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ACC Now's Mid-Summer (Night's) Basketball Preview

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Forgiveness for content being light but the news was light. I was also sick, then traveling, then sick again over the past three days.

Anyway.

J.P. Giglio offers up his traditional summer basketball preview which is a great time to do it since nothing else is happening and the chess pieces are largely set. You can read his predictions here. To no one's surprise, Duke is picked to win the ACC. Gilgio tabs UNC...fourth? Yeah, you are going to see some of that based on two things. The first is akin to overcompensating behind the wheel of the car after you ran onto the shoulder. The media jerked the wheel one way with hyped expectations of UNC a year ago so naturally they will come back with something that makes it appear they have not spent three hours in a bar doing shots. The other factor, and the most important one, is the fact college basketball is predicated on guard play. If you have a rock solid PG then the expectations are higher. In UNC's case Larry Drew is still a huge question mark until he proves otherwise or Kendall Marshall shows he can run the show. Odds might be running even on both of those. The point is the point, if you will. What keeps UNC from dipping too far is the sheer force of talent starting with Harrison Barnes to John Henson to Reggie Bullock, etc, etc, etc. At any rate. Both Virginia Tech(2nd) and FSU(3rd) have established play in the backcourt so it gives them a slight leg up on UNC. I still think their respective coaches hurt both those teams which is why it is still a crapshoot after Duke.

In Giglio's breakdown of UNC, he highlights the guard play and defense as the two potential hindrances to this team doing more.

Just adding Barnes and Bullock won't solve all of UNC's problems. They were a poor defensive team last season, and worse, sometimes indifferent (hello, 32-point loss at Duke).

"I’ve never coached effort," Williams memorably said last February. "I always coached execution. But with this group I’ve had to coach effort."

That comment was meant to be a compliment to his former players at Kansas and UNC, but it made Williams sound pretentious. You don't coach effort? That's the essence of your job.

Defense is all about effort. Save for shot-blocking, defense is not about talent rather desire and the willingness to work hard and communicate with your teammates.

UNC needs to take a major step up from the league-worst 71.9 points per game it allowed last season.

Sophomore John Henson playing in the correct forward position, and protecting the rim, should help the cause, but this team needs to improve its mindset without the basketball.

Just a minor point. When Roy Williams talked about "coaching effort" he was talking about the fact he never had players who simply did not work or play as hard as they needed to in a given game. The 2010 team had a serious lack of urgency problem. That is what go them in deep holes in so many games is their penchant for thinking the opening tip was some sort of invitation to high tea with the freaking Queen of England and not a basketball game. If you asked me why this was an issue, I will point time and time again to attitudes in the locker room but more to the point the utter lack of leadership among the players. I will be shocked if any of that is an issue this season with the freshman trio coming in and the remainder of the team who appear to be on the same page. But I digress.

The defensive issue is also the same as the point guard issue. If Drew decides he is going to buckle down and exert some effort on defense then UNC will be much better off. Disrupting opposing teams at the PG position is what makes or breaks your defense. The problem is UNC's perimeter defense under Roy has always been a little suspect. Even Ty Lawson needed to be convinced to toughen his defensive posture at times during his junior season. Overall I expect John Henson being in the post, a healthy Tyler Zeller and Harrison Barnes at small forward to really help the defense in general.

Speaking of Harrison Barnes. The season is going to hinge on his play. My anticipation is Barnes will be as advertised which will have a nice effect on the rest of team lifting them to a higher level. Barnes is simply too versatile and by all accounts too good not to make everyone around him better. His ability to create offense for himself and others will do wonders for the PG production by giving Drew/Marshall a target, opening up the floor by being a worry for the oppsing defense and taking the pressure off by facilitating the offense in ways normally reserved for the PG. Is that a ton to expect from one person? Sure. Is there anyone who does not think Barnes is up to the task? Not that I have seen.