So if you paid any attention to ACC's Operation Basketball today, you know Roy Williams, Marcus Paige and Brice Johnson were making the rounds with the assembled media. For the most part all of the interviews started to run together since the general range of questions and answers were the same. Here is your basic summary of the key points.
The mantra all day was "nothing new, no decision, still going through the process and we'll know something before the first game." Williams dropped something along these lines at every stop. He still maintains Hairston will play and for the first time acknowledged the NCAA will have a role in determining at least part of the suspension. There has been conjecture Williams will tack something onto what the NCAA decides.
Williams did say Hariston has been "sensational" in practice and continues to do everything asked of him.
Because of some of the uncertainty surrounding when Hairston will play and the lack of wing depth, Williams has been experimenting with different lineups. One has been putting both Marcus Paige and Nate Britt on the floor in a "two point guard" lineup. Paige moves to the wing guard slot in that scenario. Both Williams and Paige made mention of this lineup which leads to the assumption it will be seen quite a bit.
Side note: This isn't really new. Given Dexter Strickland's lack of shooting acumen, UNC basically has been running a two point guard system for a couple of years. In fact I would argue Paige is closer to being a solid option at wing guard than Strickland ever thought about being, assuming his three point shooting has improved.
As for starters, apparently only two players have a lock on their position: Paige and James Michael McAdoo. Hairston would probably be included in that group if his situation were different and the five spot is up in the air as expected. The curious aspect of this statement is Leslie McDonald doesn't have a solid grip on the wing guard position. Is this a result of him being in the doghouse? That would actually be better than the other logical conclusion which is McDonald is falling short as a player. McDonald not having the wing guard position locked down is a tad discouraging and also disappointing given he is a fifth year senior.
The center position is still being worked out with no clear cut favorite. There have been some minor injuries along the way but for the most part the battle appears to be coming down to Joel James versus Kennedy Meeks. Williams has said he is impressed with Meeks so far and Paige continues to tout the improvements in James' game. Williams said Meeks was the best passing big man he has ever coached and the value of such a skill in UNC's offense is obvious.
Williams was adamant that going small would not be an option this season. He wants to give one of the many big men UNC has a chance to hold down the position. There is also the need to keep McAdoo at power forward where he can be more effective.
Marcus Paige said it best:
I think we have a lot of pieces come back that can help us make a run that far or get deep into being one of the top five, top-10 teams in the country. Until we start playing games, those rankings don't mean anything. It shows we have a lot of pieces, if we come together, hit or stride, can make a lot of noise come March or April
UNC is picked third in the league and if that happens, given the quality of the league now, it will be pretty good.
Coaches Transcript(Roy Williams page 20)
Players Transcript(Marcus Paige and Brice Johnson page 17)
Inside Carolina on the center position