UNC's 2014-15 season is over so we set our sights on next season starting with the roster.
One of the little talked about aspects regarding UNC in 2014-15 was the fact this was actually a young team, especially in regards to the players who were key factors in the team's success. According to KenPom UNC was 289th in experience. UNC has three seniors, Jackson Simmons, Desmond Hubert and Luke Davis. The latter pair were injured for most of the season and even then wouldn't see a lot of action anyway. Simmons continued his role as the player giving spot minutes when Williams needed to make a point about effort or execution. The loss of these three players is barely a blip for a team that hit a nice stride late in the season.
As is always the case at UNC(and most other schools at the Power 5 level) the attention is turned to which of the underclassmen might leaving early for the NBA or other professional ventures. Unlike previous seasons, the question of whether non-seniors would leave appeared to be answered in short order. Marcus Paige referred to "next year" all throughout the postgame interviews following UNC's 79-72 loss to Wisconsin in the Sweet Sixteen. All indications are no one will be departing since none of the players are projected in the first round.
Then again this was true last season and James Michael McAdoo broke the mold a bit by declaring for the NBA Draft. McAdoo's situation was different. He had been projected in the past as a high pick and as a junior was simply ready to move on with the next stage of his life. This was evidenced by his spring nuptials with his girlfriend and UNC volleyball player Lauren McAdoo. Clearly this was a personal decision for McAdoo not based on draft stock. On the current team, none of the players appear to be heading that direction but again no one though that of McAdoo.
In that respect there is still a sort of "wait and see" element involved with UNC's roster next season as it pertains to departures. However the confidence level in the stability of the current roster for next season should be as high as it can reasonably be given the circumstances.
On the flip side, will UNC add anyone to the mix for next season? Luke Maye, a 6-9 forward and son of former UNC QB Mark Maye is set join the team and likely take on the two available scholarships. Maye is unlikely to contribute much outside of some minutes in the pre-conference season. He will be a four year player who has shown some rebounding prowess and can shoot on the perimeter.
The real focus for UNC is Kinston, NC SF Brandon Ingram and Wheeler, GA SF Jaylen Brown. Roy Williams is recruiting both players and both have shown interest in UNC. Ingram at one point was thought to be a mortal lock for UNC thanks to the Tar Heel connection of Jerry Stackhouse and Reggie Bullock. The NCAA cloud has given Ingram pause while there is really no good read on where Brown might end up going.
The threat of NCAA sanctions is certainly an issue but one that may not even impact next season. If the NCAA follows the normal infractions process, a final decision may not come for six months or longer. In that respect the 2015-16 season is probably safe with 2016-17 likely bearing the brunt of any potential postseason ban. However this is the NCAA so no one really knows. It's tough to blame a kid for not wanting to commit to a school unless he knows for certain the sanctions will not impact him. No one can make that guarantee right now.
More immediate than that however is UNC doesn't have as much playing time to offer as other schools. Ingram, for example, may be looking at a wide open wing situation at Duke versus competing for playing time at UNC. In that respect Duke might be a better option. While Williams gets dinged for sticking with seniors as starters, even if Ingram proved he belonged in the starting lineup relegating J.P. Tokoto to the bench, his playing time will likely be less than it would be at Duke.
Obviously either Ingram or Brown would be fantastic additions and could give UNC some scoring elements the Tar Heels have lacked. At the same time the freshman-to-sophomore jump for Justin Jackson, Joel Berry and even Theo Pinson might be more than enough shore up UNC's perimeter scoring for next season. Neither of the recruiting targets will help issues like defensive rebounding or fouling by the Tar Heel big men.
In essence, the team UNC has now should be really good if players develop and certain overall team shortcomings in execution and on defense get addressed. Adding top flight recruits would add to UNC's depth but if the Tar Heels have to play with the cards in hand, the team should still have its sights set on Houston.