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Never To Early To Think About Hoops

At least not for ACC Now. Of course all this does is make me itch for the start of the season to happen next week instead of in November. Caulton Tudor and JP Giglio offer up their opinions on player and team rankings. Here is the capsule for UNC who they pick to finish 1st in the ACC:

2006-07 record: 31-7, 11-5 (1st)

Players returning (on scholarship): G Ty Lawson, G Wayne Ellington, F William Graves, F Deon Thompson, F Alex Stepheson, G Marcus Ginyard, G Danny Green, G Bobby Frasor, F Tyler Hansbrough, G Quentin Thomas, F Mike Copeland
Players lost: F Brandan Wright (NBA), F Reyshawn Terry, G Wes Miller
Recruits: none
Telep's analysis: "They selectively went after a two of the top guys in the class — Kevin Love [who signed with UCLA] and Patrick Patterson [Kentucky] — and they didn’t get either one."
Projected starting lineup: Lawson, Ellington, Ginyard, Thompson, Hansbrough
ACC schedule: Play twice — Duke, N.C. State, BC, Clemson, FSU; Home only — Maryland, Va. Tech, Wake; Road only — Ga. Tech, Miami, UVa

Outlook: Duke collapsed in the second half of the regional final in 1998. The Blue Devils responded the next season by going 19-0 against the ACC and reaching the national championship game. Will UNC unleash a similar fury in '08? If Ty Lawson improves his fitness, and assertiveness, the Heels have a chance to be that good. This team needs to establish a hierarchy — make Tyler Hansbrough's the clear-cut No. 1 option as he was a freshman.That means Psycho T has to grab this team by the larynx as he did against Michigan State in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. If it's a close game — the only kind UNC lost — then he needs to demand the ball. UNC needs to win or lose with its fastball and that's Hansbrough.

Everything flows from there. Lawson, with relief from a healthy Bobby Frasor, runs the offense; Wayne Ellington and Danny Green take the jumpers; Marcus Ginyard handles the plumbing; and Deon Thompson and Alex Stepheson have to eat Brandan Wright's lost minutes and rebounds. Don't try to be a team you're not. See the last 11 minutes of the last game of 2007 season as a refresher.

We all expected big things from UNC in 2007, and while winning the ACC title, they fell short of delivering a special season. As an impending banner at the Smith Center will attest, UNC tied for the regular-season title, losing five games — one more than supposed down season the year before. So it was a good year, not a great one, especially when so much was made of the 25-year cycle — 1957, 1982 — by the school itself. Losing to Georgetown, of all teams, provided an ironic ending. This group, minus Wright and the sporadic Terry, gets a second chance — maybe even with Georgetown — to deliver a different ending.

This is as correct an analysis as I have heard about this team for next season. In fact I could not have defined the roles any better than Giglio did except to say I hope we see more perimeter shooting from Bobby Frasor. I completely agree that Tyler has to be the #1 option and what is more than that he needs to step up and be aggressive. Not that he is not the most focused and aggressive player in the ACC, but there were many games where he seemed to blend in and lean on Wright a little more. The MSU game, as pointed out above, is a prime example of the kind of game Tyler needs to have night in and night out. Lawson has to be the instigator of the offense with penetration and the ability to hit a dagger three pointer if necessary. If Green and Ellington can provide the perimeter shooting with Thompson and Stepheson complimenting Hansbrough and Ginyard being the lock down defender then I see man similarities to 2005. The questions you have in that comparison are whether Green/Ellington can create offense like McCants and who will fill the role of Marvin Williams by grabbing that key rebound and putback or simply being a handful for defenses to figure out how to guard. I think the depth and personnel are there and I will go on record now by saying I think anything short of the Final Four is a failure for this team barring injury.

The player rankings were interesting. Tudor chose Hansbrough as the top player in the ACC while Giglio went with UVa's Sean Singletary. In fact Tudor chose NC State's Brandon Costner second. Based on what I saw last season, Costner could be the best player in the ACC before the season is done. He is incredibly versatile and strong. I would think his role and need to produce could very well match Singletary's though some of that hinges on the production NC State gets from the point and their freshmen.

Another interesting note is the schedule UNC has. Much to our chagrin as fans, we only get UVa once which means we get Lawson v. Singletary only one time and that game in Charlottesville. The other part of it is if you take Tudor's picks then UNC would play the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 6th, and 7th place teams twice which would be a very tough schedule. Based on Giglio's picks it would be the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 10th, and 11th place teams UNC would play twice, which is somewhat less vexing. Since I am nowhere even close to examining this I would say off the cuff Giglio is probably closer to being right. Still I think have six of your games versus the 2-4 teams in the conference is probably a tougher schedule than UNC got last season.

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