Coach- Roy Williams (6th season)
PG- Ty Lawson (JR): Lawson, commonly known as the Roadrunner, is the motor that makes this North Carolina team go. Roy Williams loves to have his guards break out after a defensive rebound in order to get a quick numbers advantage on the other end, and the speedy Lawson is the perfect guard to execute this strategy. He’s a great decision maker in the open floor, he can shoot from beyond the arc and is really good at finding the slightest holes in opposing defenses. As an underclassman for the Tar Heels, Lawson shot above 50% and had an assist to turnover ratio around 2.5. Not only does he excel with the ball in his hand, but he generates tons of steals with his constant pressure on the defensive end. North Carolina is a completely different team with Lawson at 100% and if he stays healthy all season it’ll be hard to pick against UNC as the national champion.
SG- Wayne Ellington (JR): Smooth. The first word that comes to my head when I watch Ellington. I know ACC basketball fans are probably tired of hearing Dick Vitale rave about how “smooth” Ellington’s game is, but there’s no denying it. He isn’t as quick as Lawson or as athletic as Danny Green, but he has great technique and is deceptive. Ellington is a cold-blooded shooter from beyond the arc and has a fine mid-range game as well. He makes it tough from opponents to double down on Hansbrough because of his shooting ability. He has good size for a guard at 6-4, allowing him to get a nice look at the rim over his defenders. While Hansbrough is out, the Heels are going to look to Ellington to be the primary option on offense. If Williams needs a clutch 3-pointer, Ellington has shown that he’s capable of knocking down big shots.
SF- Marcus Ginyard (SR): What David McClure is to Duke, Marcus Ginyard is to North Carolina, although Ginyard is a bit better. He played the third most minutes for the Tar Heels last season despite contributing only 6.9 PPG. He’s a great defender who does all the little things that don’t show up in the stat sheet and can play four positions. He’s not the most outspoken senior leader, but leads by example with his hustle and hard-working mentality. The Heels have no shortage of scoring options, so Williams just needs Ginyard to do what he does best: defend. Unfortunately, Ginyard is out for eight weeks after undergoing foot surgery meaning the Heels won’t have one of their senior leaders for most – if not all - of their non-conference schedule. Losing a player like Ginyard would be a pretty big hit for most teams, but Danny Green will suit the Tar Heels just fine until December.
PF- Tyler Hansbrough (SR): Nothing comes easy in college basketball, something the Heels are learning as they prepare for the season. In addition to the loss of Ginyard, Hansbrough is out indefinitely is a stress reaction in his leg. Hansbrough should miss only a couple weeks of the season but we’ll see if the possible nagging effects of the injury affect his play. I can’t really say anything else that even the most casual college basketball fans don’t already know about Hansbrough. I’m sure you’re sick and tired of hearing Jay Bilas ball wash Hansbrough, but it’s impossible not to admire somebody who’s undersized and not as athletic as his opponents, but is the best player in the country purely because of his work ethic.
PF- Deon Thompson (JR): The lanky 6-8 junior from California really came along for the Heels last season. He’s got plenty of raw talent but has some work to do technique-wise. Thompson gives North Carolina a shot-blocking presence down low, the only thing that Hansbrough doesn’t provide in the paint. Thompson is an average scorer and rebounder but is very athletic and runs the floor well. I think Thompson will be the most improved player on this North Carolina team when it’s all said and done.
Bench: Last year’s ACC Sixth Man of the Year Danny Green is a starter on any other team in the country. He’s a much better scoring option than Ginyard and is actually a solid shot blocker for a G/F. The Heels really could have used point guard Bobby Frasor last season when Lawson went down. Frasor can come in for Lawson at the point and run the offense with little drop-off. UNC brings in three McDonald’s All-Americans in Tyler Zeller, Ed Davis and Larry Drew Jr. Zeller and Davis will be the first two guys off the bench for the frontcourt while Drew Jr. is the 3rd guard behind Frasor and Green. These five players off the bench would probably be a competitive team in the ACC, which goes to show just how stacked UNC is this season.
Bottom Line: I’ve been a firm believer that no team is capable of going undefeated in college basketball, but looking at this roster gives me second thoughts. They have the best big man in the country, one of the top backcourts in the country and go ten deep. One thing that UNC really needs to improve on from last season if they want to go undefeated is their defense. If they let a team like Michigan State, Duke or even Wake catch fire, they’ll could find themselves in some trouble. This team will get tested early with a very strong Spartan team and will face Notre Dame in the final of the Maui barring a pretty big upset. It’ll be a very tough road especially playing away from home where every crowd fired up to see their team beat the best team in the land.
Key Non-Conference Games: 11/18 vs. Kentucky, 11/24-26 Maui Invitational, 12/3 @ Michigan State,
Key Conference Games: 1/11 @ Wake Forest, 1/17 vs. Miami, 2/11 @ Duke, 3/8 vs. Duke.
Most Valuable Player: Tyler Hansbrough
Projected Postseason: NCAA (National Champion)