After the North Carolina's surprise hot streak and run to the Elite Eight last March and after superstar freshman Harrison Barnes announced he would be staying in Chapel Hill for his sophomore season, along with the return of much of the core of the 2010-11 squad, many thought that the Tar Heels were the new team to beat in college basketball to start the 2011-12 season.
Not so fast.
The Tar Heels and their fans are now dealing with the news that guard Leslie McDonald tore his ACL during a summer league game in Durham. He is expected to miss a good portion of the upcoming season, and it's quite possible that he could miss the entire season.
This is no doubt a setback for North Carolina, as it was hoped that McDonald would improve on his performance from the previous season, in which he averaged 7.0 PPG in a mere 15.7 minutes per game, and be a big contributor during the upcoming season.
With another year under his belt, it was hoped by many that McDonald could truly emerge as the Tar Heels' sixth man, the first backcourt man off the bench for either Dexter Strickland or Kendall Marshall.
Without McDonald, Marshall and Strickland will now be in total control of the Tar Heels' backcourt without much help, save for Reggie Bullock (if he can come back healthy from his own knee injury), as well as freshmen P.J. Hairston, meaning head coach Roy Williams will be forced to dip into unproven talent to fill the void left by McDonald.
Although the Tar Heels lose some depth, they have more than enough talent to make up for it.
Kendall Marshall is, as of now, firmly established as the point guard that's here to stay in Chapel Hill, and Dexter Strickland will likely start at shooting guard, although he may play a little bit of backup point as well.
As much talent as Bullock may have, I think he still has to earn his stripes before he can start, but I think he'll see some decent minutes if he's healthy. Hairston and the other freshmen will probably find time in other places, but they'll need practice and development before they see real minutes.
Of course, we still have the frontcourt of Tyler Zeller, John Henson, and Harrison Barnes, who will almost certainly account for much of North Carolina's scoring as well as rebounding.
If these guys can stay healthy, I think the Tar Heels will do just fine.
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