North Carolina had a disappointing season last year, finishing 20-17 and missing the NCAA tournament for the first time since Roy Williams began coaching at the school.
However, there is hope for the Tarheels again this season.
Last season, the team seemed plagued with injuries and lack of leadership on the court: Ed Davis missed 13 games and Tyler Zellers missed 10; Tyler Hansbrough, Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington and Danny Green all left for the NBA as well, leaving a huge loss in leadership on the team.
The team also faces more key losses going into this season: David and Travis Wear announced in May that they were transferring to UCLA; Will Graves, the team’s leading three point shooter, was also released from the team for a violation of team rules.
Even with the struggles, Roy Williams is very optimistic about the upcoming season.
“He’s more intense than normal. Coach’s favorite quote is ‘I’m not going to have a year like last year’” Tyler Zeller said.
Duke is predicted to run away with the ACC title this year. But UNC looks to give them a strong fight at the top and expect to finish no worse than second place.
The Heels bring another incredibly talented freshman to the court this year with the recruitment of Harrison Barnes, who became the first freshman to be named to the Preseason AP All-American Team earlier this week.
Larry Drew II looked tense and nervous on the court last season running the offense for the first time. This year, Drew has competition from Kendall Marshall, which the team expects will push Drew every day to make him only that much stronger. Dexter Strickland, Leslie McDonald and Reggie Bullock make up the rest of the perimeter offense.
The one weak point for the Tarheels could be the forward position. Tyler Zeller is the core of the big men and could make a huge impact if he stays healthy. John Henson returns as well.
Henson is very talented but lacked to bulk up this off season and still gives up strength and size in the middle. Alabama transfer Justin Knox provides the third leg to this short rotation of big men. The Wear twins could have played a major role as well had they decided to stay at UNC.
As long as the team stays healthy, there should be no issues for the Heels to return to the big dance in March and erase the memory of last year’s disappointing season.
UNC enters the season ranked in the No. 8 spot in the AP Poll. Watch for this team to make a strong run at the top again this year.