The North Carolina Tar Heels have failed to make the Sweet 16 each of the past two seasons. That’s just not acceptable in Chapel Hill where Sweet 16s are a minimum expectation and contending for the Final Four is supposed to be an annual goal.
How can North Carolina make the necessary improvements that will get the program back to where it thinks it belongs? They’re at 16/1 to win the NCAA Tournament and if new freshmen offer the answer, they might be able to cash in.
Why This Is Important
The need for better and higher-impact freshmen at North Carolina is so great because the Tar Heels have not been an elite team the past two seasons. After the 2012 season, in which a Final Four-level team was kept short of its goal because of an injury to point guard Kendall Marshall in the NCAA tournament, the best North Carolina players moved to the NBA. Tyler Zeller, John Henson, Harrison Barnes, and Marshall went to the pros, and with that exodus of talent, North Carolina had to find new stars. That’s where this program has fallen short of late. The Tar Heels went from having a bunch of men to very few of them. Marcus Paige has been a very crafty and resourceful point guard the past two seasons, but he hasn’t gotten enough help. P.J. Hairston ran into trouble off the court and is now in the NBA. James Michael McAdoo was a touted recruit, but he turned into a very soft and unreliable big man. The Tar Heels just didn’t have a complete team in either of the past two seasons. They were not physical, and they did not have wing shooters to give them enough offense to overcome their lack of toughness and rebounding. North Carolina needs that new wave of better, bolder freshmen who can enable the Tar Heels to return to where they were in 2011 and 2012, making Elite Eights and having an even-money chance to make the Final Four.
So Who Steps Up?
The sense in and around the North Carolina program, and also from those who have begun to report on the Tar Heels this summer, is that Joel Berry, Theo Pinson, and Justin Jackson are ready to change the way things are done in Chapel Hill. This does not mean that freshmen will make upperclassmen carry luggage. That’s not going to change, because it’s a longstanding policy set in stone by former North Carolina coach Dean Smith. Roy Williams, the current coach, worked under Dean for many years and is a man who is continuing the Dean Smith way. That kind of stuff won’t change, but the new guys at UNC are intent on shedding the soft label the program has had to endure over the past two years.
The new group of freshmen could do a number of things for the program: First, the new guys could push the upperclassmen for starting positions, creating more urgency throughout the lineup. Second, the emergence of freshmen as regular rotation players, if they’re good enough, could deepen and lengthen the bench, which will give Williams more options in terms of how to handle the lineup. Third, North Carolina could play at more speeds and styles.
How To Bet The News
It’s quietly encouraging to see how these freshmen are blending into the North Carolina program. If you were to bet on North Carolina making or not making the Sweet 16 this season, you would want to make 'yes' your NCAA basketball betting pick at this point.