OK, the outlook from Tar Heel Land -
Once again UNC is very young and small. Two junior starters (Zeller and Drew), one junior reserve (Justin Watts - a very athletic 6’4" who may play power foward some (Did I mention small?), and a Senior transfer from Alabama (J. Knox).
The remainder of the scholarship players are Sophomores and Freshmen, headed by Harrison Barnes, the number one recruit in this year’s freshman class. Barnes is a 6’8" forward who purportedly is blessed with an incredible basketball IQ. He does nothing spectacularly, but does everything well, and is focused on making his teammates better.
Frontcourt - C Tyler Zeller 7’ 0" Jr.- Runs the floor well, is an acceptable defender. Excellent passer from the post. Has had injury issues his first two years - a broken wrist his Fr year suffered in the UK game when fouled from behind on a breakaway, and ankle issues (I think) last year. So although he’s been injured, they are the repetitious injuries of a problem area. More of a bad luck type of injury.
PF - John Henson - So. 6’ 10" Really thin last year, has bulked up some. Henson will probably still get shoved around by bigger stronger post players, but he has very good shotblocking skills due to his quick leaping and 7’6" wingspan. His development will be key to UNC’s interior defense. Still needs to develop a post-up move.
Main reserve - Justin Knox 6’ 9"-ish transfer from Alabama. Transferred in as a 5th year senior/grad student. Will provide a body to practice against and 10-15 minutes of rest time per game for Zeller and Henson.
SF - Harrison Barnes 6’8" Fr. - He’s the first freshman in a long time to be a Pre-Season First Team All American. As mentioned above he has the reputation of being a team-first guy. His ability to come in and play well will determine how far the Tar Heels go this year. Barnes will probably be called upon to play some PF this year at times, much like Kyle Singler does over at That School In Durham (aka dook) if Zeller/Henson/Knox get into foul trouble.
SG - Dexter Strickland 6’5" So - Fast and explosive, Strickland spent most of last year trying to be the back-up PG, which didn’t work out that well. The arrival of Kendall Marshall frees him up to move back to his natural position of SG. Reports are that he is one of the most improved players on this year’s team.
PG - Larry Drew II 6’4" Jr. - Son of NBA’er Larry Drew, Drew II is in his third year at UNC. Not the fastest Tar Heel PG, he did display an ability to penetrate the lane and finish at the rim along with a frustrating tendency to commit bad turnovers. Having a great facilitator like Barnes on the team may relieve some pressure on Drew. Can knock down open threes, followed immediately by bricking open threes.
Leslie McDonald - 6’4" So. SG - Not the quickest SG. Balances that out by shooting having a poor 3FG %. Will need to overcome his poor shooting - had a rep as a good shooter coming into UNC.
Kendall Marshall - 6’4" PG Fr. - UNC’s heir appearent at PG. A pass first player, who won’t score many points, but may wind up with an Ed Cota like career. Like most freshman PGs under Roy Williams, he may be overwhelmed at first.
Reggie Bullock - 6’7" SG Fr. - From the same Kinston high school that produced Jerry Stackhouse, Bullock has the rep of an awesome three point shooter. Has the length to present match up problems with most any team’s two guard, can he defend well enough to satisfy Coach Williams? Will get plenty of run at the SF backing up Barnes.
Justin Watts 6’4" Jr - Will play some minutes at SG-SF-PF. Raw, very athletic. Has been compared to former Tar Heel David Noel in terms of athleticism.
UNC is very thin at the post, with only Zeller, Henson, and Knox. Although the Heels can go with a ‘big’ lineup of two of the three post players, Barnes and Bullock, and a 6’4" PG in Drew or Marshall. This team is probably too young to be a serious title contender this year. And with Barnes being rumored to be the No. 1 NBA pick in next year’s draft, there probably won’t be a year two.
If Barnes doesn’t enter the draft, whether he’s concerned about a potential lockout or he pulls a Hansbrough and wants a title, then UNC could be the favorite for the 2012 NCAA tourney. But, that’s probably a pipe dream at this point.
Anyway, the Heels should be MUCH better than they were last year.