Coach: Roy Williams (11th season, 282-79 at UNC; 700-180 overall)
2012-13 record: 25-11 (12-6 ACC, third)
Postseason: NCAA tournament, 1-1 (beat Villanova, lost to Kansas)
Projected starting lineup: PG Marcus Paige, G P.J. Hairston, G Leslie McDonald, F James Michael McAdoo, F Isaiah Hicks
• P.J. Hairston and James Michael McAdoo both decided to return for the 2013-14 season. By the end of the 2012-13 season, Hairston developed into the best player on the team, averaging 18.2 points over the final 13 games.
To give you an idea of the strides Hairston, a scoring guard, made from his freshman to sophomore seasons, he made 13 3-pointers (in 27 attempts) in three ACC tournament games in 2013. As a freshman, Hairston made eight 3-pointers during the *entire* conference season.
Hairston's 3-point numbers went from 27.3 percent (38 of 139) in 2012 to 39.6 percent (89 of 225) in 2013. He also contributed 4.3 rebounds and 43 steals as a sophomore.
McAdoo, while not the dominant force he was expected to be as a sophomore, still led the team with 7.3 rebounds, 54 steals and averaged 14.4 points per game (second to Hairston's 14.6 season average). McAdoo either hates money or really loves UNC, because he has turned down the NBA — and a spot in the first 20 picks of the draft — twice to play for the Tar Heels instead.
• Marcus Paige developed at the point as the season progressed. Roy Williams showed a lot of faith in the undersized point guard, who should be stronger and more confident as a sophomore. There were games, up through January, where Paige was getting turned inside out on the defensive end but Williams stuck with him and that decision will yield more dividends this season.
• The addition of forwards Isaiah Hicks and Kennedy Meeks, both McDonald's All-Americans from the state, provides reinforcements inside. Williams went to a smaller lineup, with Hairston starting over the final 13 games, because he couldn't get enough consistent production from the group of bigs (Desmond Hubert, Joel James and Brice Johnson). All three will be back, and Johnson has the biggest upside, and will get significant help from Hicks and Meeks.
• Judging by their own impossible standards, this UNC group is still not on the level of Williams' previously ultra-talented teams. Hairston and McAdoo are pros, to be sure, and there's a total of five McDonald's All-Americans on the roster, but as a whole, the roster is still a notch below Williams' best teams.
• The Tar Heels went 3-9 against teams in the NCAA tournament last season, including the 1-1 record in the tournament. They improved as the season progressed but only to the point where it could beat the teams they were supposed to beat.
The six straight wins after Hairston was put in the starting the lineup came against Virginia (NIT), Georgia Tech, N.C. State (lost in the round of 64), Clemson, FSU (NIT) and Maryland (NIT).
They'll have to get better this season, carrying over the momentum from the finish, without the services of Reggie Bullock. Unlike McAdoo and Hairston, Bullock jumped to the NBA. His versatility, defense and rebounding really made the four-guard lineup work last season will be tougher to replace (and probably by a combination of Leslie McDonald and J.P Tokoto) in a tougher ACC race.
Most UNC fans panicked last year after lopsided losses to Indiana and Texas. Williams did some of his best coaching work in not only in winning 12 ACC games but in also keeping the team from splitting apart, like it did in 2011. Williams never seems to get enough credit from his own fan base for the work he does.
Williams will get 13 or 14 ACC wins out of this team and the Tar Heels will have a shot at another Final Four run but that will require a leap from both McAdoo and Paige (like the one Hairston made last year).
In the ACC, there's not much difference between UNC, Syracuse, Notre Dame and Virginia. The Heels will face the Irish twice but only see the Orange on the road and have to play Duke twice, which leaves them at a disadvantage to Notre Dame.
|G P.J. Hairston, Jr.||14.6||4.3||1.4|
|F James Michael McAdoo, Jr.||14.4||7.3||1.1|
|PG Marcus Paige, So.||8.2||2.7||4.6|
|G Leslie McDonald, Sr.||7.2||2.1||1.2|
|F Brice Johnson, So.||5.4||3.2||0.3|
|G J.P. Tokoto, So.||2.6||1.7||0.7|
|F Joel James, So.||2.3||2.4||0.2|
|F Jackson Simmons, Jr.||1.8||1.7||0.3|
|F Desmond Hubert, Jr.||1.1||1.7||0.1|
|G Reggie Bullock (NBA)||13.9||6.5||2.9|
|G Dexter Strickland||7.8||2.4||4.2|
|F Isaiah Hicks, Fr.||6-8||210||18|
|F Kennedy Meeks, Fr.||6-9||275||59|
|PG Nate Britt, Fr.||6-1||165||NR|
Recruiting analysis by ESPN's Dave Telep:
Hicks: "He needs a summer in the weight room and ideally he will blossom as a sophomore because physically he has work to do. He has an excellent perimeter touch and he changes ends very well and he's a factor as a shot blocker. In Carolina's style, he's an ideal fit at the '4' because of the way he can move and run the floor very well."
Meeks: "He will reinvent himself at Carolina. He's in need of a major conditioning program. Once he gets his body in shape, he has good footwork and excellent hands. He could be a weapon rebounding the ball and starting the fast break with his outlet passes.
"He lost his identity last year. He was out of shape and didn't have a particularly strong year. It's really simple for Kennedy, he will help UNC when he gets into better shape and can be a defensive rebounder and trigger the break."
Britt: "Nate rode the prospect roller coaster the last few years. He needs to get his confidence back. He'll be a backup point guard at UNC, but he's very capable of out-playing his reputation. When he stays within himself and he's a passer and leader on the floor, that's when he's at his best. This is a low pressure and positive situation for him to get better."