Three Things: Media Day Storylines
This afternoon, Carolina will hold its annual basketball media day. That means a bevy of stories about the Tar Heels in various media outlets. However, some of them will be built around the same general premises. Here's a look at three storylines you'll be reading a lot about in the next 24 hours
1. Players who were important to the Tar Heels last year are no longer on the team. This is going to be the standard, go-to storyline for Carolina basketball games until this year’s team establishes an identity. So during early-season games, you can expect to see plenty of highlights of Kendall Marshall feeding Tyler Zeller in the post, or Harrison Barnes hitting a game-winner, or John Henson blocking a shot.
Of course, the Tar Heels have some recent experience with losing a significant amount of talent. Here’s how this year’s team compares to two other Roy Williams-era clubs that had to replace heavy losses:
% of points to replace % R to replace % A to replace
2013 69.2% 63.0% 79.4%
2010 74.8% 83.6% 83.6%
2006 95.4% 81.7% 81.7%
So, what did we learn? For one thing, the 2006 team was incredible. Even in the era of multiple NBA early entries, we’ll probably never again see a team that has to replace over 95 percent of its scoring—and still makes the NCAA Tournament. Sure, it helps to bring in the school’s future all-time leading scorer in the next recruiting class (thanks, Tyler Hansbrough), but the 2006 club basically started from scratch. It may be the finest coaching job of Roy Williams’s coaching career.
Back to this year. As you can see from the chart, this year’s team is in better shape than the previous two Tar Heel teams that were hit by early defections. To really reach the level of defections the previous two teams experienced, James Michael McAdoo would have had to go pro.
But he didn’t, and he should be the centerpiece of this year’s club. It’s probably also true that the league is a little better this year than it was in those two seasons—Duke and NC State have generally been picked among the nation’s top 15 clubs.
Roy Williams addressed the difficulty in reloading and rebuilding a program in answer to a reader question recently. There are several differences in the 2006 and 2010 teams, including point guard capability and toughness. But the most notable difference might be something no one can predict about the 2013 club: injuries. The 2006 team was very lucky in avoiding them (the top eight scorers all played in every one of the season’s 31 games). The 2010 team was very unlucky in suffering a barrel of them (Ed Davis, Tyler Zeller, Marcus Ginyard and the Wear twins missed a combined 43 games). Given the very recent Carolina basketball history in this area, it would be unwise to try and draw too many conclusions from the previous two seasons without first admitting that team health will play a major role this year.
2. Dexter Strickland and Leslie McDonald were both hurt, but now they’re not, and they will need to play a lot. The two guards are on the cover of our basketball preview issue, and they will say all the right things on Thursday afternoon. But the true test will come when the games begin. Strickland’s health will be tested, because the Tar Heels have six games wedged into the first 12 days of the season, including three games in three days in Maui. How is his knee going to hold up to that workload? That’s something no one will be able to answer on Thursday, because even he doesn’t know himself.
For McDonald, the test is to translate all the improvements teammates have been raving about—they’ve been talking about him for almost two years now, beginning last summer before he suffered his torn ACL in the Pro-Am—into an ACC game. McDonald shot 38.6% from the field overall and 35.7% in league games during his sophomore season. The Tar Heels need more from him as a redshirt junior.
3. Roy Williams had a health scare, but now he’s back. This is my prediction for the most frequently written column of media day. You know the head coach will have some great lines about it (in fact, you probably already read some of them over on GoHeels), and it’s just hard to resist that type of material. The great news is that based on the doctor reports received by the head coach, this could hopefully be one of the last times he has to discuss his health. Moving forward, including a scrimmage on October 26 against Shaw that should be part of a great weekend in Chapel Hill (Carolina hosts NC State in football on Oct. 27), the focus can shift to a very intriguing 2012-13 team.