Monday, January 18, 2010

Trouble in Carolina?!?! Tar Heels having a rough 2010.

If you have trouble deciding how to celebrate after a big win, here are some rules to live by. Storming the Court

Moving on....

There are very few seasons in recent Carolina history that anyone could describe as 'disappointing' Under Roy Williams' guidance this team has won 2 National Championships within the last 5 years. A pretty remarkable feat. It's this type of success that has made expectations through the roof for these 2009-2010 Tar Heels, and it now appears like they aren't ready to handle them. While they have taken care of much less talented teams they have fallen flat (to say the least) against the big time programs that they are use to competing (and usually beating) with. Experience is a huge advantage in college basketball so to really understand what happened to UNC this season you must realize what they lost from last year's team. The Heels lost 4 players (3 in the first round) to the 2009 NBA draft and question marks about who would step up this season were abound. That's a point guard (Ty Lawson, a junior), a shooting guard (Wayne Ellington, a junior), a small forward (Danny Green), and a dominant power forward (Tyler Hanbrough). There is not a team in the country that could with stand the loss of this type of talent and pick up where they left off. With that said, this is college basketball and players come and go all the time. Ole Roy didn't prepare well enough for these departures.

Green and Hansbrough had already exhausted their eligibility. Nothing Roy could do about that. In fact, he did a great job of bringing in several talented post options for Hansbrough's last season (2008 class) and for the first year post Psycho-T (2009 class). Both Ed Davis and Tyler Zeller were top tier post players in the class of 2008 while the same could be said for John Henson in the class of 2009. But, the name of the game in college basketball is guard play, and this is truly where Roy came up short in terms of preparing the program for the future, more specifically this season. I understand that Lawson and Ellington were only juniors after that National Title in 2009 but everyone knew they were going to leave early after seriously flirting with the decision to go Pro after the 2007-2008 season. I suspect Roy was aware of this as well as he brought in 4 star prospect Larry Drew II and lightly recruited 2 guard Justin Watts in the 2008 class. Both of these guys, esp. Drew II, could get spot minutes on a very talented 2007-2008 Tar Heel team and the be ready to play significant minutes the next season. The problem is that Drew II appears to be more the lowly rated 4 star guard that Rivals.com predicted and not the 29th best player in the country like espn.com predicted. This is not a slight on Larry but in all honesty, as a sophomore he is just not equipped to handle the difficult schedule that the Tar Heels face year in to year out. While his 1.98:1 assist to turnover ratio is not horrible he does not make enough plays to turn over the ball as much as he does. The turnover issue has really reared its ugly head during the big games for not only Drew, but the team as a whole.

As we further examine the backcourt issues we can also look to the lack of production from wing positions to see where Roy Williams' recruiting in preparation for this season has fallen short. Williams had 5 wings at his disposal (including Watts) to work this year. One is 6'5 senior Marcus Ginyard, a defensive stalwart on prior teams that is only eligible this season due to an injury from last season. He's a nice player but not someone you can go to for offensive production. Will Graves is the other upperclassmen wing on the roster. This 6'6 240lbs. bull of a guard/forward has nice touch from three point range but not enough ball handling ability to really create his own shots. This is evidenced by the fact that while he shoots 40% from beyond the arc he shoots only 39% within it. Graves is really the only guard that Williams can rely on for outside shooting and in big games he has come up short. In the 5 losses against major competition, Graves has shot 17-53 (32%) from the field. This is usually a recipe for disaster for a team's best perimeter player against big time programs, or really any d-1 program for that matter.

The underclassmen wings, lead by 2009 McDonalds All American Dexter Strickland, just aren't ready to take on the responsibility of primary scorer this season. Strickland, the best of the bunch is a combo guard known for his ability to create off the dribble. Dexter's done a great job in being a a spark but he's not a very effective perimeter shooter and has had his fair share of turnover problems as well. Frosh two guard Leslie McDonald, another highly rated guard has great size and a great outside shot but he has only recently started to get good minutes. The presumption here is that his defense was not up to par in the first part of the season. Hurting him even more is that although he's known as a shooter he's currently shooting 16% from the three point line. It is way too early to right either player off as both are very young and will be productive before their time at Carolina is finished but a program of Carolina's stature shouldn't be in a position where the two most talented wings on their roster are backup freshman guards. The thinking is that Roy didn't beef up this part of the roster in the recruiting classes after that monster class 2006 class (Lawson, Ellington, Wright, Thompson, Stevenson, Graves). Carolina can basically pick and choose which kids they want. At the school where the greatest two guard of all time got it started Roy should have no problem convincing big time two guards to sit on the bench a bit for a year before being major stars in years 2, 3, and 4.

Currently this Carolina team is built inside out and that strategy just doesn't work in college basketball. Guard play is important to not only score the ball but also just to limit turnovers. I have to think Roy is kicking himself for not bringing in a single player in the class of 2007, esp. at the guard spot. Sure, he might have had to encourage a few kids like Graves or Watts to move on but their guard situation would have been much better at this point. This Carolina team as it stands is ill equipped for this season due to UNC's recruiting mistakes. Fortunately for them Roy has already fixed this for the upcoming 2010-11 season as Roy brings in 3 guards that all rank within the top 20 players in the country, two of which are top 10 and both can shoot. In fact, one is espn.com's best player in the country, 6'8 Harrison Barnes from Ames, Iowa. Apparently the kid is Kobe like in terms of his work ethic but plays more like Paul Pierce. Look for yourself.


Harrison Barnes, #1 ranked high school player in the country....



ACC Ballers Dunk of the Week:

Georgia Tech junior Gani Lawal had a mean put back at Duke....