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ACC Now Basketball Preview

Nothing like thinking of basketball in the summer. Then again we never stopped thinking about it so this is just a continuation of the norm.

Giglio on UNC:

Projected starting lineup: G Ty Lawson, G Wayne Ellington, F Marcus Ginyard, F Deon Thompson, F Tyler Hansbrough

New additions: F Ed Davis, F Tyler Zeller, G Larry Drew, G Justin Watts

Dave Telep's recruiting analysis: "Davis is a smaller, post player with a big motor and great instincts around the rim. He really runs the floor. ... Zeller is a face-up forward and he probably runs the floor better than any other post player in the Class of 2008. Both Davis and Zeller fit exactly what Roy Williams wants to do on the break. ... Drew's solid. He can make an open shot but mostly, he gets the right guy the basketball. He's different than Ty Lawson or Raymond Felton in that he enables other players, as opposed to being a star. ... Watts is an excellent student and a great kid but it's an uphill battle for him to become a mainstream ACC player."

Outlook: The Tar Heels could have won the ACC without Lawson, Ellington and/or Green. With all three back, plus Hansbrough — who'll finish his senior season as the all-time leading scorer in UNC and ACC history — the question becomes will UNC run the table in the ACC?

At 14-2, the Heels came pretty close last season. A year older, wiser and with the addition of three McDonald's All-Americans, perfection — at least in the conference — is not out of the question.

The ACC hasn't been the problem for the Heels in the past two years, as they've won the conference title each time and finished first during the regular season. What has been a problem is beating elite teams in the NCAA Tournament. Georgetown got them in the Round of Eight in 2007 and Kansas in the Final Four in April.

Louisville was a nice team, but limited so UNC wasn't pushed in the NCAA Tournament until it met Kansas, and the Heels weakly pushed back. Once the Heels cleared all the pre-grame Ol' Roy-KU hype, they were completely unprepared for the bigger, faster, stronger, deeper Jayhawks.

The addition of Davis and Zeller should add reinforcements to this year's team. That's if both players can contribute in the roles they'll be assigned — i.e. off the bench and not the star for the first time in their basketball existence. Given Williams' preferred pace, and the fact that they were recruited to fit specific roles — kinda like every Williams' team has the same parts — that should be a minor problem.

The bigger problem— if you want to call not winning the national championship a problem — that will have to be amended if Williams is going to win his second title is finding the balance between offense and defense.

Ellington's a limited defensive player. Ginyard's a limited offensive player. Williams prefers to play both at the same time, his own yin-yang version of basketball.

But, when Ellington's on the floor without Green — or Bobby Frasor if he can stay healthy for the first time since his freshman season — then he's the only viable perimeter shooting threat. Title teams need more than one outside option (they usually have three).

Lawson, who was awful against Kansas, hasn't been a consistent second choice. Unless he develops that part of his game, Williams is going to need both Ellington and Green on the floor at the same time.

And both need to be hitting their shots for UNC to clear the final hurdle. That means something will have to give, likely Ginyard's minutes (but only in those big games).

That's a lot of words with only a drive-by mention of the national player of the year and that's because Psycho T's not a concern. He's a given. Write in his 24 points and 12 rebounds for every game. It's what everyone else around him does that will determine if UNC's just another Final Four team— not a bad tag, by the way — or championship gold.

Based on a preview of the schedule, UNC should get tested a little more in the regular season and I also think the ACC will be much better.  Duke will be top 10, I am not entirely sold on Miami being in the top 10 but Wake will be top 20 at least and I would not be surprised to see Virginia Tech or Clemson sneak up to provide some stiff competition.

I do not have much in the way of issues with the analysis of UNC and I commend Giglio on actually delving into basketball issues and not mentioning the chemistry/ego issues other than those of the freshman coming in which is always a transition.  The offense-defense balance issue can be resolved by the Heels simply becoming a top five defensive team.  If they can learn how to play strong team defense and guys like Lawson and Ginyard can become lock down defenders on their counterpart guards then I think the offense will take care of itself.  I will also be interested to see if Green can step up his game in terms of help defense to compensate for potential breakdowns.  The downside to Alex Stepheson transferring is there was a potential there to have a player in the middle who can block shots and general defend the basket area when needed.  Ed Davis might have a niche waiting for him if he wants it and can step in to be a solid interior defender.  Hansbrough and Deon Thompson also need to step up their general defensive presence as well.

The defense is key because it ignites the fast break and if they are getting into transition off the defense then the perimeter shooting that concerns Giglio when certain personnel is not on the floor will be less of an issue.  Of course I think we will have to wait and see what the new three point line does to the general flow of half court offense.  In UNC's case, it should result in an even stronger interior game but I agree you need something falling from three point land to stretch the defense and give yourself multiple options.

By the time we reach ACC play I think the issues UNC will contend with will be ones of focus and solid execution on both ends.  They have all the other pieces, all they need to do is put their heads in the right place and make it happen.