Friday, November 6, 2009
UNC Tar Heels Basketball 2009-2010 Season Preview Megapost
The Tar Heels' season tips off on Monday night against Zeke Thomas' Florida International Squad. While there should not be too much trepidation regarding the opener, especially after FIU's exhibition loss to NAIA school Northwood, the team is as packed with questions as it is with talent. However, at least to me this is not necessarily a bad thing as it serves as a nice change of pace following national championship expectations over the past three years. This post will be dedicated to taking a look into what we may be able to expect from this team including thoughts on the starting lineup and all of the major players, ranking the ten best games on the schedule, and my prediction for how the season will unfold.
Player Thoughts and Expectations
Larry Drew II (PG)- Drew the Deuce is certainly the potential starter who fans have the most reservations about. While Drew certainly has hitches in his game (particularly his shooting), I am convinced after watching him in limited action last season that he can be an effective point guard for this team. The caveat is that he cannot be the type of effective point guard we have grown accustomed to here at Chapel Hill. He does not have the speed, driving ability, or three point shooting of Felton or Lawson. What he does have is a natural ability to make good passes and rack up statistics in the assist category. Also his taller and longer frame allows him better defensive skills. While it would be unfair to make the comparison at this point in his career, expect Drew II to be a guard more in the mold of Ed Cota this season.
Dexter Strickland (PG/SG)- If Drew does falter, Strickland could possibly step up and run the offense. As it stands I think he will see time coming off the bench at both the 1 and 2 guard positions. All reports indicate that Stickland is an unselfish player who knows the game and is willing to work hard on both ends of the court. He will develop offensively as his career at Carolina goes on but for this season he looks to be a key reserve who can make an impact off the bench with great defense and good slashing ability.
Leslie McDonald (SG)- At this point McDonald, or as I have nicknamed him "McFlurry" (cue Dickie V: "This diaper dandy McDonald is a McFlurry out there on the court") , seems to be the most unknown commodity of the players on the roster who may see significant time. Like Stickland. McDonald may not be a potent weapon offensively right off the bat, but can contribute due to good court sense.
Marcus Ginyard (SG/SF)- After having to watch his peers cut down the nets in Detroit from the bench, Ginyard is probably itching to get back on the court and literally lead this young but talented team back to the Final Four. While he has worked on his jumpshot Ginyard will always be most valueable as a lockdown defender, something last year's team dearly missed at times. In fact this team may be one of the best defensive Carolina teams in recent memory. Ginyard also has the ability to handle the ball and could take over the point guard duties in a pinch.
Justin Watts (SG)- Watts probably won't see signficant minutes this season, but he does look to have improved over the summer and probably won't be a liability if called on to play some minutes in relief this season. Then again with a team that is so unproven in the backcourt, Watts has a chance to earn more significant minutes if he can score on the offensive end.
William Graves (SF)- Oh Will Graves, how unintentionally hilarious your career at North Carolina has been. Like Ginyard, Will "Cheech" Graves also had to miss out on contributing for a national title last season. However unlike Ginyard, it was his fault. Graves is slighly overweight, not particularly quick, and may be a subpar defender. However he is also the only player on the roster who seems to be able to knock down treys with any consistency. If he works his way into shape he could fill the Rayshawn Terry role and be a major contributer. If not he may lose his spot to this next guy sooner rather than later.
John Henson (SF/PF)- I'm really not sure that Henson belongs at the SF position. His outside shooting appears sketchy and while he is a good ball handler I'm not sure if he is great (of course neither was Danny Green). However, I love the move of putting him at the three because it causes matchup nightmares on both ends of the court. On the offensive end, Henson will give opposing teams nightmares with his size and speed. Defensively Henson should give opposing SF's problems getting up a clean shot and should also rack up some blocks in the paint. If he bulks up a bit and starts shooting well outside Henson could become a poor man's Kevin Durant.
Ed Davis (PF)- Davis has the most potential to be a superstar on the team. With his long frame and impressive agility, he's already one of the best rebounders and shot blockers in the ACC. If he can develop more offensively and become a legitimate double-double threat, it will be very hard for teams to match up with UNC in the frontcourt.
Deon Thompson (PF)- The only significant member of the class of 2010 remaining on the roster, Thomson has been equally promising and inconsistent throughout his career at UNC. He has improved every season and with Hansbrough out of the way this could be the season that Thompy finally puts it all together. I expect numbers around 16 PPG and 8 RPG for Thompson, and if he can do that UNC will have the best frontcourt in the nation.
Tyler Zeller (C)- When I walked by Zeller during the later part of the summer I was amazed at how much muscle he had put on. He still looks goofy as ever, but he no longer is a beanpole. Hopefully that will translate into Zeller becoming more physical around the rim on offense. While he has a sweet hook shot he needs to take a page out of the book of another Tyler and get physical near the rim both scoring and rebounding. The presence of Zeller should be crucial not only in adding to a loaded frontcourt but also in giving Davis and Thompson relief.
David/Travis Wear (PF)- The Wears seem to play like upperclassmen and should both be crucial glue guys. They both are relatively strong in the paint and at least one of them demonstrated impressive range on the jumpshot during Late Night With Roy. Thing 1 and Thing 2 should be perfect glue guys who can give the starters at 3 and 4 a rest without the team dropping off too much.
Expected Starting Lineup/Depth Chart
PG: Drew II/Stickland
By Season's End
PG: Drew II/Strickland
The Ten Best Games of the Season
10) @Maryland (Feb 7)
Of all the teams in the ACC, the Terrapins seem to have had the most success against Carolina. Maryland returns a veteran team led by the perpetually hateable Grevis Vasquez. The vicious college park crowd will also add to the atmosphere and getting a win there would be a testament to the fortitude of UNC's young team.
9) @N.C. State (Jan 26)
It won't be a good or exciting game, but it's always fun to watch UNC beat up on State.
8) Ohio State at Madison Square Garden (Nov 19)
What should be the first major challenge of the year against a solid OSU team. The fact that it is on the national stage will make it that much more exciting. Also for me this is somewhat of a sentimental matchup as the first Tar Heel game I attended was against #1 OSU my freshman year (2006).
7) @Clemson (Jan 13)
Clemson has come oh so close to taking out Carolina in the past several years and you've got to think that this may be one of their best chances, especially with Wayne Ellington off in the NBA. With talented recruits and a returning Trevor Booker, the Tigers are a formidable foe and manage to catch Carolina at home early in the season where
6) Georgia Tech (Jan 16)
I thought I may be flying under the radar with my designation of the Yellow Jackets as my 2009-2010 sleeper team this summer, but apparently not. The Jackets are being picked to finish in the top half of the ACC behind returning stars Ian Shumpert and Gani Lawal alongside mega recruit Derrick Favors. In addition to the Balboa-Creed (fiesty newcomer versus reigning champ) angle, the matchup of Favors and Lawal versus Davis and Thompson should be a delight to watch.
5) Duke (Feb 10)
Other than the fact that it is Duke, this game may be a good chance for the Dookies to get a win against a Tar Heels team that still may not have melded by this point. I intend to be at the Smith Center that night in what should be a very hyped game since UNC is defending champs.
4) Texas at Cowboys Stadium (Dec 19)
Texas may be the most dangerous team on the Tar Heels schedule as they have a frontcourt that can match up with UNC's and a very good backcourt as well. Among the many great matchups watching fifth year senior Marcus Ginyard try to shut down mega-frosh Avery Bradley may be the most intriguing.
3) Michigan State (Dec 1)
Gotta love a national title rematch. Everything says the Spartans should win as they have a more veteran team and will have a taste for revenge. That said, Roy seems to own Tom Izzo and the Tar Heels will look to prove themselves on a national stage.
2) @Kentucky (Dec 5)
The top two countries in the nation with regards to total wins. The tar heels follow up their national title rematch with a perhapes even more hyped matchup at Rupp between two very promising but young teams should be very entertaining. The Heels hold the edge in the frontcourt while John Wall of the wildcats should give whoever is guarding him nightmares. Ashely Judd should at least feel better about her chances this year.
1) @Duke (Mar 6)
Could it be anything else? Duke will want to prevent UNC from grabbing a fifth straight at Cameron Indoor and the Tar Heels should be a more experienced team by this point. Onc again this could determine the ACC championship. Duke-UNC is almost always will be #1 (and on a side note should be a very intriguing football matchup this Saturday).
-Record: 24-7 (Losses: MSU, @Texas, @Clemson, @Maryland, @ GT, Wake Forest, @ Duke)
-ACC Regular Season Runner Up (Duke ACC champion)
-ACC Tournament Champion
Elite Eight Appearance