UNC Basketball: What Tar Heels Need to Do to Rebound Next Season
UNC basketball lost in the third round to Kansas by a score of 70-58, putting an end to a disappointing season.
The Tar Heels went 25-11 and received a No. 8 seed in the NCAA tournament, but that surely was not what they expected heading into the season.
After losing Harrison Barnes and Kendall Marshall to the NBA, some adjustment was necessary, but the Tar Heels expected to be playing in at least the Sweet 16 come March Madness.
That didn't happen, and it's clear they need to make some changes in order to rebound next season.
A big key is whether James Michael McAdoo returns for his junior season. McAdoo saw a dramatic improvement from his freshman year, averaging 14.4 points per game. If he returns, he'll have another year under his belt and will continue to progress into an elite scorer.
The Tar Heels' lack of a true big man was exposed against Kansas. Kansas center Jeff Withey had 16 points, 16 rebounds and five blocks, and North Carolina was outrebounded by 17.
That's going to have change next season. Whether No. 4 center recruit Kennedy Meeks or No. 4 power forward recruit Isaiah Hicks can provide productivity down low remains to be seen. If they can't do it, then centers Desmond Hubert, who averaged just nine minutes per game, and Brice Johnson, who averaged just 5.4 points per game, will need to step up. In limited minutes, they didn't show too much.
If none of those young big men can produce, then it might be a long season for the Tar Heels. Even Roy Williams said that he wouldn't be coaching a small lineup for much longer [via ESPN]:
“That [four-guard] line-up has been better for us, so we’ll stick with that right now,’’ Williams said before the ACC tournament. “But Ol’ Roy is not going to be small for the rest of his coaching career, I tell you.”
The Tar Heels have always had a great big man, whether it was Tyler Hansbrough, Tyler Zeller or Sean May. This season they didn't have one, and it showed.
They'll have to rely on some untested youth, but if even one of them can develop into a post threat, then the Tar Heels will be a really good team. If McAdoo comes back, he should average upwards of 20 points per game. P.J. Hairston, who averaged 14.6 points per game this season, should also improve.
Will the Tar Heels make the Sweet 16 next season?
UNC has a good trio of scorers in McAdoo, Hairston and Reggie Bullock. All they need is a big man who can control the paint and give the scorers room to operate on the perimeter. It would also help them match up against opposing big men. They cannot survive another year without a big man and expect to compete. Someone like Jeff Withey of Kansas will come along and make life miserable.
If the Tar Heels can complement their scoring with a big man, then there is no reason why they can't be one of the best teams in the country.
Of course, it may be a stretch for one of the young big men to develop into something special. We can't know that for sure. We do know that they have serious talent—it's just a matter of developing it.
If they do, however, then the Tar Heels will regain their place amongst the top 10 in college basketball and compete for a national championship.
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