Why last season won’t define a new and improved Carolina team
Talent is needed for a team to be good, experience and leadership can make a talented team great when the work is put in.
The Tar heels will have the rare combination of talent and experience on the court this season and through four games this year the squad has looked pretty solid for the most part. After an impressive sophomore campaign where he earned ACC tournament MVP and was one win away from NCAA tournament MVP honors, Joel Berry II looks like the most complete point guard in the ACC and a potential first team All American in 2016-17. Berry runs this fast paced offense and is next man up in a long line of great lead guards that have played here in the past. Junior wing Justin Jackson looks poised for a breakout year his jumper looks good and fluent.
Jackson came in to Chapel Hill boasting a lot of hype as a top 15 player on most major recruiting services and an McDonald’s all American. In order for the Heels to live up to their billing as a potential final four team Jackson will need to be the number one scoring option when they need a bucket.
The backcourt is battled and experienced but also has some spirited youth sprinkled in that should provide depth and valuable minutes. Roy Williams will have to make a decision on who will be the teams starting two guard so far Nate Britt has seen the most minutes at the off guard spot. Most assumed junior Theo Pinson would be slotted in this spot but he went down with an injury prior to the season starting and still remains sidelined.
Two X- factors for the Heels this season could be Kenny Williams and Brandon Robinson both can provide something the Heels have lacked the last few years 3 point shooting.
Williams was known as an all out sniper in high school and Roy was delighted to land him over Tony Bennett and conference rival Virginia. He wasn’t utilized much on last seasons title runner up team but Williams did show potentially what he could be capable of. If the sophomore can shoot it well this year and keep up the defensive intensity he’ll see a major spike in minutes. Robinson will enter his freshman year looking to make immediate contributions, at “6’5” he already has the size of an NBA two guard. He’ll be counted on more down the road but there are minutes up for grabs this season and if he can put the ball in the hoop Roy will have no choice but to let his freshman shine.
First team all American and first round draft pick Brice Johnson is gone and his production will have to be filled with a committee approach. Double-double machine Kennedy Meeks is back for one more go around and looks solid through four games. He will be counted on along with junior big Isiah Hicks.
Hicks played well off the bench last year and even got a few starts for the Tar heels but his biggest challenge will be staying out of foul trouble. When Hick’s is on the court he’s a freak athletically with serious bounce, he’s proven to be an animal on the boards and plays with a high motor. This year he will finally get his chance at a full time starting role with Johnson out of the way in LA this is chance to become the go to guy in the post. So far the guards have done a great job feeding him the ball he’s third on the team in minutes and scoring currently.
The most surprising player this year though has been freshman seven footer Tony Bradley Jr the lone McDonald’s all American of this years freshman class. Bradley is off to a quicker start than most predicted and is currently averaging 1o ppg and 7 boards this year coming off the bench. He is longer and more athletic than Meeks and could possibly challenge him for more minutes throughout the season, especially when the Heels play teams like Kentucky and Duke with quicker longer bigs than Meeks.
Their cross town rivals in Durham have been garnering all the attention early into the college hoops season when everyone is excited about the fresh new faces coming in. This Carolina squad should be able to play with anyone in the ACC and the country at their best Carolina fans rejoice because it’s going to be a good year.