in the second half with a vengeance, sparking a huge run by Carolina with his back-to-back threes.
That wasn't just an anomaly, either. He did the same thing in the ACC championship last season against Florida State. Hairston kept the Tar Heels in the game with his late outside shooting and just missed a very difficult final shot that could have tied the game.
Hairston's shooting will come around this season. The only real question for me is his playing time and physicality. A man his size should power through defenders more than he has shown in the past.
51.8% FG, 40.1% 3PT, 86.7% FT, 1.4 AST, 0.7 STL, 2.8 REB, 0.5 BLK, 9.1 PTS
There was a lot of hype surrounding Leslie McDonald in the offseason. Folks in Carolina have been waiting for their top shooter to return after his preseason ACL tear in 2011.
Bullock took his place as the top marksman in 2011-12, but that crown was just a temporary. McDonald will lead the team once again in three-point percentage and sport the best numbers of his career.
But we are dealing with the unknown at the wing. How much playing time will McDonald really get?
Unfortunately I don't expect very much with Hairston and Strickland cutting into his time. That's a shame, considering the improvements he has made with his handles and shooting off the bounce.
However, he just isn't as electric as the other two, and that may be the downfall of his playing time.
I don't expect a continuous highlight reel from L-Mac, but solid performances are almost inevitable. And there is no doubt in my mind Roy will lean on McDonald when he needs a big-time three.
48.6% FG, 41.3% 3PT, 83.4% FT, 0.9 AST, 0.7 STL, 1.8 REB, 0.1 BLK, 5.5 PTS
Who isn't excited about seeing this freshman get some playing time after his performance in the exhibition? When he was in the game, he seemed like one of the best players on the floor.
Johnson has been knocked for his random disappearing acts, but he was on point for all 13 minutes of play he received.
In that time, he was 4-of-6 from the floor, which included a sweet turnaround jumper and an explosive putback jam. He also racked up six rebounds, one assist, one steal and one block.
I know folks like to brush off performances against lower-tier competition like Shaw, and reasonably so. But what I saw from Johnson was extremely high activity, superior athleticism and great form—not to mention a keen awareness to find the rock.
You can ignore blown-up stats, but you can't ignore skill. If we completely ignored performances against lesser competition, there would be no point to ranking recruits out of high school.
This kid is for real, and I'm hoping he gets more playing time than I originally anticipated.
49.3% FG, 73.1% FT, 0.5 AST, 0.3 STL, 4.1 REB, 0.9 BLK, 5.8 PTS
It's a shame J.P. Tokoto will spend most of the season riding pine.
Even though he is particularly strong, like Johnson, he just finds ways to shine the glass. That may have a little something to do with his premiere athleticism and his rare ability to soar.
I won't put his game anywhere near the class of Michael Jordan and Vince Carter, but you can't help but think of them when he just hangs in the air. It's one thing to have ups, it's another to have hang time.
He has yet to develop the shooting game of Jordan and Carter, but neither of them were great jump shooters coming in. His ceiling is definitely high enough to reach Carter status.
I'm not counting my chickens yet, though.
Tokoto is decent defender, he just needs to get down his fundamentals so he doesn't have to rely so much on his athleticism. He is very gifted in transition, so if the defense is playing well while he is in, we will at least get to see some open-court dunks.
Tokoto's game is very raw at this point, so there is no reason to overhype him or give him too much playing time. But his contribution off the bench will be noteworthy.
41.7% FG, 69.8% FT, 0.3 AST, 0.2 STL, 2.2 REB, 0.4 BLK, 2.1 PTS
Desmond Hubert is really going to have to show his stuff against Gardner-Webb to get more playing time this season.
There was an undeniable drop-off in the team's performance with him, rather than Joel James, in during the exhibition. He started over James, but was outperformed and finished with fewer minutes than the freshman.
Hubert did a lot of work in the offseason to expand his game in the post and even gained 30 pounds to take the typical beating post players receive in the ACC. So far, he hasn't really seemed much different than last year.
Desmond Hubert is a decent blocker and a good rebounder. Beyond that, I don't know what Roy will get from the sophomore. His game is very quiet.
41.2% FG, 39.9% FT, 0.2 AST, 2.4 REB, 0.4 BLK, 1.3 PTS
I don't know how he will get playing time, but I'm cheering for Luke Davis.
If Paige struggles, we could see Davis come in and take his spot. By no means is he as dynamic, but he's simply a solid point guard.
Davis handles the rock very well and seemed to make pretty sound decisions in the exhibition. He's also strong and capable of being a solid defender despite his lack of foot speed.
The problem is, he isn't a great shooter or very creative in any facet of his game.
I don't see him as a starter, but he is a better option than Stilman White was. I think of Davis as a stronger Bobby Frasor.
41.3% FG, 56.8% FT, 1.2 AST, 0.1 STL, 0.1 REB, 2.1 PTS
Though Jackson Simmons seems to be a little improved, I don't see him getting anymore minutes than last season. He has McAdoo and Johnson ahead of him, just as he had Henson and McAdoo ahead of him last year.
Simmons isn't incredibly gifted, but I like his intensity. If it's late in the game and someone is diving on the floor, it will probably be Jackson Simmons.
He's a hard-nosed player, and I love that about him, but that just isn't enough to get him in the game over two potential stars.
42.1% FG, 31.3% FT, 0.5 REB, 0.1 BLK, 0.6 PTS
I can imagine many of you have already started to think about crunching these numbers to find out how ridiculous my predictions look as team stats.
I went ahead and did the work for you, tallying all player averages to get the team totals.
Of course, I couldn't do the same for shooting percentages since I didn't predict attempts. Therefore, these shooting percentages cannot be calculated with my previous predictions.
It turns out the team stats aren't that "ridiculous." The averages are fairly normal for a Roy Williams-coached team.
48.9% FG, 38.3% 3PT, 74.1% FT, 17.2 AST, 9.3 STL, 42.7 REB, 5.9 BLK, 84.2 PTS