It wasn't long ago when North Carolina was faced with the possibility of losing four starters for the second-consecutive year. We saw how tough that made the 2012-13 season, with Reggie Bullock and Dexter Strickland being the only Tar Heels with starting experience.
Though those two will not be suiting up for UNC next season, P.J. Hairston and James Michael McAdoo elected to stay for at least one more year.
And that certainly keeps title hopes alive in Chapel Hill. It was also enough to give the Tar Heels a No. 3 seed in Bracketology" href="http://espn.go.com/mens-college-basketball/bracketology" target="_blank">Bracketology—Joe Lunardi's way-too-early bracketology for 2014.
If Hairston entered the NBA draft with Bullock, Roy Williams would have been left with Leslie McDonald as the only returning shooting guard. That would have forced Marcus Paige to play the 2, which would leave freshman Nate Britt taking the point for about half the game.
That's not exactly an ideal scenario, especially after the strides Paige made as the floor general.
Neither is losing four of UNC's top five scorers, which would have been the case if McAdoo jumped to the NBA too. Bullock, Strickland, Hairston and McAdoo accounted for 50.7 of Carolina's 77 points per game. Let's also not forget that they contributed 20.5 rebounds, 9.6 assists and 5.3 steals per game.
No matter how good the sophomores and freshmen end up being next year, that's a lot of ground to cover.
With Hairston and McAdoo returning, Coach Williams has managed to at least retain 29 points, 11.6 boards, 2.5 assists and 2.8 steals per game. And if the Tar Heels go back to the dual post scheme, you can count on those numbers going up.
Before going small and having to play the 5, McAdoo had eight double-doubles. After the switch, he had just one. He also only averaged 5.8 rebounds per game over that span.
As for Hairston, his numbers will jump because he will actually be starting. Last season, Hairston averaged 14.6 points over 23.6 minutes per game. In the 14 games he started, his scoring increased to 18 points per game.
Simply put, the Tar Heels retained much more than the season numbers indicate. And if either of them improve their games in the offseason, you can expect an even bigger boost to those stats.
That's something Hairston and McAdoo will have to do if they plan on helping Roy to a third title in 2014.
Hairston will need to work on his shot selection. He tends to lean heavily on the long ball, as 61 percent of his shots were taken behind the arc last season. If he can develop a mid-range game and a little post action, he will be an absolute beast in his junior year.
McAdoo got a taste of how tough it is to play the post in the ACC, and hopefully he learned frantic play doesn't work at the collegiate level. Developing a solid back-to-basket game will slow things down for him naturally and make him much more effective in the paint.
Their development will be a major factor in how far this team will go in the 2014 postseason—so could landing top recruit Andrew Wiggins.
But we'll save that scenario for another day.
As they stand today, I could see the Tar Heels getting to the Sweet 16. From there, the "ifs" of player development and the recruitment of Wiggins come into play.
Make no mistake about it, though, this will be a better team in 2013-14. And they just might end up good enough to contend for a title once again.