October 21, 2015 Louisville, KY. (Analyzed Sports)
College Basketball: North Carolina Men’s 2015-2016 Outlook
Football craze of course has taken over the fall months. We are approaching the mid-season for college football and the NFL. The road to the final four is almost among us as college basketball is about to start. The hype is usually about the Kentucky Wildcats but another team sits atop many polls as we enter the 2015-2016 college basketball season.
North Carolina is viewed by many as the team to beat this year. The combination of youth, talent and experience produced NCAA championships for Williams in 2005 and 2009. Williams enters this season with another North Carolina team that features an abundance of those qualities. The Tar Heels have been in a drought according to their own lofty standards, not having reached a Final Four since 2009.
But how will the academic scandal impact the team? Recently, their program has faced uncertainty in the aftermath of academic misconduct involving past UNC athletes. This season has a chance to be a return to glory and make the focus on basketball.
The Tar Heels are lead by All-American candidate Marcus Paige. Paige averaged 17.5 ppg and 44% shooting as a sophomore. Numerous of injures lead to a dip in production in his junior with 14.1 ppg and 41% shooting. If Paige is healthy, then he should thrive with a more mature, productive supporting cast.
The rotation includes six upperclassmen, which includes Kennedy Meeks, Brice Johnson and Justin Jackson. Tar heels also welcomes back nine of 10 players who averaged at least 10 minutes per game in 2014-15. UNC returns 88 percent of its points, 84 percent of its rebounds and 75 percent of its assists from last season. The one key lose was from last year squads was J.P. Tokoto.
Playing in the ACC is a gift and a curse. They have stiff competition playing top 25 caliber teams. Duke, Virginia, Notre Dame, and Louisville await the Tar Heels. Tar Heels also play the Texas Longhorns and Maryland Terrapins. But these tough teams will make North Carolina battle tested and ready for March Madness play.
If Tar Heel nation is expecting this team to go undefeated it will not happen. The ACC is just too tough of a league. The team will most certainly need to pick up the play on the defensive side. The Tar Heels ranked 8th in the ACC last year per defensive possession. In the past, the Tar Heels have had the talent and not the luck. Paige’s health and Justin Jackson progression will be key for the team to become a Final Four team. If not UNC season could end up like last year, a talented and dangerous sleeper team who made the tournament instead of the favorites.
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