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Predictions Based on Air

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Maybe you have noticed but I have been very circumspect discussing what I think will happen during the next basketball season simply because everything is still very much in the air concerning what the roster will look like. And it is not just the NBA water testers but also late recruits such as Duke securing Mason Plumlee after he decided not to attend Stanford. For myself I see zero point in attempting to predict next season when we are not sure who UNC will have. That being said....

Caulton Tudor decided to play the "what if" game on Sunday probably because, unlike me, he gets paid for his gig and he has to write something.  He does admit upfront that if UNC returns 2-3 of the current draft testers the Heels will be gold. If not they will be 2nd best in the ACC to Duke.  I am not sure I can disagree with that at this point though a lot people said the same thing in 2006 and while the Heels did finish 2nd then, they knocked Duke off in Cameron during the regular season finale.  Just for laughs let's breakdown what Tudor said about the Heels next season if the doomsday scenario plays out.

2. NORTH CAROLINA (36-3, 14-2)

PROJECTED STARTERS: Tyler Hansbrough, Sr. F; Deon Thompson, Jr., F; Marcus Ginyard, Sr., W; Will Graves, So., W; Bobby Frasor, Jr., G

Everything hinges on the status of Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington and Danny Green. The popular assumption is that only Lawson is likely to stay in the NBA Draft pool, but no one can know for sure until announcements are made. The key man is Frasor, who is returning from major knee surgery and might need to play 30 or more minutes per game at the point. Recruits Ed Davis and Larry Drew arrive with reputations as accurate shooters.

OVERVIEW: The offensive pace will slow unless Lawson returns to push the tempo. But with Hansbrough surrounded by a wealth of size and experience inside, the Heels will remain a top-15 team.

First of all, no love for Tyler Zeller?  Secondly, I do not see Will Graves starting unless he learns how to play defense and shoot the ball with a little more accuracy and discipline.  If I had to name a starting lineup right now I think Roy goes big.

PG: Frasor
SG: Ginyard
SF: Thompson
PF: Hansbrough
C: Stepheson

It is important to remember the huge X factor out there is how moving the three point line back will affect the game.  There is simply no way of knowing because the line has been where it is for over 20 years.  A cursory view of it seems to point to increased scoring on the inside since moving it back should lower the percentages some, though I would be surprised if this is significant considering the range players have now.  The issue is the spacing on defense.  The line being a foot further out means perimeter defense has to move out to maintain contact with the shooter.  In my mind it makes playing a zone more difficult and if your offensive spacing is excellent I see it really opening up what happens 10-15 feet in.  With that in mind I see UNC using a bigger lineup but perhaps slowing the tempo some.  I think in this scenario Hansbrough becomes a PF to better utilize that jumper we saw him develop last season.  In my estimation those shots are should be available more than they have been in the past.

I think in terms of placing the best defensive unit on the floor you have to go with this lineup.  We know Frasor and Ginyard can play defense.  Thompson is questionable and so is Hansbrough for that matter simply because he does not look to block shots.  I cannot see Roy compounding the issue by putting another suspect defender out there in Graves.  The logical choice is Stepheson and put him at center so he can defend the basket and maybe give UNC a shot blocker which is something missing since Brandan Wright left.  Also, Hansbrough seems to play his game better with Stepheson complimenting him.  Thompson is quick enough to play an opposing team's SF if needed, he simply needs to do a better job with his defensive focus and keeping the ball in front of him.

Can this team beat Duke?  Maybe.  The three point line is going to affect them since they depended on it so much last season but with the 6-10 Plumlee coming in alongside Lance Thomas, Duke will have a much improved inside presence that will allow Kyle Singler to run loose all over the court.  They will be a good team that is unless Plumlee develops like most Duke big men have developed over the past 2-3 years.  Also, Greg Paulus is still the PG unless Nolan Smith shows some chops.  And there are three huge X factors coming for UNC in the form of Tyler Zeller, Ed Davis and Larry Drew.  Can one or all of them come in and play huge from day one covering for the loss of Green, Lawson and Ellington sufficiently enough keep UNC viable?  Perhaps and who knows maybe Graves will shock the world come next season.

Then again if 2 of the 3 players currently in the draft decided to come back everything I just wrote is worthless.