Last season, Roy Williams' team had to endure what seemed like a never ending saga as they waited and waited for the eligibility issues of star F PJ Hairston to resolve. In December they finally learned that he would not suit up for them, and despite losing an ultra talented scorer, one has to imagine they let a sigh of relief.
During the saga, the team was as Jekyl and Hyde and as in the country. They reeled off big wins against Louisville and Kentucky, but suffered surprising losses to programs like Belmont and UAB. When the dust finally settled on the Hairston saga, they seemed to calm down and even put together an impressive 12 game winning stream at one point. The certainty that they have in place for 2014-15, along with having one of the best players in the conference in PG Marcus Paige, could lead to a very big season this year.
It all starts with Paige. The 6'1 Jr. can create his own shot (17.5 ppg last year) or create for teammates (4.2 apg). But with a great recruiting class coming in, and some very good holdovers, he will not have to do it alone. McDonald's All-American Justin Jackson is a 6'8 wing that should come in and do immediate damage. Joel Berry is another outstanding first year player, who will spell Paige at the point, but could also play along side him to give UNC a lightning fast back court. 6'9 Jr. Brice Johnson is the best front court option and has outstanding touch, if not a ton of girth. Speaking of girth, Kennedy Meeks is a potential monster down low at 6'9 280, if his conditioning is finally up to par. And the continued development of F J.P. Tokoto should more than make up for the loss of James Michael McAdoo. Add to the mix Joel James, who came to UNC with a lot of hype, but has yet to fulfill it. Nonetheless James, Desmond Hubert, and Isiah Hicks are all good depth players down low. Hicks in particular is expected to be a lot more productive this season. Williams has plenty of pieces in place to make a serious run in the Atlantic Coast Conference, and perhaps further.
Marcus Paige - 6'1 175 Jr.
Brice Johnson - 6'9 210 Jr.
Justin Jackson - 6'8 190 Fr.
Kennedy Meeks - 6'9 280 So.
Joel Berry - 6'0 188 Fr.
What to Expect in 2014-15:
This is one of the most complete and talented rosters in recent memory at Chapel Hill. Anything short of a top 2 or 3 in the conference and a Sweet 16 or better would be a failure. They have plenty of interchangeable parts, depth, and firepower.
How they match-up with the 'Canes:
When these two teams get together, you will likely see the two deepest teams in terms of PG's in the conference with Berry, Paige, Angel Rodriguez, and Manu Lecomte all seeing time on the floor. It should be fun to watch. Miami might struggle however, with the multitude of big men that UNC can throw at them. With Coach L on the bench, anything is possible, but this is not one of the more favorable match-ups for the 'Canes this season.
Stay tuned for more ACC Team previews as we count down to Tip Off