With the college basketball season right around the corner, it is time to look at the 2012-13 version of your North Carolina Tar Heels.
Long gone are Kendall Marshall and his magical powers running Coach Roy Williams’ secondary break. The big and agile forward Tyler Zeller and shot blocking machine John Henson are off to the NBA as well. Harrison Barnes? He is gone too. In case you are not keeping track, that is four out of five starters from a very good 2011-12 team that are now gone.
Dexter Strickland, who is returning from ACL surgery, is the only scholarship senior on the current squad. Also returning are junior guards Leslie McDonald (also returning from major knee surgery) and Reggie Bullock (who had knee injury issues two years ago), sophomore forwards Desmond Hubert (who didn’t play much last year) and James Michael McAdoo (who should be the center of the offense but has only shown flashes of brilliance in the post) and finally the much maligned guard P.J. Hairston.
The freshmen are lead by guard Marcus Paige from Marion, IA and forwards J.P. Tokoto, Brice Johnson and Joel James.
Although expectations for any basketball team on Tobacco Road are high, the expectations on a particular team can affect the enjoyment of watching and following that team. The 2004-05, 2008-09 and last year’s Tar Heel teams had lofty expectations placed on them from the get-go, including several polls listing them as the preseason top team in the nation.
Those teams were viewed by many as teams that would be considered failures if they did not reach the Final Four. Two of those teams went on to win a National Championship, with last year’s team failing to advance to the Final Four.
You could argue that last year’s team should be given a pass on being labeled a failure because of the rash of injuries it suffered, especially losing Marshall during the tournament. Even taking injuries into account, most of the Tar Heel faithful will acknowledge that last season was a waste of talent on the court and that last year’s team, if healthy, could have given eventual National Champions Kentucky a run for their money.
On the other hand, remember the Tar Heel team that followed 2004-05 National Championship team? After losing Raymond Felton, Sean May, Rashad McCants, Jawad Williams and Marvin Williams to the NBA, nobody expected much from a very green Tar Heel team.
Thanks to a fantastic season by senior David Noel, coupled by an incredibly talented freshmen crop that included Marcus Ginyard, Danny Green, Bobby Frasor and Tyler Hansbrough, the Tar Heels had an incredibly entertaining season that included a win against then top-ranked Duke at Cameron Indoor stadium and an unexpected run into the NCAA Tournament.
Sure, that season ended in disappointment with a loss to George Mason in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, but people forget that at the beginning of the season there were hardly any expectations on that Tar Heel team.
So what to expect from this year’s team? A team with no sure-fire guard to run the point. A team that lost Zeller and Henson to be replaced with McAdoo and a rotation of Brice Johnson, Joel James and Desmond Hubert.
A team that last year shot a horrid 33.4% from three-point range (good for 213th-best in the country) is now increasingly dependent on scoring coming from the backcourt. There is a lot of talent in the incoming freshmen, especially Paige and Tokoto, but talent takes time to develop.
This team will yield some exciting moments, but expect some growing pains from a very young team. Above all, expect an exciting season, especially once ACC play starts.