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UNC Basketball: Five Questions for the Season

Change is afoot in Chapel Hill. How will the Heels look in Hubert Davis’ debut season?

NCAA Basketball: ACC Tip Off Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

How will Hubert Davis depart from Roy Williams coaching-wise?

We’ve already heard Hubert Davis talk about shooting and spacing. But what fans really want to know about is will Davis call time-outs? Will he tinker with line-ups at the beginning of the season? Will he bench players for not rebounding?

These are questions that can’t be answered until the season is in full swing. Carolina fans have grown accustomed to some of Roy’s more peculiar habits over the past 18 years. This is a chance to see something new, even as Hubert Davis professes to want to keep things as traditional as possible.

The intriguing mix of talented players that Davis has in his quiver will likely result in some early season tinkering, especially as he positions his squad to play a new way. Brady Manek and Dawson Garcia play similarly, so I’d figure that Davis will play whoever is performing in practice. Moving Leaky Black and Justin McKoy to a power forward position will likely be a horses for courses type decision.

Time-outs? If Davis is to believed from his interview during Late Night, he’s going to call one in the first half of the first game. I wouldn’t hold my breath, though.

Who will be UNC’s primary ball handler?

Caleb Love and RJ Davis are both point guards, and although they started together at the beginning of the season, RJ Davis eventually made way for Kerwin Walton’s mid-season slide into the starting line-up. Neither one of them was a prolific assister (Love had 3.6 apg, Davis 1.9) and both had way too many turnovers.

Both have shown a knack for scoring in bunches and they can get streaky-hot. But there’s no clear back-up behind the duo, with Leaky Black and Anthony Harris filling in as make-shift point guards. You wouldn’t want either running the point for an extended period of time.

Hubert Davis may have to pick and choose one to take the lion’s share of minutes at point, unless Caleb Love slides to shooting guard on most nights. This would have a domino effect on Harris, Black, and Walton. If Kerwin Walton continues to shoot well, and he gets to the rim to round out his offense (like he did at Late Night with two dunks), he’ll get as many minutes as his body can handle.

Harris will continue to get minutes with his defense and hustle. Leaky Black has the most to lose. If his inconsistency doesn’t settle soon, he’ll likely lose his starting spot and could settle into a 10-13 mpg type role.

Will offensive rebounding suffer with the bigs shooting 3’s?


Carolina basketball will look fundamentally different as Hubert Davis moves to a space-and-shoot model, like trading in a family SUV for a sedan. The nights of doubling up opponents’ rebounding totals may become a distant memory, but hopefully so too will the nights of 20% shooting from downtown.

Brady Manek and Dawson Garcia are proven perimeter scorers, and Justin McKoy shows potential. Even Armando Bacot’s 3-point stroke looked smooth during Late Night. This will be a carefully considered change to UNC’s basketball philosophy, and will be scrutinized painstakingly by Tar Heel Blog, especially if the Tar Heels got bossed around in the paint by teams with traditional bigs.

But college basketball seems to be following the gravitational pull of the NBA and it’s emphasis on 3-point shooting, even from its post players. The moment has come for Carolina to evolve with modern basketball.

How long until Dontrez Styles is a rotation regular?

The freshman from Kinston, NC impressed during Late Night, and not just because he hit shots from all over the court. It was because he was fearless in doing so, and he looked so comfortable running offense with his more seasoned teammates.

Styles has the unique ability to defend multiple positions, probably from 2-4. If he proves that he can shoot better and more consistently than Leaky Black, there are minutes to be stolen at the 2-3 positions. If Armando Bacot gets into foul trouble and Manek and Garcia have to slide to the 5 position, there are minutes to be taken at the 4. And if Kerwin Walton has an off shooting night and the man he’s guarding is going off, there are minutes available at the 2.

It would surprise me to see Styles start during his freshman year, but it would not surprise me in the slightest to see him averaging 10-15 mpg by January.

Will we finally get to see Puff Johnson?

I’m not a doctor and don’t know much about toe injuries. I know turf toe ruined Deion Sanders’ career. So there’s that.

Wing seems to be fairly settled with Kerwin Walton, Leaky Black, Anthony Harris, Justin McKoy, and Dontrez Styles able to occupy the spot in several line-up variations. But if the hype behind Puff is true (similar shooting to his big brother Cam, but better rebounding), Hubert Davis has to figure out a way to get him time on the court.

That of course, will depend on his health. As tricky as toe injuries are, hopefully he doesn’t rush his return and get set back for another long stint in a boot. Puff was a freshman that I was very curious to see in action last year.