Who’s ready for some College Basketball? I know I am. In particular, I’m looking forward to my Tarheels having an amazing season! Last season the team lost a tough game in the Sweet 16 to Tournament Runner up Wisconsin, but I believe this season will be different.
Led by Preseason 1st Team All-American SR Marcus Paige, the Tarheels are looking to make some noise this year. They share the No. 1 spot with the Kentucky Wildcats “…in the 2015-16 USA Today Coaches’ Poll, the fourth time in the last nine years the Tar Heels will start the season ranked No. 1 in the nation by the coaches” (Martin, 247Sports). Another senior returning is Brice Johnson, top inside scorer, looks to continue his success from last year’s ACC and NCAA Tournament. He was a third Team All-ACC selection as well as earning first Team All-ACC Tournament honors.
Key Juniors returning are Starter Kennedy Meeks and Bench Players Nate Britt and Isaiah Hicks. Sports Illustrated named Kennedy Meeks, key to the Tarheels success last year, one of the Top 10 Juniors in the Nation. He led the team in blocks, was second in rebounding and field goal percentage, and third in scoring. Nate Britt, second in bench scoring last year, looks to make his presence felt on offense and defense for the Tarheels. He won Defensive Player of the Game five times. Isaiah Hicks, first in bench scoring last year, looks to take on a larger role this year. He was awarded UNC’s most improved player and won Defensive Player of the Game 13 times last year.
Three sophomores slated to make a huge impact are Theo Pinson, Joel Berry II, and Justin Jackson. Theo Pinson was injured for most of his first year, but looks to be a major contributor as a starter this year. Joel Berry II who also missed games due to injuries last year looks to be three point threat of the bench this year. Justin Jackson, named one of the Top 10 Sophomores in the Nation by Sports Illustrated, will make the most impact because he is able to create his own shot and play forward or guard. He started all but one game and was named to the All-ACC Freshman Team last year.
Last but not least are the two Tarheel newcomers Kenny Williams and Luke Maye. Kenny Williams was ranked No. 89 in the country by Rivals.com and Luke Maye, a three-star recruit. Kenny Williams will probably be making the most impact this year because he is a sharp shooter, slasher, and scorer. He is a pure shooter, but will still have to earn the trust of Coach Roy Williams. Luke Maye, another sharp shooter, probably won’t get very many minutes playing behind Brice Johnson and Isaiah Hicks. He is a scrappy player that hustles and rebounds well. It’s going to be interesting how Roy Williams will use him.
With Marcus Paige out for the next 3-4 weeks, the first few games of the season are going to be an adjustment, but I believe the Tarheels can overcome this challenge. I see Roy Williams using a rotation between Nate Britt, Theo Pinson, and Joel Berry at PG while Paige is out. In addition, giving Freshman Kenny Williams extended minutes. The toughest test over the next four weeks is No.3 Maryland and that game is not until Dec 1, which Paige should play in. My record prediction for the season is 29-2 with losses to Duke, and Notre Dame. Tarheels should be extremely successful this year as long as no other player is injured for a long period. Go Tarheels!
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Benjamin Sudderth III
Spark Sports Analyst