October 15th... Usually by this time, the college football landscape has narrowed down its championship contenders. But a new hope also arises across campuses nationwide. College Basketball. Universities begin their seasons with "Midnight Madness", wasting no time on getting started on another potential March Madness run.
Between now and October 15th, I will unleash the college basketball favorites along with their college football contender "doppleganger". Up first? My odds-on favorite to cut down the nets in New Orleans...
North Carolina/Oklahoma Sooners- Both teams will have entered their season as the number one ranked team in their respective sport, but not necessarily the consensus because of the potential of other quality teams. Highlighted by their video game number inducing offenses led by:
Kendall Marshall/Landry Jones- Both teams returned a sensational Sophomore floor/field general that distribute the ball with equal precision. Marshall took over midseason last year and never looked back. Marshall's stats after he took over as starter? 7.7 points, 7.4 assists, 2.3 rebounds and 1.25 steals. Marshall will definitely need to improve his 41.8% fg in order to stop opposing defenses from clogging the lane because UNC has potentially the most dominating front court in ACC history.
Harrison Barnes/Ryan Broyles. Just as Broyles stats multiplied when Jones took over the helm, Barnes freshman season followed suit with Marshall's insertion into the starting lineup. The preseason favorite for ACC player of the year averaged 16 pts, 6 rebounds, and 1 steal per game. He also was the Tarheel's most effective perimeter defender. And speaking of defense!
John Henson/Javon Harris Bronco Nagurski defensive player of the week Harris plays free safety for the Sooners. He specializes in shoring up the back end of the Sooner defense. John Henson does the same for the UNC Tarheels. Henson and his 7'4" wingspan was 8th in the country last year with 3.12 blocks per game. He does this while averaging an impressive 2.4 fouls per 40 minutes played, a remarkably low number for a shot blocker. He was also 2nd in the conference averaging 10.1 boards per game. One area of concern is his terrible free throw percentage. Henson was one of only a handful of players in the country last year whose FG% (50%) was higher than his FT% (48%). However, he isn't the Heels number one option down low because that spot is reserved for Tyler Zeller.
Tyler Zeller/Travis Lewis- Travis Lewis is a tackling machine. He isn't a superstar per se, but at the end of the game when you look at his stats, you'll see just how effective he was. Likewise, Zeller is the ACC's returning FG% leader and averaged the most points per minute in the Tarheel's 23rd ranked offense. Zeller also averaged 7.1 rebounds per game, helping UNC become the number one rebounding team in the country with 42.5 per game. Zeller is much more apt to foul out than Henson and last year that was a problem because there was no "quality" depth on the Heels. However, that won't be a problem this year as Barnes can move to PF in an undersized lineup, but mostly because of top 5 incoming freshman James Michael McAdoo.
James Michael McAdoo/Dominique Whaley- Whaley, a juco transfer, has come in at running back and proved to be ready for big time college football. His all-around solid game has been a blessing in disguise for a Sooner team that wasn't exactly sure who its running back was going to be. Nephew of Tarheel great Bob McAdoo, James Michael, 6'9" 220lbs, enters ACC play with a college ready body and game. McAdoo brings an old-school low post game down low. McAdoo is going to have to excel at passing out of double teams because opposing teams are going to force UNC to beat them from the outside, especially after UNC's top returning three pt shooting threat Leslie McDonald injured his knee this past offseason and is questionable returning this season.
PJ Hairston/Jaz Reynolds- While Broyles is busy catching balls all over the field, deep threat Sophomore is Oklahoma's big play receiver. After four games, Reynolds averages a mind-boggling 23.4 yds/catch. The presence of Reynolds forces opposing defenses to cover the whole field. Fortunately for Roy Williams, he was able to land sharpshooter PJ Hairston to help fill the outside shooting void. Hairston's NBA ready 3pt range will allow open lanes for Marshall to distribute the ball down low and UNC's front court will give Hairston all the open looks that he can handle...
Ceiling: National Champions
Anything less than a Championship will be considered a disappointment by the Tarheel faithful. If any team has the chance to be the first undefeated team since the 76-77 Hoosiers, it is this one. As long as Barnes keeps progressing to being a superstar and Kendall Marshall stays healthy, I expect Roy Williams to be cutting down the nets for the third time in his career.
Basement: Sweet 16
Potential issues for this team outside of a meteorite landing in Chapel Hill? (2010-2011 rankings out of 344 teams)
Free Throw shooting- 236th (67.2%)
Lackadaisical defense- 189th (68.8 pts/game)
Poor 3 point shooting- 248th (32.8%)
Til next time...
Who's Number 2?