North Carolina Basketball: 5 Storylines to Monitor During Tar Heels' Offseason
For the next six months, North Carolina fans will have to live their lives without their beloved Tar Heels. While that is no easy task for such a passionate fanbase, following the offseason storylines will assist in passing the time.
I'm here to give you the most crucial UNC stories to keep up with during the spring and summer months.
Each of the five storylines will provide a fairly accurate gauge for what this 2013-14 squad will be capable of doing. Nothing is like seeing the team in action against real competition, but it's all about making the best of what we have.
Will Andrew Wiggins Join the 2013 Class of Tar Heels?
I believe the last year of the Andrew Wiggins saga has just about everyone tired of the subject. We have been pounded with rumors, speculation, questions of character and very few facts.
Wiggins hasn't given us much to chew on, and that's when everyone starts artificially manufacturing storylines.
But, mercifully, this is one story that should be coming to a conclusion very shortly. Unless he plans on taking his talents to the D-League, Wiggins will have to make a decision by May 15.
He could end up joining the best recruiting class in the history of college basketball at Kentucky, a reloading Kansas team, a subpar Florida State team or a North Carolina team that has a spot reserved for him at the 3.
I still believe the latter is his best option, as he would be surrounded with talent—but not too much to keep him from playing 30-plus minutes a game. He would also join a group of experienced players with high character that will help him stay focused.
It won't be easy staying grounded in Kentucky with five other Top 10 freshmen (ESPN 100).
No later—and probably no sooner—than 10 days from now, we will find out where he is going. And Roy Williams will be able to piece together a starting rotation, with or without Andrew Wiggins.
Then we can all breathe a sigh of relief because this story will have finally come to an end. And we can put all of our focus on the recruits that have officially committed to North Carolina.
Bring on the summer leagues!
How Much Weight Can Marcus Paige and Brice Johnson Pack On?
According to Adam Lucas of GoHeels.com, weight training is already underway for returners Marcus Paige, Brice Johnson and Desmond Hubert.
Hubert was able to put on an impressive 27 pounds between his freshman and sophomore seasons. At 220 pounds, you would like to see him put on some more, but he doesn't need the weight nearly as much as the two returning sophomores.
Paige and Johnson weighed in at 157 and 187 pounds, respectively, before their first season at Chapel Hill. They could get by with that in high school, but if they want to dominate the college ranks, there is no question these two need to beef up.
Johnson will need to be able to hold his ground on defense and back defenders down in the post. Paige will need to be able to fight through screens and use his body to get inside the paint and absorb contact at the rim.
Carolina's strength and conditioning coach, Jonas Sahratian, has performed many miracles in the past with players like Desmond Hubert and John Henson. Tar Heel Nation will be hoping for at least two more from him.
Which Players Will Be Getting Help from Former Tar Heels?
Adam Lucas also pointed out that Paige will be receiving some help from a few of the greatest point guards to hit the floor of the Dean Dome. Feeling that was an opportunity he couldn't pass up, Paige enrolled in both summer school sessions so he wouldn't miss out on the experience.
Is there anything not to love about this kid's character?
His decision earned him the pleasure of working with Kendall Marshall, Ty Lawson and Raymond Felton. Not only will he be able to get some offensive tips from three of Carolina's all-time greats, he will also be forced to improve his one-on-one defense.
He may want to start with Marshall and work his way up to the stocky, super-quick Lawson, though. Baby steps, Marcus. Baby steps.
Between the experience he gained as a freshman and his summer work with these floor generals, we should see a much-improved Marcus Paige in the fall.
But he won't be the only one getting help from former Tar Heels. UNC is a family, and that's what these guys do. Even as NBA stars, these players always find their way back to campus over the summer months.
Last season, Rasheed Wallace spent time with Hubert to work on his post game. Unfortunately, we didn't get to see much of that this past season, but the centers weren't exactly getting the ball very often. I'm sure they will be working together once again, and I wouldn't be surprised to see more current Tar Heel post men joining 'Sheed's class.
James Michael McAdoo, Brice Johnson and Joel James could all use the extra work.
Who Will Stand out in the NC Pro-Am?
No, the NC Pro-Am isn't the perfect gauge of talent. I know this.
Guys play half-hearted defense and jog around half the time. But, if you recall, the two Tar Heels that took home MVP hardware were arguably UNC's two best players—Reggie Bullock and P.J. Hairston.
Those two absolutely dominated the summer headlines with their play at the Pro-Am. And the way I look at it, if a player can't make headlines in this event, he isn't going to make too many when a real defense is in place.
To me, it's more about what these players don't do.
I'm sure Hairston will participate again and perform at an even higher level than last summer. He just might come home with both MVPs this time (season and championship).
We will really need to keep an eye on McAdoo. As hyped as he was in the offseason, there was very little talk of his play in the 2012 NC Pro-Am. I found that a little odd and slightly disconcerting.
There is no reason McAdoo shouldn't be able to take Bullock's place as a fellow headliner this time around.
But he also might get challenged for the share of the spotlight with Leslie McDonald, who was making his name known in the 2011 edition of the event—before he blew out his knee. He had an OK summer in 2012, but he should be better in 2013, as he has had time to get used to playing with his repaired knee.
And if there is no Wiggins, the Tar Heels will definitely need McDonald at his best.
No matter how much weight you care to put on their performances, it's a fun event to follow. And it can sometimes shed light on a player's development, which you otherwise wouldn't see until November.
Who Will Fill the Open Starting Slots?
With everything we just covered, it will all come down to this.
You don't have to be a North Carolina expert to know the three players that will be guaranteed a starting role this fall. Paige, Hairston and McAdoo are all returning starters, and Coach Williams doesn't drop his starters very often.
He won't be sitting a point guard that fought through adversity to become the player Tar Heel fans expect at that position. Nor will he sit two stars that passed up a shot at the NBA to don Carolina Blue for one more year.
This is where things get a little tricky, though.
If Wiggins commits to UNC, I would imagine Williams would have him play the 3, while Hairston would move back to the 2. Wiggins is a very active player inside, and he isn't even close to being the shooter Hairston is.
But if Wiggins doesn't commit, that will bring a couple more options to the table. Hairston could start at small forward and McDonald at shooting guard, or vice versa.
There is also another—albeit less likely—option that could be thrown into the mix. If McAdoo adds some range to his preferred face-up game, he could slide into the small forward slot. That would give Williams the opportunity to start Brice Johnson, Isaiah Hicks or even Kennedy Meeks at the 4.
That may sound odd, but if Joel James and Desmond Hubert can establish themselves as true centers, they will be the best options to play the 5. And as good as I expect at least Johnson and Hicks to be next season, Coach Williams will want to find a way to get them in the game.
This won't be the first time he got creative with the lineup—that was last year. Perhaps Roy Williams and staff will have something else up their sleeves.
No matter how it all goes down, the offseason will be filled with storylines that will help us gauge the potential of the 2013-14 Tar Heels and help us get through these next six months without the boys in blue.