A couple of basketball features that were published while we were assembling a mob to storm NCAA HQ in Indianapolis.
First up, Gary Parrish at CBS Sportsline who says if John Henson were a stock, he would be buying.
Now Thompson and Davis are professionals and the Wears Twins have transferred to UCLA. That leaves Zeller, Henson and Alabama transfer Justin Knox as the lone bigs on the roster. Which means Henson's days on the wing are over. Which means Henson is about to experience a breakout season.
That's my prediction.
Henson will average more than 25 minutes per game, a double-double per game and he might lead the ACC in blocked shots, too. He'll go from the biggest disappointment of last season's freshman class to the biggest star of this season's sophomore class. He'll do it while helping the Tar Heels make the NCAA tournament and erase from everybody's minds last season's disaster that resulted in an NIT appearance, and he'll do it all because of one simple reason.
"I'm back down low," Henson said. "I think it's going to be a great transition, and hopefully I can do big things."
That is a fairly bold prediction then again maybe not. If you look at Henson's work once he started at the power forward slot, he put in good work. Henson's offensive skills frightened and confused us sometimes but it freakishly long arms had him snagging rebounds mere mortals would not be able to reach. Now that Henson has added some weight, experience and gets the full length of the preseason to play power forward, a double-double is not out of the question.
Jeff Goodman at Fox Sports takes a look at UNC's point guard situation which Roy Williams says he feels very confident about heading into the season. And he might be the only one but what else do we expect him to say?
So leaves the one final major hole – and Williams doesn’t seem nearly as concerned about it as I am.
Point guard play.
It’ll be the key to whether the Tar Heels can return to national prominence this season.
Williams points to Larry Drew II’s 220 assists a year ago despite playing with a team around him that had lost six guys that were making money (four in the NBA and two overseas).
``He did a lot of really good things,” Williams said of Drew. ``But he was being compared to Ty (Lawson).”
Drew will never be Lawson – or anything close for that matter. But if he can develop into a solid, capable floor leader and make enough quality decisions and shots, North Carolina could make a legitimate Final Four run this season.
``Larry has the ability,” Williams said. ``He definitely has the ability. He’s got great feel, length and quickness. He can also be a fantastic defender.”
``He’s got the tools – and now he’s got the experience,” he added.
Williams is also breathing easier now that he’s got other options at the point.
``Last year we didn’t even have a third point guard,” he said. ``Now we’ve got three options.”
There’s Drew, freshman Kendall Marshall and sophomore Dexter Strickland – who was thrust into a reserve role running the team a year ago after having virtually no experience playing the point.
I still maintain there’s a chance Marshall – due to his high IQ – could wind up taking the starting point guard spot from Drew at some point this season.
Goodman is correct. The point guard play is the issue facing this team. Everyone and their brother have pretty much decided the Harrison Barnes and Reggie Bullock will resolved the perimeter shooting/leadership vacuum problems that plagued the 2010 team. In my opinion Barnes and Bullock cover a lot of this ground but UNC is still going to need help from Will Graves when it comes to the whole outside shooting business. Plus, I hate the idea of placing so much on two freshmen but I digress.
As for the point guard play, Roy thinks Larry Drew is going to be fine pointing to his assist totals as evidence he knows how to distribute the basketball. You will also note that Roy couches his comments with a lot of talk about Drew having the ability or having the tools to be this or that. That is Roy's way of saying:
Yes, Drew showed us some good things but he has the ability to be better. Whether he gets better is entirely up to him.
If you have paid any attention to Goodman since last spring, he is driving the Kendall Marshall Bandwagon. Goodman was pushing this "Marshall will start at UNC" meme on Twitter during the high school all-star games last April and May. He could very well be right. There are plenty of factors working in Marshall's favor. Foremost is he is probably more talented than Drew. There are also issues of team chemistry and the fact Marshall has pretty much attained son-like status with Roy. It is no secret Roy and Drew do not always see eye-to-eye, then again people said the same thing about Roy and Ty Lawson who got tossed from practice during his freshman year at UNC. There are merits to the argument that Marshall could take Drew's starting job but it will not happen right away. Roy is going to opt for experience and probably does feel like he should give Drew every chance to show he can be a top flight PG. The primary factors working against Marshall right now are experience and perimeter shooting. Drew has a leg up on both but by mid-January the experience aspect tends to be downplayed somewhat. If UNC is getting plenty of three point shooting from other players, that will not be nearly as important either. Of course neither rule out the possibility we see both players in the backcourt at the same time, something that would be interesting to watch.
My take is the same one applied to T.J. Yates. If Drew can be the guy at point then the team is going to be better because then you have two capable PGs assuming Marshall pans out. There is no question we all want to be pleasantly surprised where Drew is concerned making whatever Marshall does an added bonus in terms quality depth at PG. Whatever the case, the ceiling for this team is basically controlled by the point guard play. It would be nice if that ceiling is as high as possible.