For a team who went 24-10 (13-5) last season, the following statement is scary to type: UNC is going to be a LOT better next year. They already run one of the top offenses, not only scoring 76.3 PPG but doing so while sharing the ball (24th in the nation in assists), and their defense was disruptive and competitive. Add in a 3rd ranked recruiting class, subtract only one key rotation player, and the Tarheels suddenly have the firepower to legitimately challenge Duke for the ACC title next season.
Roy Williams’ incoming recruits have the skills to address UNC’s deficiencies from last year. As a team, they shot just 33.6% from three; freshman Pinson, Jackson, and Berry are all capable shooters, and with the departure of McAdoo, a terrible shooter by all accounts, the Tarheels will be markedly more efficient from the field next season. A better spaced floor will lead to more room for bigs like Brice Johnson and Kennedy Meeks to operate on the block, giving coach Williams a team that will be able to attack defenses from every position.
James Michael McAdoo, F (14.2 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 1.7 APG)
Although he left UNC a year early to enter the draft, to subsequently not even get selected, McAdoo was a matchup nightmare during his time in Chapel Hill. Defenders couldn’t keep McAdoo’s combination of quickness and size out of the paint, and they struggled at the other end trying to get open looks near the rim against him. Coach Williams has a few viable options to replace McAdoo in the rotation, with Brice Johnson and Isaiah Hicks, both of whom are better shot blockers that should improve the Tar Heels’ interior defense.
Justin Jackson, SF (ranked 8th in ESPN’s top 100)
Jackson has a mature offensive game for his age. He’s patient with the ball, never seeming to force his shots, and can knock down three pointers, mid-range shots, and floaters regularly. He could stand to add some size, but Jackson is skilled enough that he will likely start anyway for the Tarheels as a freshman.
Joel Berry, PG (ranked 17th in ESPN’s Top 100)
A top 3 point guard in the class of 2014, Joel Berry can play both sides of the ball at a high level. He is lightening quick, beating defenders down the lane with ease, and has a good understanding of what it means to play good team defense. With Marcus Paige next to Berry in the backcourt, teams will have their hands full trying to stop this dynamic duo next season.
Theo Pinson, SF (ranked 10th in ESPN’s Top 100)
With all of UNC’s returning players, it’s hard to imagine Pinson cracking the starting rotation (at least initially), but he will provide star power off the bench. An elite athlete, Pinson is lethal in transition and unselfish with the ball, making him a perfect fit with a team built to get out in the open court and run.