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UNC Basketball: Two Tar Heels found on Best Player in the Nation list

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Joel Berry and Cam Johnson both received votes as the possible best player in the country. Berry comes as no surprise, but how can Cam Johnson attain this status?

NCAA Basketball: Final Four Championship Game-Gonzaga vs North Carolina Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

CBS Sports college hoops writers Gary Parrish, Matt Norlander, and Reid Forgrave have begun to publish different articles based on surveys they completed during the summer with over 100 college coaches throughout the country. One of these polls was centered around who will be the best player in college basketball this season, and the results have a good mix of both incoming freshmen and veterans.

The top of the list is somewhat unsurprising with incoming Missouri Tiger Michael Porter Jr. (the top recruit in the 2017 class until Bagley reclassified), sophomore MSU forward Miles Bridges, Villanova guard Jalen Brunson, North Carolina’s very own Joel Berry II, and Arizona freshman DeAndre Ayton and ND senior Bonzie Coleman rounding out the top 5 (they tied with the same amount of votes). The rest of the list includes Grayson Allen, Marvin Bagley (if eligible), Miami’s Bruce Brown, Kansas vet Devonte’ Graham, Texas freshman Mo Bamba, Wisconsin’s Ethan Happ, UNC’s Cam Johnson, Alabama freshman Collin Sexton, and Arizona guard Allonzo Trier.

Kentucky v North Carolina Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Having two North Carolina players comes as somewhat of a surprise. Joel Berry is not the one that caught many off guard. The 2017 Final Four Most Outstanding Player is poised to have another big year on a team where he will probably be the first scoring option without ACC Player of the Year Justin Jackson. Berry’s name is expected to be at the top of every preseason All-American list and will more than likely be the front runner for ACC Player of the Year. The surprise instead comes in the votes for the newest Tar Heel Cameron Johnson.

Cam Johnson has obviously come to Chapel Hill by way of the University of Pittsburgh. He was a solid player averaging 11.9 points and 4.5 rebounds in 33 minutes, but in no way would be viewed as one of the nation’s top players. So the easy question is how did he go from a no-mans-land at Pitt to receiving votes to be the best player in the nation?

Roy Williams System

One of the easiest reasons to see why Johnson could make the jump some coaches expect is how well Johnson could fit into Williams’ system. It is no secret that Pitt struggled in the 2016-2017 season. They struggled to win games (went 16-17, 4-14 in conference), and players on bad teams don’t usually end up getting much notoriety. They also struggled to get the ball in the hoop with 72.8 points per game (186 out of 351 NCAA teams). The Tar Heels may take a step back from a win/loss perspective, but UNC will put the ball in the hoop. UNC has finished outside of the top 20 in scoring only twice in Williams’ 14 years. Sure there are other statistics that matter to be a top college basketball player, but scoring catches people’s eye and the Tar Heels flat out score more than Pitt did.

NCAA Basketball: North Carolina at Pittsburgh
The past vs. the future?
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Filling a Justin Jackson Sized Hole

UNC teams score, but after losing Justin Jackson someone will have to step up and fill his shoes. Jackson averaged 18.3 points last year and Johnson will be looked at to fill the majority of that gap to be one of the highest scoring teams once again. Berry will certainly get his shots up as he did least year, but the 15 field goals Jackson attempted a game will be up for grabs; and that’s only at the small forward spot. With UNC potentially going small more there will also be shots from Meeks, Hicks, and Bradley that someone will have to take. That someone certainly could be Johnson.

Tar Heels: Live and in Color

If a tree falls in the woods does it make a sound? If you don’t put your workout on social media did it really happen? If you are the best player in the country but you’re never on TV can you really be the best player? Luckily for Cam Johnson, he won’t have to worry about the last question. The Heels are on national television as much as anyone and that certainly helps your odds to be considered the best player in the country.

If everything comes together and Cam Johnson can fill the hole Jackson left, he certainly could be the 3rd straight consensus All-American in a row for the Tar Heels. Becoming an All-American would certainly be an incredible accomplishment for Johnson, and Williams and UNC may need him to play at that level to get back to the Final Four.

The original article can be found here: https://www.cbssports.com/college-basketball/news/candid-coaches-who-will-be-college-basketballs-best-player-this-season/