NGSC Sports

2014-2015 North Carolina Tar Heels Season Preview

Projected starting lineup

PG Marcus Paige, junior

SG JP Tokoto, junior

SF Justin Jackson, freshman

PF Brice Johnson, junior

C Kennedy Meeks, sophomore

Key reserves: G Nate Britt (sophomore), F Isaiah Hicks (sophomore), C Joel James(junior), G Joel Berry (freshman), G Theo Pinson (freshman)

After starting the 2013-2014 season ranked number 13 in the AP preseason polls, the North Carolina Tar Heels had a disappointing finish to their season. The team would go on to lose in the third round of the NCAA Tournament to the Iowa State Hawkeyes. This season, the Tar Heels are ranked number six in the preseason polls and are looking to win their sixth NCAA Tournament Championship.

North Carolina was picked second in the annual ACC preseason media poll. The Tar Heels received 12 first place votes and 870 total points, which was second to the Duke Blue Devils which finished with 41 first place votes and 935 total votes. The good news for the Tar Heels is they have Marcus Paige, the ACC Preseason Player of the Year.

Paige received 33 votes for ACC Player of the Year while Louisville’s Montrezl Harrell finished in second in the voting (16 votes). Paige was also named ESPN second best player in college basketball in their college basketball rankings.   Last season, Paige led North Carolina in scoring (17.5 PPG) and assists (4.2 APG). The junior should be a Naismith College Player of the Year candidate, provided the Tar Heels are playing well.

While North Carolina is led by Paige, the team certainly has other players that are more than capable of being a factor this season. 6-9 junior power forward Brice Johnson averaged 10.3 points and 6.1 rebounds a season ago. He has increased his weight up to 228 pounds. That’s more than 40 pounds than when Johnson arrived in Chapel Hill two years ago.

North Carolina also has sophomore center Kennedy Meeks, who averaged 7.6 points and 6.1 rebounds in limited minutes last season. Meeks came into camp in the best shape since arriving as a freshmen, so expect him to get more minutes in coach Roy Williams fast-break offense.

The biggest concern for the Tar Heels this season is their lack of shooting outside of Paige. Last season, Paige made 86 three-pointers. The returning players combined to make just 12, so it is easy to see why this could be an issue.

North Carolina has a very talented front court in Johnson and Meeks, but the team will need to shoot better from the perimeter to keep defenses from clogging the paint. Freshman Justin Jackson could improve the Heels lack of shooting.

Jackson is a 6-9 small forward that likes to pull up for mid-range jump shots. His mid-range game along with Paige will help keep defenses from double-teaming Johnson and Meeks in the paint.

While the long-range shooting is a worry, the Tar Heels free-throw shooting should be more of a concern. North Carolina only made 62.6 percent of their free throws last season, which was the worst among any of the teams in any major conference.

Just because Duke is the favorite in the ACC, doesn’t mean the Tar Heels can’t challenge them for the conference championship. North Carolina’s biggest strength is their size and that’s going to noticeable from the minute they walk into any gym. If the Heels can use their athleticism and size to their advantage, they have as good of chance as any team to make a run at the Final Four and even beyond.

 

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