There is no precedent for North Carolina now, nothing to look back and study for clues about the 2005-06 season. The Tar Heels, abandoned by four star underclassmen within weeks of winning the 2005 national championship, are on their own.
|Off the bench: Fr. G/F Marcus Ginyard, Fr. G Bobby Frasor, Sr. C Byron Sanders.|
UNC freshman Marvin Williams and juniors Sean May and Raymond Felton announced their plans Friday to enter the 2005 NBA Draft. They followed junior Rashad McCants, who typically went his own way by declaring his draft intentions days ago. Throw in seniors Jawad Williams, Jackie Manuel and Melvin Scott, and the Tar Heels have lost the top seven scorers from the highest-scoring team in college basketball.
Precedents? There are none. No team has gone through anything like this, and no matter what you might hear in the coming days about past teams from Duke, Arizona or even North Carolina, no team has come particularly close.
Chronologically, here are the contenders:
|Roy Williams has his work cut out for him. (Getty Images)|
Duke, 1999: Until now, the worst exodus in college basketball history came shortly after the Blue Devils reached the NCAA title game, when they lost senior Trajan Langdon, sophomores Elton Brand and William Avery, and freshman Corey Maggette to the 1999 NBA Draft. Another underclassman, Chris Burgess, transferred to Utah. However ... Duke returned the next two ACC players of the year, Chris Carrawell (2000) and Shane Battier (2001, with Joseph Forte), in addition to Nate James. Throw in recruits Jason Williams, Mike Dunleavy and Carlos Boozer, and Duke went 29-5 in 2000.
Arizona, 2001: The West's worst exodus happened after the NCAA title game, when the Wildcats lost senior Loren Woods, juniors Michael Wright and Richard Jefferson and sophomore Gilbert Arenas to the 2001 NBA Draft. However ... Arizona returned Jason Gardner, Luke Walton and redshirted Rick Anderson, and after adding recruits Channing Frye and Salim Stoudamire, the Wildcats went 24-10 in 2002.
Duke, 2002: Three years after going through it once, the Blue Devils went through it again. By then juniors, the trio of Williams-Dunleavy-Boozer entered the 2002 NBA Draft. However ... Duke returned Dahntay Jones, Chris Duhon and Daniel Ewing, then added Shelden Williams plus four McDonald's All-Americans (J.J. Redick, Shavlik Randolph, Sean Dockery and Michael Thompson). Result? Duke went 26-7 in 2003.
North Carolina can draw some encouragement from those stories, considering all four teams won at least 24 games the next season, but the parallels are far from perfect. Each of the gutted teams mentioned above returned at least one player who would make his league's all-conference team the following season (Okulaja, Carrawell-Battier, Gardner-Walton, and Jones). Haywood would make the 2001 All-ACC second team. Duhon would make the 2004 All-ACC first team.
North Carolina's best returning players next season? David Noel, Reyshawn Terry and Quentin Thomas. They averaged seven points per game in 2004-05 -- total. Noel led at 3.9 ppg, followed by Terry (2.3) and Thomas (0.8). Not much All-ACC potential there.
Help is on the way. The Tar Heels bring in one of the country's best recruiting classes: 6-foot-9 Tyler Hansbrough, 6-5 Danny Green, 6-4 Marcus Ginyard and 6-3 Bobby Frasor. UNC also is involved with some of the top unsigned high school seniors, including 6-8 Uche Echefu and 6-10 Theo Davis.
The best of the bunch ought to be Hansbrough, a McDonald's All-American who tore up two other all-star games with 24 points in the Jordan Classic and 31 in the Nike Hoop Summit. Green and Frasor also were McDonald's All-Americans, and Ginyard is an ACC-ready defender who is skilled enough to lend a hand at point guard.
Another reason for optimism at UNC is general ACC upheaval. Duke graduates Ewing and could lose Shelden Williams to the NBA Draft. Wake Forest loses three seniors, and underclassmen Chris Paul and Eric Williams have entered the NBA Draft. North Carolina State loses superstar Julius Hodge. Georgia Tech had five seniors, and could lose junior Jarrett Jack to the NBA. Maryland lost junior John Gilchrist to the NBA.
Not that the ACC will be down next season. Duke has brought in a typically loaded freshman class, and Boston College joins the league with its roster mostly intact from a 25-5 team. Fellow Big East refugees Miami and Virginia Tech will contend for NCAA Tournament bids, as could Wake Forest, Georgia Tech, N.C. State and Maryland. Clemson will be better. Florida State and Virginia can't be worse.
Where does that leave North Carolina? Impossible to say. The Tar Heels are about to walk where no school has ever tread. Could they go 20-8 in 2005-06? Absolutely. The freshmen might be that good. Roy Williams is that good.
Besides, look at it this way: A program as historically dominant as North Carolina could never go 8-20.