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Early Basketball Thoughts

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With the beginning of basketball practices across this fine nation, we are flush with analysis, speculation and predictions for the upcoming season. Here are two interesting takes from recently debuting Basketball Prospectus and SI.com's Seth Davis.

First off, Ken Pomeroy has taken his statistical genius over to the new Basketball Prospectus. The first preview on the agenda? The ACC. BP attempts to predict the standings for the upcoming season based on a lot of math I don't really understand.

bp_acc.JPG

I think, at this point, 13-3 is probably on the mark. Duke, NC State, Georgia Tech, Maryland and Clemson are all candidates to knock off UNC, most likely on the road. In the ACC three losses is fairly close to average for a first place team. The one sticking point on this is historically speaking UNC has never won the national title with more than four losses. I am not sure what that really means but in almost seventy years of NCAA Championships the four UNC has won have been accomplished under that particular circumstance.

BP also takes an in-depth look at the ACC team-by-team and in alphabetical order no less. Part 1 is here. Part 2 includes a look at the Heels. BP raises two major concerns. The first is how will the Heels replace Brandan Wright. There is a major lack of confidence in what Deon Thompson will bring to the table. In address the media yesterday Thompson indicated he was 300 pounds in high school and to start the season he is a lean 235. That is an incredible level of effort on Thompson's part and it showed during the U19 World Championships where he showed incredible versatility and prowess on the offensive end. And while I think there will be some adjustment playing in the ACC, Thompson also has the Arizona and Georgetown games under his belt to show he is perfectly capable. Alex Stepheson will be a nice compliment to the front line and while I share BP's concern about the offense coming from Marcus Ginyard/Danny Green, it is not like Reyshawn Terry was doing much more that rebound and play defense which is what these two do so well. As for perimeter shooting I am far more optimistic about Wayne Ellignton, Bobby Frasor, Ginyard, Green and Ty Lawson shooting threes than they seem to be.

Another take is from Seth Davis at SI.com:

North Carolina: Has Psycho T improved his J?

If you ask Roy Williams, he'll tell you the biggest question facing his team is defense. But Roy is always worried about his team's defense, and his teams always end up defending well. (Maybe it's because they're well-coached.) A bigger question I have about this squad is whether 6-9 junior Tyler Hansbrough has improved the range on his jump shot. Hansbrough has earned the nickname "Psycho T" for his unabated intensity under the boards, and since he averaged 18.4 points and 7.9 rebounds a game last year, it'd be foolish for him to spend all his time outside the lane.

But if he is at least a threat to knock down the occasional 12- to 15-foot jumper, then that will make him more unstoppable and open up many more scoring opportunities for his teammates. If Hansbrough is able to give the Tar Heels that extra dimension, I don't think anything besides injuries can keep them from hoisting the trophy April 7.

Let me go on record to say this is not that important of a question. In fact I agree with some comments made on Inside Carolina that I am far more concerned about the perimeter shooting in general along with the defense than I am Hansbrough hitting 12-15 foot jumpers. The reason being I think if UNC has shooters then Hansbrough can beat double teams by kicking out. Now I agree it will make him a more dangerous player and give the offense an added dimension but I also do not think it is as important as Davis thinks it is if the Heels can hit threes and Thompson shows the jumper he hit in the World Championships. I am a huge believer in the difficulty of winning a national title and based on prior UNC title teams I have a pretty good idea of what kind of makeup wins the NCAA Championship. Having the center be able to step out and hit 12-15 jumpers has never really been high on the list. In the cases of 1993 and 2005, good perimeter shooting, great PG play especially on defense and a center who actually dominates the paint by scoring and rebounding were much more pertinent factors in winning the national championship than this "extra dimension" UNC allegedly needs.

But we will see. If Hansbrough has added that weapon, all the better but I simply am not convinced it is standing in the way of UNC winning in San Antonio.