Sounds familiar doesn't it? Tarheels lose the majority of their scoring from the previous season, an All-american big man, All-American point guard, a sharp-shooter with seemingly limitless range (or two), and multiple key role players.
Well let's think back. Any fan of North Carolina basketball doesn't have to think too hard to remember the expected woes of the 2005-2006 campaign, a year after Raymond Felton, Sean May, Rashad McCants, Jackie Manuel, and Jawad Williams (pause for breath) all departed for the draft after a dream ride in 2005 which brought Roy Williams his first championship. And eerily enough, we now see the departure of Ty Lawson, Tyler Hansbrough, Wayne Ellington, Danny Green, and Bobby Frasor. That is A LOT of talent. The crazy thing? Carolina is still a top 5 team.
Maybe Roy Williams can take some blame for that. Thanks to another stellar recruiting class, old Roy has his Heels back in the mix for another run at a national championship. John Henson, the Wear twins, Leslie McDonald, and Dexter Strickland all join the squad in hopes that they will be able to keep up the legacy of North Carolina basketball. But again, let's think back.
North Carolina's 2005 signing class: Mike Copeland, Bobby Frasor, Marcus Ginyard, Danny Green, and Tyler Hansbrough. Awards given to this group include all-ACC defensive teams, all-ACC teams, All-American teams, a national POY award, and....... oh yeah, they all have a national championship ring.
The parallels are all there. Another McDonalds All-American ready to fill some gaping shoes (John Henson instead of Hansbrough), role players ready to step into the spotlight (Ed Davis and Deon Thompson instead of David Noel and Reyshawn Terry), and a point guard ready to step into the spotlight (Drew II instead of Quentin Thomas).
But there are also many differences, which make this team so much more dangerous than the 05-06 boys.
For starters, Larry Drew is a much better point guard than Quentin Thomas was. Thomas may have been a little faster on a sprint, but couldn't control the offense well enough to suit Roy's liking (if you remember, he lost the job to Bobby Frasor halfway through the year). Drew is a better shooter, better passer, better floor general, and a better extension of Roy Williams on the floor.
Next, the role players. Reyshawn Terry and David Noel have been replaced by Deon Thompson and Ed Davis. Don't get me wrong, Reyshawn Terry and David Noel were fantastic athletes and superb basketball players, but they were nowhere near the skill levels of Ed Davis (recently put on the Naismith Award watch list) and Deon Thompson. Thompson has been quietly been putting up quality numbers behind Hansbrough for 3 years now, and Ed Davis is a superstar in the making.
And at the end of the day, Roy Williams is still going to be Roy Williams, making the best of any situation and making sure his team is in the best position to win a national championship, which, for this year's squad, isn't as far-fetched as some may think. They're at least 10 men deep, which is no surprise for a Roy Williams squad. His hardest task will be deciding who gets to play.
So you have the freshman, the role players, the coach, the budding stars.... what problems could they have?
The answer is perimeter talent. Yes, Drew II is nervously excited to take over the offense and Marcus Ginyard is ready to bring an offensive aspect to his stellar defensive play......... but who else can contribute?
The two freshman swingmen are the logical choices. Dexter Strickland and Leslie McDonald are both quality perimeter players, capable of doing big things in the ACC someday. Will Graves is back from his season-ending suspension last year, and will be expected to contribute more scoring than he is used to. Even 6'10" John Henson is expected to step out on the wing for the Tarheels.
So here we are again, 4 years later, looking forward to the start of the season for a refueled Tarheel team coming off another national championship. But do we have more to look forward to this year? You bet. In a year where the ACC seems to be reloading on it's usual armistice of talent, this year is as good as any to take home a conference championship. And, if we're lucky, maybe another ring while they're at it.
So get ready Tarheel fans, because despite the outcome, this year will be an interesting one. And if we're lucky, maybe we'll get to see a few more banner raised in the rafters of the Dean Dome.