Blue Devils Need The Tar Heels


We may hate them, but we need them…Carolina that is. The Yankees need the Red Sox. Connors wouldn’t be Connors without McEnroe. Hell, who’s Tom without Jerry. You may hate your rivals, but lord knows, its just not the same when they’re not up to par.

Sure it’s fun to see the Tar Heels stuck in last place, yes last place, but we’re going to face them again in two weeks and that game will be meaningless. Sure I like beating UNC, but it just feels better when it’s the two heavyweights fighting for the title.

Of course, we’ve been through this before recently. The decade began with Carolina struggling through the Matt Doherty era. Sure Maryland stepped up to the plate. We won a title, they won a title and the two teams played in some of the most memorable games ever.

But Maryland is not North Carolina, never will be, no matter how hard they want to be. So I can’t help but look ahead now, even before the season begins, to see if North Carolina will claw their way back at the top.

Before we look ahead though, we have to see what’s gone wrong now.

Despite losing four players to the NBA, North Carolina was ranked in the top five in almost all pre-season polls and was picked by most local writers to finish tied with Duke for first in the ACC. Of course after some early wins over Michigan State and Ohio State, the ranking looked about right.

Yet, that was then and this is now. Now is a team barely above .500. They’ve not only lost 10 of 13 ACC games, they’ve barely been competitive in about half those games. So what’s been the problem?

The obvious answer is the guard play. Despite having a solid front court combo of Thompson & Davis, the guards have struggled. They’ve been inconsistent on offense, miserable at long-range shooting and at times their defense has been down-right embarrassing. Are they just that bad? No, not really (those are seven McDonald’s All-Americans we’re talking about). They’re just inexperienced.

It’s easy to just stare at the name on front of the jerseys and forget this is a team full of underclassmen. Their basic 11-man rotation consist of three sophomores and five freshman.

Over the years we’ve seen such great things from freshman like Oden, Durant, Rose and now Walls, it’s understandable that we forget most incoming freshman make little to no impact their first year.

How many teams would win a ton of games with a eight underclassmen, bad point guard play, mixed in with a pile of injuries to key players? Not many.


Obviously, if you’ve been paying attention, you’re well aware that Coach Williams has another solid recruitment class coming in, led by ESPN’S No 1 high school player, Harrison Barnes. They also have PG Kendall Marshall (rated #6 PG) and shooting guard Reggie Bullock (rated #3 SG) also coming in.

While there is little doubt Harrison Barnes won’t make an immediate impact (you don’t get the No 1 rating for nothing), time will tell if either Marshall or Bullock will make an immediate impact. According to, Marshall is an excellent passer, but needs to work on his outside shot. Bullock on the other hand is an ace on the outside, but doesn’t have the mid-range shot or strength to scare anyone inside.

Of course the big question mark for next year’s team is Ed Davis. Like we speculated last week, he surprised everyone staying for his sophomore year, but no one foresaw him coming back after this season. Yet, he’s now out for the season and maybe the injury is a blessing. While Davis is still projected to be a lottery pick, he sure hasn’t impressed me that much this season (luckily for him, I’m not the one he needs to impress). One more year as the main man underneath might do him some good. Of course, if you’re a lottery pick already, one more year could just make it worse. Right, Josh McRoberts?

For the remainder of this post, we’re going to assume Ed Davis says goodbye to college and hello to the NBA.


That leaves us with a Carolina team stacked with guards/wing players, but thin in the middle.

Inside, Zeller will get the start along with Jon Henson. The only backups will be the Wear brothers. Zeller is a pretty good athlete for a seven-footer, but the problem has always been his health. He’s missed more games than he’s played.

At power forward, Henson is oozing with talent (remember his block party against Duke this season), but early on he was just plain bad. While he’s certainly looks a lot better of late, he’s going to need to hit the weigh room if he’s going to start playing 25+ per game in the ACC.

In the back court/small forward spot, Coach Williams has some big decisions to make. He has a ton of players for only three spots. Obviously Harrison Barnes will take over at small forward (although I can’t really use the word “small” since he’s really 6’8). That leaves the guard spots, which if you can believe it or not, will most likely be filled with the same two guards starting this season; Larry Drew & Will Graves.

You might find this shocking, considering the struggles the Tar Heels have had this season. Yet in reality, the same weaknesses Drew has, Marshall has. The same weaknesses Graves has, Bullock has. Fact is, you have to assume both Drew (a junior) and Graves (a senior) will get better.

If I’m right, then look for Marshall to be the main backup at point. If he can surprise us all and show that he can indeed hit an outside shot, then he could find himself the starter later in the season. I don’t want to offend Larry Drew, but Marshall has so much more potential.

Anyhow, while Strickland has been the backup point guard this season, he was a shooting guard in high school. Look for him to become just “a guard” off the bench. Bullock should also get plenty of minutes off the bench as a long range bomber. At 6’6, he could easily backup Barnes at small forward. If anyone gets left out, right now it looks like Leslie McDonald.

For now…
CAROLINA STARTERS:(PG) Drew, (SG) Graves, (SF) Barnes, (PF) Henson, (C) Zeller
CAROLINA BENCH: (PG) Marshall, (SG) Strickland, (G/F) Bullock, (SG) McDonald, (F) T. Wear, (F) D. Wear

So what kind of team are we looking at. First, we’re looking at a better team. Barnes alone will make any team in college better. He’s a one-and-done and he easily could be Carolina’s best player. While I’m hesitant on the impact the other two freshman will make, you have to assume the sophomores will all make good strides in the off-season. Coach Williams loves to run and this team can, as long as they can eliminate the turnovers. The question that will dog them (which is the same question that dogs all Roy Williams’ teams) is, can they play defense?

So would I pick them to win the ACC? No, but they should be in the thick of things. Now if Ed Davis returns, then I would probably consider Carolina one of the favorites to win the ACC and compete for the National Title.

Of course, don’t take my word for it…in fact, you shouldn’t take my word for it. So we went looking for another opinion. Who better to ask than Mr Tar Heel himself…Mr. Tar Heel.

He was kind enough to give us his thoughts on the current Tar Heels and the future Tar Heels. Please check them out.

BDB: Most “experts” point to the point guard position as reason number one for Carolina’s struggles this season. Do you think that’s accurate and why (nor why not)?

"MR. TAR HEEL: It’s hard to argue with the notion that the point guard play is our biggest issue this year. In college ball it always seems that having great guard play is the key to success. I would agree that  it is the biggest issue but certainly not the only one. Let’s assume that we had Ty Lawson one more year….would we be a top ten team this year? Maybe…but the turnovers by the other guys, the missed free throws, the mental lapses might still be present."

Next season, both point guard Larry Drew (junior) and Dexter Strickland (sophomore) will be back, yet Carolina is also bringing in another five-star point guard in Kendall Marshall. Who starts, who’s No 1 off the bench and who’s the odd man out?

"MR. TAR HEEL: I think my take is that judging freshmen is very difficult. In most cases I think the experienced junior point guard will win out over the inexperienced freshman unless the freshman is really a superior talent( ie, a John Wall type of guy ). Are there any freshman point guards out there playing more this year than upperclassmen? I haven’t checked but would doubt there are many.  As long as Drew improves over the summer I think he plays next year…followed by Strickland and then Marshall. Unless Marshall is a real stud…if so, then Marshall moves up a spot and Strickland plays SG."

BDB: Although we’re not sold on Ed Davis going pro, let’s pretend he does head to the NBA for now? Without him, what kind of realistic expectations does a die-hard Carolina fan have?

"MR. TAR HEEL: I think that expectations will be high. I don’t like the mix we have this year of maybe too many big guys and then some inexperienced guards.  I like our chances much better next year with an array of guards who can shoot and handle the ball along with a few big guys who can run. I have been pleasantly surprised with the Wear twins and think they will continue to improve over the summer to help out the inside game next year. Next year’s team will be able to run much better and finish  fast breaks. Plus, after facing some adversity this year I think they will come out with something to prove next year."