QUICK RECAP: For a team that lost it's top 7 scorers....this was quite a year for the Heels. If you told me in November that this team would win at Duke, finish 2nd in the ACC, and got to the 2nd round of the NCAA tournament....I wouldn've taken that with a huge smile! Sure, the loss stings right now due to the unexpected rise of this team and the potential road to the Elite 8....but ya can't have everything. Needless to say, that the Armeggedon that many planned for this program this year never materialized.
WHO DO WE LOSE: The only seniors who were in the rotation were David Noel and Byron Sanders. Noel will be missed for his leadership, athleticsm, versatility and the best link to the championship team. Sanders did play his best ball this year, but was primarily Tyler Hansbrough's backup.
WHO DO WE GET BACK: Barring something unforseen, all these guys should be back. The freshman of the year, Tyler Hansbrough, will most likely bulk up some more in the offseason to adapt to the pounding he took and will take in the ACC. Bobby Frasor, Marcus Ginyard and Danny Green will have this first season under their belts and can do their own preperation for another ACC season. Another freshman, Mike Copeland, could also see more minutes since it seemed that Roy Williams has some faith in him. For the non-rooks, the biggest name returning is Reyshawn Terry. Terry had a great second half of the ACC season and became Carolina's best offensive threat, aside from Hansbrough. Terry's role will assuredly expand next year because of the improvement he showed. Two backcourt guys stay, as Wes Miller and Quentin Thomas will return. Miller was the deep shooter that the Heels desperately needed this year....and Thomas may be the most improved Heel of them all. He played too fast last year [and the first part of this year] but something at some time clicked and he was a valued member of the team.
THE NEW GUYS: Wayne Ellington [upper left] and Tywon Lawson [right] could be the starting backcourt for the Heels next year. Also arriving will be Brandan Wright who could take his rightful place alongside Hansbrough along the frontline. Add in center Deon Thompson, William Graves and Alex Stepheson....and the Heels have the #1 recruiting class in the nation, despite not landing the #1 prospect, Greg Oden.
Graves, Wright and Thompson
SO, WHAT WILL THE ROTATION LOOK LIKE: This should be a very, very deep team next year. I would expect Lawson to start at point guard...since Williams loves guards that will push the ball. I would think Ellington would start along side him to keep that running style alive. Hansbrough and Terry will be the heart of the team and will be on that front line. Joining them could be either Brandan Wright or Danny Green. I'd say Wright...since he adds more size and a bit more athleticsm alongside Hansbrough. Okay....that lets Frasor to come in off the bench to run point [not quick, he's a good shooter and excellent distributor]....and maybe Thomas gets minutes to help move the ball along. Miller will get his minutes as a zone crusher, nailing outside shots. Ginyard will be called on to shut down hot wing players. Green is instant energy and do-everything type of guy off the pine. I think Thompson will get the role of backing up Hansbrough....though I think that Wright will move over to the center spot and Green and/or Terry will assume the other forward post.
ROY WILLIAMS' THINKING: Most likely, Williams will try to keep that running style that made the 2005 team so successful. In doing so, Frasor will probably lose his starting job to Lawson. A team with Lawson, Ellington, Wright, Terry and Hansbrough would be a nightmare for teams to keep up with on the break. However, I think that Ginyard or Miller may start ahead of Ellington for defensive purposes if needed. Either way, Williams can employ the Dean Smith philsophy of just bringing fresh bodies in the game to keep the energy pumping, the team running and the opponent reeling.
ANOTHER BRUISING SCHEDULE: The Tar Heels will have a lot to deal with due to another hectic schedule. Carolina has the normal ACC schedule, with 2 games each with Duke, NC State, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech and Wake Forest. We get Virginia, Florida State and Miami at home only.....and Boston College, Maryland and Clemson on the road. Non-conference, there is at Arizona, at Davidson....and home games against Penn and Kentucky [all are 2006 tournament teams]. The Heels also play Dayton and open up in the Preseason NIT [which has Indiana, Notre Dame and Tennessee in it as well]. There are still some more spots left open in the schedule.
THE STATE OF THE ACC: Well, Duke will lose JJ Redick and Sheldon Williams....two All Americans...as well as Lee Melchionni and Sean Dockery. And there are rumors that Josh McRoberts will dip into the draft process. Even if he returns, Duke will be down just a bit....but lethal nonetheless. Boston College loses Craig Smith, Louis Hinnant and possibly Jared Dudley [JD should stay]. Maryland is a young team, but will lose Nick Cader-Medley. NC State will get nailed. They lose Ilian Emtimov, Cameron Bennerman and Tony Bethel. So, UNC will most likely be the only team that improves a great deal heading into next season.
ANNIVERSARY: The 2006-2007 season will mark the 25th anniversary of that 1982 Tar Heel Championship team. That '82 team featured James Worthy, Michael Jordan and Sam Perkins. It will also mark the 50th anniversary of the 1957 team that toppled Wilt Chamberlain in the NCAA Championship game in triple-overtime [just after winning the previous game in 3OTs as well]. Karma??? It will also be the 14th anniversary of the 1993 title team and the 2nd anniversary of the 2005 title teams. Eh, not as thrilling.
MY EXPECTATIONS: Well, I think it could be a championship caliber team. The problem is that most of the guys will either be freshmen or sophomores [only Miller and Terry will get time that are above two years in the program]. Also, this team could be on a "rental basis" Meaning, if Hansbrough has another great year, he may be gone. Ellington, Lawson and Wright would most likely been in the NBA draft this coming June had it not been for the new rules forcing guys into a year in college. This could be the best collection of talent on the Heels since 1984. Anyway, I expect this team to be a contender in the title sweepstakes.