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2013-2014 Season Preview: No. 12 North Carolina Tar Heels

Oct 17, 2013, 9:00 AM EDT

Roy Williams AP

All month long, CBT will be rolling out our 2013-2014 season preview. Check back throughout the day, as we’ll be posting three or four preview items every day.

To browse through the preview posts we’ve already published, click here. The rest of our Top 25 Countdown can be found here. For a schedule of our previews for the month, click here.

Last Season: 25-11, 12-6 ACC (3rd); Lost to Kansas in the Round of 32

Head Coach: Roy Williams (11th season at UNC: 282-79 overall, 117-45 ACC)

Key Losses: Reggie Bullock, Dexter Strickland

Newcomers: Nate Britt, Isaiah Hicks, Kennedy Meeks

Projected Lineup

- G: Marcus Paige, So.
- G: Leslie McDonald, Sr.
- F: P.J. Hairston, Jr.
- F: James Michael McAdoo, Jr.
- C: Brice Johnson, So.
- Bench: Nate Britt, Fr.; J.P. Tokoto, So.; Isaiah Hicks, Fr.; Kennedy Meeks, Fr.; Joel James, So.; Desmond Hubert, Jr.

They’ll be good because …: The Tar Heels certainly don’t lack the talent. Of the 11 players that figure to have a shot at seeing time in the North Carolina rotation, 10 were four-star recruits coming out of high school. Three — P.J. Hairston, James Michael McAdoo and Isaiah Hicks — were five-star recruits. There aren’t many programs in the country that can boast that kind of talent, and what’s more is that the Heels have a nice blend of veterans — senior Leslie McDonald, juniors Hairston and McAdoo — and promising newcomers.

One of the issues last season was that freshman Marcus Paige was the only point guard on the roster, and he wasn’t a natural fit for the kind of system that Roy Williams likes to play. Not only does he now have another year under his belt, but he’ll be joined in the back court by Nate Britt, a talented freshman with the quicks to really push the ball up and down the floor.

Oh, and how could I forget: Hairston didn’t actually get booted off the team after a summer spent running afoul of the law. He only got suspended, which was huge news for a team that doesn’t have a ton of perimeter depth.

source:

AP photo

But they might disappoint because …: They have so many question marks up front. Last season, North Carolina made their run late in the season when they switched to a smaller lineup, using McAdoo as their center and playing Reggie Bullock and Hairston, bigger wings that can score on the perimeter, at the forwards spots. It made UNC a difficult team to defend. But with Bullock off to the NBA and a front line that goes six-deep, the Heels will likely revert to using a more traditional lineup.

But what do we really know about those big men? McAdoo has all the talent and potential in the world, but he’s yet to really define himself as a player. He’s not a back-to-the-basket scorer but he’s not a face-up four man. Is he simply an athlete that can do some impressive things in transition? Brice Johnson reportedly put on about 20 pounds this offseason, but he’s still only about 207 pounds. Kennedy Meeks and Joel James have the ability to be the low-post threat that makes North Carolina so dangerous, but can they run the floor? Are they in good enough shape to really be effective? Is Isaiah Hicks ready to contribute as a freshman, or is he just an athlete as well? Would UNC fans really feel comfortable with Desmond Hubert as their starting center?

Outlook: Last year, North Carolina was able to turn their season around by going small and playing even faster than they already do. But that wasn’t a long-term answer to what ails them. It was a quick fix, a band-aid that covered up a bigger problem. When Roy Williams’ teams are doing what his system is designed to do, the two most important pieces he has are: a) a point guard that can distribute the ball and push it up the floor, either via the dribble or via the pass; and b) a big man that can beat people down the floor in transition and has to be double-teamed when he catches the ball on the block. Think about it: Ty Lawson, Ray Felton and Kendall Marshall. Sean May, Tyler Hansbrough and Tyler Zeller.

Do the Heels have that this year? James and Kennedy can score in the post, but they might struggle to beat the UNC beat writers down the floor. Johnson, Hicks and McAdoo can get out and run, but do any of them scare you on the block? And what about the point guard spot? Paige wasn’t a great fit last year, and while having Britt will help, he’s still a freshman. There are a lot of good basketball players on this team, and they’re led by a head coach that’s won two national titles since 2005, but I’m having trouble seeing how all these pieces come together.

  1. lundy337 - Oct 17, 2013 at 5:06 PM

    Rob,

    You love you some car heels don’t you? I really like how you just completely glossed over the entire team’s problems with illegal benefits! THE problem wasn’t the gun and drugs that PJ ran afoul of the law with! No that’s not the problem. THE problem is that the car he was driving on that fateful night and the other car he’s been ticketed in before and been seen driving in many videos online and tweeted about were rentals provided to him by a felon. And lets not forget the expensive custom mouthgards that PJ and other team members have been provided by unc Dental School alums and then their photos used in online marketing to support the products.

    How many other team member have been in on the “wheels for heels” program? Is the NCAA looking into this? Who knows!?!
    How can Ol’ Roy know if his players will even be eligible to play this year? When similar acts occurred in unc’s football program, most of the team’s stars were implicated and had to sit out for the year, but somehow Roy knows that PJ will play? I find that amazing. The other thing I find amazing is how you don’t even mention this…..

    • shafted1 - Oct 17, 2013 at 10:58 PM

      Now Rob… you know the NCAA will prolong their investigation for a few years should they ever get around to an investigation at all. Give them about four years and they’ll declare insufficient evidence of any wrongdoing whatsoever. How could you forget the preferential status of the Tar Heels in the eyes (or pockets) of the NCAA?

  2. shafted1 - Oct 17, 2013 at 11:35 PM

    Mr. Dauster, It appears you are giving entirely too much credit to the Tar Heels. If the Tar Heels possessed as much talent or depth as you claim, why would Roy Williams even need PJ Hairston on their roster? The coach disgraced the university, the athletic director and himself in an effort to keep the arrogant, self-serving blowhard on the team. One screw up could be overlooked but Hairston didn’t stop at one. He had the audacity to do it twice more! Three screw ups in such a short period of time is pure arrogance and inexcusable.

    You obviously have a ‘soft spot’ for UNC which raises the question, why aren’t you along with every alumni, booster, student and faculty member of UNC angry about the Hairston fiasco? The only integrity displayed thus far is from the tutor who resigned in response to the whole ordeal. That gentleman would’ve been fired had he done what Hairston did and that holds true for anyone employed by the university.

    UNC should be on a fast track for the infamous ‘death penalty.’

  3. jay2fo75 - Oct 18, 2013 at 9:50 AM

    Ok I understand that the Tarheels have a following that hate the program. I am a UNC fan and I was upset at PJ also. But what it boils down to is that he had 3 speeding tickets and a weed charge that was dismissed. The laws of the State of NC has nothing to do with UNC. Being a parent of teenagers, they will get speeding tickets,,,he just happened to get 3 in an short period of time. The gun found had no prints of anyone in the car,,,,so how did they throw it out,,,,did they have on gloves??? NO,,, The only issue here is “Fats” with the rentals. It is always so easy for haters to say kick him off the team, but everyone deserve a second chance. If he screw up again then kick him off. If he would have just got the 3 speeding tickets without the mention of weed or a possible gun, it never would have made the news. The only driving PJ should be doing for a while is to the basket. Give the kid a break!!!

    • lundy337 - Oct 18, 2013 at 2:37 PM

      The reason people hate the car heels is because of their hypocrisy. It’s easy to hate a program that has “claimed” virtue for decades and has been willing to throw other programs under the bus all while claiming how they are spotless and do things the right way….
      They are a lie, everything from their ficticious graduation rates, to their pompous we are better than you attitudes even though it is just a public school, to bragging about the “carolina way” or in PJ’s case “weigh”.

      Remember 2 of PJ’s tickets came in cars supplied to him by Fatz the felon. Why does a felon loan a car to a college basketball player??? Hmmmm….
      I will give you the benefit of the doubt to the gun and drugs. Charges have been dropped concerning those issues, which seems appropriate. However, PJ is not your normal “person on the street.” He’s representing a University, he should continue on his merry way free from serving time at a lower division, maybe Elizabeth City State or NC Central, and play ball there.

      Any association with drugs/guns regardless of how small should not be tolerated, especially from a University with such a tragic association with gun violence….
      Since you’re just a fan you probably have no real association with the university so perhaps you should google unc Student body president. If your opinion on PJ is still “he should play, just a kid, etc.” then you shouldn’t be a fan of such a liberal university in the first place…

    • shafted1 - Oct 18, 2013 at 2:51 PM

      I will respond by referring you to the Chane Behanan situation at Louisville. Rick Pitino handled that situation appropriately by placing the student first rather than the athlete or the team. Roy Williams placed the athlete first rather than protecting the university or the student.

      UNC has more than enough against them to warrant the NCAA’s ‘death penalty’ already. PJ Hairston knew that and still behaved recklessly and did so with all the arrogance he could muster. How many ‘second chances’ are necessary for this kid to understand that he must follow the rules like every other student athlete? He’s already taken advantage of two! Why should he be allowed to get away with behavior that would surely lead to the dismissal of any faculty member?

      Hairston’s issues are on a personal level which should be addressed without the distraction of basketball. The coach should teach the student athletes how to be successful in life as well as on the court. The opportunity to represent the university is a privilege, not a birthright!

      UNC alumni, students and faculty should be focused on cleaning up their athletic department as a result of the football scandal and the ‘grades for play’ fiasco rather than winning.

  4. nyheels29 - Oct 18, 2013 at 11:19 AM

    Brice Johnson won’t start. The 5 spot is reportedly a “50-50″ battle right now between Joel James and Kennedy Meeks, both of whom have lost significant weight this offseason in order to fit Roy’s system better.

    Brice right now isn’t in that picture at all. He will be coming off the bench and will actually likely not be that big of a piece of the rotation, I hear that Isaiah Hicks has been outplaying him so far.

  5. jay2fo75 - Oct 18, 2013 at 4:10 PM

    How many kids have got kicked out of college for being “CONVICTED” of 3 speeding tickets? How many college players have got kicked off a team for having 3 speeding tickets? The law is dealing with the facts. The NCAA is going to deal with the facts. The gun issue is getting old. I stay in Durham where this happened and one thing about the Durham Police is, that if there was any way under the sun, they would have charged somebody with it. This has nothing to do with the football issues. So I would like to know which faculty member was fired for speeding tickets or going to a drug class for weed possession? I am aware of the whole situtaion about the student body president and it is sad you bring that up on an issue like this,,,but people like you can’t stick to the issue. The only issue left to be solved is the “Fats” issue. PJ issues are that he is a bad driver #1 and was caught with some weed. He admitted to being a recreational smoker and that he knew Fats rented the car for him. He must regain the confidence in his coach and the University, so that is the real second chance.

    • lundy337 - Oct 18, 2013 at 5:24 PM

      I agreed the law was “dealing” with the facts. PJ is a free man…. just like OJ. That’s doesn’t mean they aren’t guilty. A university’s reputation hinges on good PR and unc doesn’t need anymore bad PR. The only reason the gun issue is getting old is because it is being allowed to continue on. If this issue was with any other student or faculty member they would likely be dismissed. Somehow PJ continues on just to win a few more games. Adopt-a-mater’s like you are feeding the frenzy to win at all costs and could care less about reputations. Any school with a backbone regarding it’s reputation would have kicked PJ to the curb a long time ago and not just because of the gun/drugs but also because of the agents/impermissible benefits/cars/speeding/drinking/ possibly what else do we not know about because it isn’t like unc is going to tell us!

      The football issue is very relevant. The entire institution is on probation, not just football. Which is probably why the NCAA is dragging it’s feet because it can’t put Penn State like penalties on one of it’s favorite children.

      So PJ is a recreational smoker? How then did he pass all his drug tests that the atheletic dept. should be running on him?

      The Fatz issue if properly investigated will explode and we will still be talking about it 3 years from now just like unc’s football program.

      The university’s reputation issue is over. It’s in the gutter now. Expect PJ to have a mediocre year on the road. The taunting will be incredible and the announcers will talk about it at length during every game whether he is on the bench or otherwise. Do not expect PJ to be back for Kentucky….

      The SBP situation is sad. It is also sad that you don’t see the association between the two or the irony. She was a great person. I’m not saying PJ should be thrown under the bus, just that his services or those that choose to carry on like him, are no longer needed. It would set a tone that behavior or association with those types of behaviors are not tolerated on the team. To do otherwise is an injustice to her memory.

      Expect more thugery at unc if things don’t change. And unlike you there is a growing population of alumni who are unhappy with the collective black eyes the FB and BB teams have caused that are finding better things to do with their money than to donate to the university…

  6. jay2fo75 - Oct 18, 2013 at 4:27 PM

    And by the way this is Rick Pitino’s exact statement:

    “He had a number of suspensions last year, so this was not one thing,” Pitino told ESPN.com. “It was many different things, and the AD and I just sat down and said he’s got to get his head right and his life right before he plays another basketball game.”

    I never heard of the suspensions last year on Chane Behanan,,,,wonder why? His situation has been going on for 2 years. It sounds like he had plenty of chances to correct himself after each suspesnion. PJ has been suspended once and this is his chance to make it right. Fact!

    • shafted1 - Oct 18, 2013 at 10:34 PM

      It is a sad day indeed when any reasonable adult sets out to justify the pattern of behavior of what once was (or at least claimed to be) a reputable public university. There is not any excuse for the continued misconduct of the university or its athletic department. However, the ‘holier than thou’ attitude exhibited by the administration, athletic department and the coaches is disgraceful. Not to mention all the other faculty and staff who were drug into their shameful misdeeds.

      Hairston’s arrogance developed over a much longer period of time than this past summer. Those speeding tickets are the least of his concerns. Well.. almost; his least concern has been for the university whom he represents! The use of a vehicle provided to any student athlete is expressly prohibited, and specifically identified as a violation of NCAA rules. That rule was instituted long before Hairston came along and will remain so long after he is gone.

      Shame on you for attempting to downplay his misconduct as nothing more than three traffic violations! Shame on you for attempting to disqualify the ‘pattern’ of misconduct of the university! Shame on the university president for his (or her) lack of institutional control!

      The public has every right to demand better from the University of North Carolina since taxpayer dollars fund that ‘public’ institution. The university president owes it to the public in general, the state, the city and the community to protect the school’s reputation and credibility. UNC is far more important than winning a few games in a university sponsored sport. Roy Williams is a sad excuse for a coach for selling his integrity for a chance to add another win or two to his stats. He could better serve the young man by removing the distraction of basketball from the kids growing list of problems.

  7. robyoung23 - Oct 21, 2013 at 3:46 PM

    Carolina all the way baby!!!!!! Tho is epitome of a university filled with class

  8. lundy337 - Oct 21, 2013 at 11:10 PM

    Sure it’s filled with class; fake classes, no-show classes, 6-hours credit for a plagiarized paper classes, fraudulent grade change classes, professor’s names forged as professor of record classes, graduates that didn’t take the right amount of courses to graduate classes, classes equivalent to an African drug lord degree (aka naval weapons / drugs), I hear Fats teaches part of that as an open no-credit elective.

    Under investigation and probation by the Southern Academy of Colleges and Schools (SACS).

    Sure keep thinking its the epitome of something, but high class isn’t one of them. Cheating maybe…
    Unc ain’t no Duke or Harvard when it comes to academics, no matter what they claim about themselves.

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