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Preseason Top 25 + 1 Countdown

CBSSports.com College Basketball Staff
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 (US Presswire)  
 
By Jeff Borzello | College Basketball Blogger

Coach: Roy Williams

Career record: 675-169 at Kansas and North Carolina

Best NCAA Tournament finish: National Champion, 2005 and 2009 (North Carolina)

Vital Info: No. 10 North Carolina
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Years at current school: 9

Last season's record: 32-6 (lost to Kansas in the Elite Eight)

Notable losses from last season: Kendall Marshall, Harrison Barnes, John Henson, Tyler Zeller

Notable returnees from last season: Dexter Strickland, Reggie Bullock, James Michael McAdoo, P.J. Hairston, Leslie McDonald

Notable newcomers: Marcus Paige, Joel James, Brice Johnson, J.P. Tokoto

Projected starters: G – Marcus Paige, G – Dexter Strickland, G – Reggie Bullock, F – James Michael McAdoo, C – Joel James

Why this team will be good: Despite the relative inexperience of most of the key players, the Tar Heels still have a ton of talent on the roster. James Michael McAdoo is a potential All-American, Dexter Strickland has started 59 games during his career in Chapel Hill, and the perimeter is loaded with former five-star recruits. With McAdoo primed for a breakout season, the Tar Heels have a legitimate go-to-guy that most teams simply won’t have an answer for in the paint. Reggie Bullock, P.J. Hairston and Leslie McDonald can all knock down shots and will stretch the defense on a nightly basis. Moreover, while the freshmen are unproven, they certainly have talent. Marcus Paige was one of the best point guard recruits in the country last season.

North Carolina will be different defensively this season, but it will still be good on that side of the ball. There are no Tyler Zellers or John Hensons to erase attempts, but Strickland and Bullock are versatile defenders who can guard multiple positions.

Why this team might disappoint: While there is talent on the roster, most of it is unproven – and inconsistency has plagued most of the perimeter players on the offensive end. McAdoo is poised for a breakout season, but someone else needs to step up and produce points. Moreover, who plays next to McAdoo inside? Joel James is more physically ready than Brice Johnson, but he needs to stay in shape. Johnson could be better suited for Roy Williams’ system, but he needs to add strength.

The biggest question mark could be Paige. The lefty can score in different ways and also is adept at getting his teammates involved – but he weighs fewer than 160 pounds and has yet to play a college minute. Will he be able to grasp the North Carolina system right off the bat, and get the ball where it needs to be? Good shooters surround Paige, but he will need to create open looks for them. There aren’t many players on the Tar Heels who are great at going out and getting their own shot.

Bottom line: If Kendall Marshall had not been injured against Creighton, how differently would things have been last year for North Carolina? We could be talking about the Tar Heels as defending runner-up or (maybe) national champion. Either way, the Tar Heels are poised to take a step back. No Marshall, no Zeller, no Henson, no Harrison Barnes. With all the talent Roy Williams has assembled, there is always the potential for a big season in Chapel Hill. But it’s a different Tar Heels team than the past couple of years. They don’t have a go-to post player, or a player who can consistently create his own shot off the dribble from the wing. The scorers are more catch-and-shoot than run-and-gun.

The team’s success will likely come down to Paige at the point. Freshmen have had success on title contenders before, but Paige will need to acclimate himself effectively – and quickly. If he comes in and takes the reins immediately, Williams could have another ACC championship team on his hands. If not, the Tar Heels will be inconsistent.

Quote from an opposing coach in the league: “I think McAdoo is terrific. He doesn’t have a defined game, but he’s a high-energy, great rebounder and he is a great driver for his position. Aside from him, there are a lot of question marks. I don’t think any of those guys are pros. It’s a unique Carolina team. What makes them go are point guards and bigs, and their big guys are different and their point guard is unproven. Paige is really good, but he’s not Kyrie Irving. You’ve got Strickland at the two; that’s a two-guard who doesn’t shoot. You’ve got McAdoo inside; and he doesn’t post up. Joel James could have motor problems.

“They’re Carolina, that’s one of the reasons everyone is picking them so high. They have good size, the makings of a good defensive team. They have a wealth of talent, a great coach, a star player and versatility. If Paige can defend, they should be able to pressure people, get into passing lanes. Point guard play is a big key. When Williams had Ray Felton and Ty Lawson and Kendall Marshall, they’re damn good. When you have Larry Drew, you’re not as good. I’m just not sure what their M.O. is. Could this be one of his teams like a few years ago, when last year’s stars were young and they struggled?”

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