The North Carolina Tar Heels have been so up and down in the last few years. After making the National Championship game and losing in heartbreaking fashion, their future is uncertain. Unlike Duke and Kentucky, UNC has trouble recruiting the high-level talent year in and out. Head Coach Roy Williams has been scrutinized for the team’s lack of success. Seeing Duke, UConn, Louisville, Kentucky and even Villanova win The National Championship recently, you have to believe Tar Heels’ fans are ready to see their team reach the promised land.
The 2015-2016 Year in Review:
After the stars of the famed organization left for the draft, you have to wonder who can take over the role of “go-to guy” for these Tar Heels. PF Brice Johnson and PG Marcus Paige were the two best players on last year’s team. They both were drafted to the NBA and have moved on with their Professional basketball careers. PG Joel Berry II became an emerging star in the 2015 season and often carried the offense when Paige saw double teams. SG Justin Jackson was seen as the next heir to stardom but it didn’t seem to click for him being the 4th “go-to guy”. Kennedy Meeks played well while splitting minutes with then backup PF/C Isaiah Hicks. SF Theo Pinson was seen as the next great to don the famous UNC shirt but injuries constantly hampered his season. The chemistry of this team was still great as they made a blistering run in the NCAA tournament. Villanova also made it as the hot team and underdog, they pulled out the win in the National Championship by a game-winning buzzer beater by Kris Jenkins. No question that the loss was a devastating one but this year they are back. The talent isn’t as great as the year prior, they are just as strong in depth to make another run.
The make-up of this year Tar Heels’ team is entirely different but Head Coach Roy Williams’s style and philosophy won’t waiver. Coach Roy loves to play inside-out basketball (the way the game was meant to be played) and they have the requisite players to do so. Adding two former Mr. Basketball award winners from their respective states will help a great deal. Mr. Basketball is awarded to the best high school player in the state and PG Seventh Woods and PF Tony Bradley both won in Florida and South Carolina. Seventh Woods is a 6’2 combo guard that can spell Joel Berry and even play alongside him. Coach Roy’s hope is they can develop a real chemistry in the backcourt like Berry and Paige once had. Seventh is a pretty well-rounded player. He has a good shot from all levels, can finish at the rim with both hands, a creator of offense off the dribble and has the size to match up with point and shooting guards. Meanwhile, Tony Bradley is a 6’10 big man that has good size and quickness. He has really good low post footwork, good finishing around the rim, a relentless rebounder and can defend multiple positions. The trouble for him will come when they need post scoring but that’s what C Kennedy Meeks is for. After toning down the weight, you can really see the skills of Meeks shine at times. He lacks athleticism that most would want for the new-age centers but he makes up with strength and good positioning. Even though his footwork could use some touching up he has really improved. Adding a jump hook and drop step are vital for him to be able to score consistently.
With leaders like Joel Berry and Kennedy Meeks, The Tar Heels are primed to make another run at the Final Four. Theo Pinson is yet again injured in what could be a small blessing in disguise. In October he fractured his fifth metatarsal in his foot and was diagnosed to be out for 8-12 weeks. Lately, doctors have been examining Pinson’s foot and he should be back in the next couple of weeks. With Pinson’s injury, Justin Jackson stepped up big time averaging 17.1 points per game, which leads the team, and 4.8 rebounds. Berry will have to validate his Preseason All-American selection and lead this team if they want to make a real run. He’s been scoring well averaging 15.6 points per game and his 4.9 assists are a team high. The key to this team reaching the Final Four will be on Kennedy Meeks, Isaiah Hicks, and Tony Bradley. If the big men can consistently dominate their matchups on both ends of the court Roy Williams’s system will work perfectly and allow guards space to be effective from the outside. With so much tough competition this year it won’t be an easy road to make the Final Four.