Caulton Tudor considers the potential for a domino effect on draft defections.
All three are still in the process of sorting through their situations, but Hansbrough could wind up facing the same sort of question May had to confront in '05. May clearly preferred to return to school for his senior season, but the decision basically was taken out of his hands when Felton and McCants opted out.
Hansbrough has not been as emphatic about his desire to return and make another run at a national championship ring, but it's clear that he enjoys the college game and campus life. Upon first arriving in Chapel Hill, his primary goal was to win the title. He still wants to accomplish that goal as much as ever. But if Lawson and Ellington leave, the lineup would be so gutted that the '09 team would be a substantial long shot to make a deep NCAA run.
The key figure is Lawson, of course. Should he leave, the starting point guard next season almost certainly would be much injured Bobby Frasor, Hansbrough's classmate and close friend.
But Frasor, who missed almost all of '08 with a knee injury, lacks the quickness and passing skills of Lawson. Recruit Larry Drew, a 6-footer from Woodland Hills, Calif., should be able to add some speed to the playing rotation, but isn't rated in the same pure playmaker class with Lawson.
Ellington's decision is crucial, but not to the extent of Lawson. Should Ellington exit, Roy Williams would at least have some options at wing guard, starting with junior Danny Green. There would be some loss of quickness and perimeter defense, but Green would provide enough outside shooting expertise to keep some pressure off Hansbrough inside.
I think the really clear differences between Tyler Hansbrough now and Sean May in 2005 is (1) May was coming off a incredible NCAA Tournament and MOP Final Four performance which made his stock mich higher than it had been before and (2) The cupboard was going to be completely bear in 2006 with only David Noel and a group of freshman which had one known commodity in Hansbrough. It was easy to see how May was looking at the possibility of playing 2006 on a weak team as a detriment to his stock so he took the opportunity and left.
Hansbrough, even if both Ellington and Lawson is not looking at a bear cupboard situation. That team which presumes Bobby Frasor as the starting PG, Marcus Ginyard as the starting SG, Danny Green at SF, Hansbrough at C and Deon Thompson at PF is basically the 2006 team that went 23-8 and finished 2nd in the ACC. Add to that group reserves that included Will Graves, Alex Stepheson, freshmen Tyler Zeller, Ed Davis and Larry Drew, you still have to believe that team is a favorite to win a weakened ACC and let's be honest, lesser teams have won the title. I am not they would be a favorite but a senior laden team with plenty of junior support and some talented freshman can do a lot of damage in the NCAA Tournament.
I am also not totally sold on Lawson being the dealbreaker, at least not as much as I was last season. I will grant having him makes this team the best team in the country even if they lose Ellington. However if Lawson gets replaced by Frasor spelled by Drew, I still think that team can gel for a title run. A UNC team with that makeup I still believe can make a national title run. Especially since it will be rely on interior scoring with a longer three point line in play which is going to open up the post some.
Tudor also goes on to question whether a team that loses all three would be able to win 10 ACC games and 20 overall. I think they can and Tudor does point to the 2006 team as an example of a low expectation team performing well. Regardless of what happens, the performance of the incoming freshman will be key aspects to next season, particularly if you are looking at defections of any sort.