Rebuild or Reload? Can the North Carolina Tarheels Repeat in 2010?
It is a question I that I have been asking myself since halftime of the national championship game, when a Tarheels victory seemed a foregone conclusion.
They had just broken the record for points in the first half of an NCAA title game with 55, and held a 21 point lead over an obviously outmatched and discouraged Michigan State team.
Wayne Ellington had lit up the scoreboard in that half with seventeen points and shot three for three from beyond the arc.
Good bye, Wayne. Thanks for the memories.
Ellington isn't the only Tarheel that will be leaving the college ranks to play in the NBA after North Carolina's national championship season. He will be joined by Ty Lawson, Tyler Hansbrough, and Danny Green.
As I enjoyed what should have been a completely relaxing second half in which the lead was never in danger of being in single digits, I found myself already worrying about who would be back for the 09-10 season.
I knew Green and Hansbrough would be gone since they were both seniors.
I assumed that Ellington and Lawson would be gone since there wouldn't be much left for them to accomplish at this level.
The guy I worried about the most was Ed Davis. His stock as an NBA draftee was quickly rising, and many experts were labeling him a top five draft pick.
He only helped his status with a stellar performance in the title game. Fourteen points and eight boards in only 18 minutes.
A few days later Davis committed to stay at Carolina and said that he woudn't even test the draft waters, and I breathed a sigh of relief.
I then shifted my focus to the incoming recruits, and trying to figure out how the incoming recruits would be able to help the team in the upcoming season.
I am impressed and optimistic.
The starting line up for the Heels will likely consist of sophomore point guard Larry Drew II, freshman shooting guard Dexter Strickland, senior small forward Marcus Ginyard, senior big man Deon Thompson and the aforementioned sophomore big man Ed Davis.
Sophomore big man Tyler Zeller, who missed most of last season due to injury should see significant minutes as will incoming freshman John Henson, who is the third ranked overall recruit in ESPN's top 100.
Henson is extremely talented and should make an immediate impact. He is a very long six foot ten, and he has excellent ball skills for someone with his his height and length.
I believe that he may end up starting over Thompson.
In the back court incoming freshman shooting guard Leslie McDonald will get some minutes at the two spot and also will likely fill in at the point when Drew needs a break.
The freshman shooting guard duo of McDonald and Strickland is extremely athletic and smart, but neither one is a stellar three point shooter. However, that may not matter much with Roy Williams' run and gun style of offense.
There are two major questions for the Tarheels next season.
Will Larry Drew II be able to handle the point effectively?
His assist to turnover ratio was not very good in his limited minutes last year, but head coach Roy Williams is confident in Drew. He showed it by not making much of a run at John Wall. Who is a point guard, and the number one overall recruit in the nation.
When asked about Drew, Ginyard and Lawson also both expressed confidence in his ability and Davis even said that Drew may be a more precise passer than Lawson is.
Will the freshman talent step up and play leading roles?
The Heels will need production from Henson, Strickland, and McDonald to replace the production of the big four.
There is no doubt that these three athletes have the athletic ability to make an impact, but inexperience could play a factor in their productivity.
The Tarheels will be a solid team next year. They will probably be in the running to win the ACC again, and will likely go deep into the NCAA tournament, but they may lack the experience to repeat as champions.
The Elite Eight or the Final Four seems like a more appropriate exit for them in 09-10, but watch out in 10-11.
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