Carolina basketball starts its season on the road in Maryland against Temple before a home date with Fairfield on Sunday. The Heels are already facing a little bit of opposition with Marcus Paige's injury and the team will have to adjust early without their star player. The Heels should still be able to start strong with a pair of opening victories so long as the rest of the team picks up where they left off last year.
Get Something from the Freshmen:
Luke Maye and Kenny Williams will start the season with more playing time than they expected due to Paige's injury. This will primarily affect Williams as he now looks like the third guard for the Heels. But if this moves Justin Jackson to the three from any time at the four, then Maye might find a bit of time as the fifth big man in ways he might not have otherwise. Either way it would be nice to see what the freshman can do early in the season so everyone's role and abilities are clear come tournament time.
Find a Sub at Point Guard:
The most pressing issue for Carolina will be finding a replacement for Paige at point guard. Joel Berry and Nate Britt split point guard duties in the exhibition against Guilford, but that might not be a pair that can work defensively in all matchups. Look for Carolina to try to figure out which one of the guards can assume primary playmaking abilities early so that the offense gets into a rhythm quickly this season.
Justin Jackson Picks Up Where He Left Off:
Jackson ended last season as a good shooter from distance in addition to his abilities as an offensive rebounder. Jackson will need to be that same shooter early in this season with Paige out for the Heels to be able to stretch the floor. Jackson will also face defense's best efforts with Paige out which could work out well for him with respect to his development but could have Carolina's offense looking really ugly to start the season. Jackson might also become Carolina's primary creator on the perimeter on offense since you would hope he can beat most of the defenders guarding him off the dribble.
Brice Johnson Takes Command:
With Marcus Paige out, Brice Johnson become the best player on the Heels. Johnson will need to be big in the games Paige misses, and most importantly, be consistently good. Johnson will need to excel on offense and defense, and it will be especially important that he cleans the glass on defense. A commitment to rebounding on defense will help the Heels defense as well as ensure that the frontcourt players play with good energy, something necessary to make sure that their quality shows through and they win their opening games.
Carolina Finds Some Range:
Without Paige, the Heels have lost their best shooter. Carolina will need to find some shooting to stretch the floor and allow Meeks and Johnson the ability to work inside. Berry, Britt, Jackson, Theo Pinson, Williams and Maye all shake out as potential shooters in the Heels' rotation. It will be good to see at least two of these players find their stroke early in the season to carry the team early and support the offense down the stretch.