Why UNC Will Never Lose Again: The Future of the Tarheels
Okay, first things first.
The Tarheels could very possibly lose Tyler Hansbrough, Tywon Lawson, and Wayne Ellington to the NBA. If they end up continuing this domination of the opposition in the tourney and win it all, then at the very least Hansbrough and Lawson are gone.
If they don't win it all, there is a good chance that they will return. Rumor has it Hansbrough has already renewed his lease on his apartment for next year.
So for the article's sake, and for my dreams, we will assume that they are all staying.
Here is a position-by-position breakdown of the team that will undoubtedly go undefeated and win the national title next season.
And with this article, I hereby announce that if they lose even ONE SINGLE game next year with this team, I will pay $20 to any and every Bleacher Report reader that remembers to call me out on it.*
Here are your 2008-2009 University of North Carolina Tarheels.
(Note: some of these players can be considered for two different positions, and it's unclear who is a power forward and who is a center sometimes, so I did the best I could.)
This is where the Tarheels will be the deepest and most dangerous. Like this season (before the loss of Bobby Frasor to injury), they have three more than capable options.
Tywon Lawson (with the loss of Derrick Rose, Darren Collison, and D.J. Augustin to the league) is the nation's premier PG. He brings valuable experience as a third year starter and has already gone deep into March twice.
Nobody gets up and down the court as fast as he does, setting the tempo for what will surely be one of the highest scoring teams in the country.
Backing him up again will be senior Frasor. He has had an unfortunate career thus far, plagued by injuries that sidelined him most of his sophomore and junior seasons. When he has played, though, he has proven to be very effective.
He started as a true freshman and led the ACC in assists. He would probably start for any other school in the country. His style isn't as up and down as Lawson's, but there is probably no better backup PG in the nation. His knee should be healthy, and his experience is valuable.
Finally, there is Larry Drew. Drew comes in a highly touted recruit that is truly suited for the elite level. He is the son of former Pistons first round pick Larry Drew, Sr. who enjoyed a 10-year career and is currently an assistant with the Atlanta Hawks.
Having been exposed to big-time basketball and getting access to some of the best training will assure that at the very least, this kid will be a smart player. He most likely will take over the starting job as a sophomore, having learned even more from his departing teammates.
Marcus Ginyard and Danny Green will both see time at SG, but for this they will be listed as small forwards. That leaves Wayne Ellington as the only "true" SG on the team.
Ellington—the Clemson killer—will be a junior, a benefactor of two years of starting under his belt. He made great strides from his freshman year to sophomore year, showing the nation (and NBA scouts) that he is more than just a shooter.
Expect Ellington to continue to develop his all around game by next year. Since the Tarheels are exceptionally deep at the point position, Ellington has not really had to handle the ball, but he certainly is capable.
While they don't get the national attention that the "big three" get, seniors-to-be Marcus Ginyard and Danny Green are two of the best role players in the country.
Ginyard will likely be the starter. His primary responsibility will be as a lock-down defender, an especially important role as the Heels' defensive prowess can be suspect at times. He is listed at 218 pounds, but he looks a good 10-20 pounds heavier than that, in a good way.
He is very strong and physical, and his athleticism doesn't appear to have fallen off at all. He gets to the basket on offense, and although he doesn't shoot from outside often, he manages to shoot 43 percent from the three-point range.
Green, who Coach Williams calls his "sixth starter," will most likely find himself in that role again next year.
But that doesn't bother him.
Easily the best athlete on the team, Green is an exceptional shot blocker and a gifted scorer. His 1.5 blocks per game are second on the team to Deon Thompson, who holds a slight lead. He provides energy off the bench, and can come in and not miss a beat.
Will Graves will also see some time at this position. His weight and athleticism (or lack thereof) have been a question since his arrival on campus two years ago, but he is an excellent shooter.
In a very limited role this year, Graves has shot 45 percent from three-point range, and at 6'6", he is able to get off his shot against smaller defenders.
Again, the Tarheels are extremely deep at this position. The likely starter will be junior Deon Thompson. He was the starter this season and has shown tremendous potential, especially on the offensive end.
His numbers may not reflect it at 8.5 ppg, but that is primarily because he plays opposite Hansbrough, who is without a doubt the first option down low. Thompson displays good footwork, and possesses a deadly jump hook.
Thompson is comfortable making moves going right or left, an often under-appreciated skill most college players never master. He can face the basket and hit jumpers. So far through two tournament games, he is a sizzling 14-16 from the floor, averaging 15.5 ppg.
The knock on him is that he tends to disappear from games at times, but this is more due to the fact that he is overshadowed by Hansbrough, and sometimes defers to him and lets him do all the work. Once he learns to assert himself a little more, he could be a future star.
Backing up Thompson will again be Alex Stepheson. Similar to Danny Green and Bobby Frasor, Stepheson could probably start for any other program in the country. His primary responsibility is defense, but he has shown flashes of a promising offensive game.
This season he has averaged about 14 minutes a game, but with the arrival of Ed Davis, it is not clear whether his minutes will increase or decrease next year, but either way he will be productive.
Like Larry Drew, Ed Davis is the son of a former NBA player. While I have never seen him play, experts do nothing but rave about his abilities. He is an exceptional athlete, evident by his YouTube video showing him jumping over someone in a a chair for a dunk.
He is very long, and is a tenacious rebounder and an excellent shot blocker. He can sneak up on people being left-handed.
He should be a big time NBA prospect in a year or two. Playing behind talented offensive players like Hansbrough and Thompson should give him a chance to let his offensive game catch his defensive one.
I know. Tyler Hansbrough isn't really a center. His is listed at 6'9", but is likely closer to 6'7". But on this team, he is essentially the center. I won't bore you to death with more Hanbrough ink, you know who he is and what he does.
Tyler Zeller comes in as the highest rated recruit in the Tarheel class. Standing at a legit seven feet tall, he is one of the best running big men in the country.
His older brother Luke is a back-up at Notre Dame, but by scouts estimations, the younger Zeller is by far the better player. He will provide more depth and maybe more importantly, more height in the lineup.
Right now he is a little skinny, but with the other Tyler, Deon Thompson, Alex Stepheson, and Ed Davis able to play down low, he won't have to step in and contribute right away.
This means that the Tarheels will most likely go 12 deep.
That's absolutely unheard of. Even their ridiculously talented championship team of '04-'05 only went 10 deep. I will never say that they have too much talent, but finding the playing time and roles and chemistry of this team may prove to be Roy's most difficult challenge yet.
Maybe some will transfer, maybe some will redshirt. Who knows?
If worse case scenario happens and they lose the big three, this is the lineup:
Will Graves, Larry Drew, Ed Davis and Tyler Zeller will come off the bench and get considerable playing time.
And who knows? Maybe one of the freshmen will emerge as a stud and take one of these starting spots. Either way, they would still go nine deep.
This team would lack a go to player on the offensive end, but would still be a Top 15 team, capable of making a deep NCAA tourney run.
As an added bonus, here is an even further look into the Tarheels' future world domination:
'08-'09 Projected Lineup
PG—Larry Drew, So.—Ready for prime time.
SG—Dexter Strictland, Fr.—Currently No. 1 PG in the junior class. Most likely an SG in this scenario. He is known for supreme athleticism.
SF—John Henson, Fr.—Already 6'10" as a high school junior, he is a wing player in the Kevin Durant mold.
PF—Deon Thompson, Sr.—He's experienced and finally reaching full potential.
C—Alex Stepheson, Sr.—He could be Tyler Zeller if he improves enough.
Bench (that will actually see playing time)—Zeller (C, So.), Will Graves (SF, Jr.), Ed Davis (PF, So.), Travis and David Wear (Freshman PF's who have can play inside and outside).
That's 10 deep again. Plus they will probably sign at least one more blue chipper between now and then. Which would obviously make them deeper.
'09-'10 Projected Lineup
PG—Larry Drew, Jr.
SG—Dexter Strictland, So.
SF—John Henson, So.
PF—Ed Davis, Jr.
C—Tyler Zeller, Jr.
Bench—Will Graves (SF, Sr.), Travis and David Wear (PF, So.), Kendall Marshall (PG, Fr. Currently No. 2 ranked high school sophomore PG in the country), Reggie Bullock (SG, Fr. Currently No. 1 ranked high school sophomore SG in the country).
Once again, already 10 deep. And especially in this case it is a virtual lock that they will sign more players.
This is just getting silly folks.
*Agreement is void if I determine that I want to void it, and I have already determined that I do.
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