With draft decisions made, Carolina is ready for its next NCAA run
The three North Carolina players who were entertaining draft decisions all appear to have made sensible choices. Reggie Bullock maxed out his college value this season, especially when the Tar Heels moved to a smallball lineup in the latter part of the year. One more season in Chapel Hill, especially with the way the roster and rotation may change next season, wasn't going to help a kid who grew up poor and wants to help his family by earning a living.
Fellow wing P.J. Hairston wasn't at Bullock's all-around level this season, and he could become a bigger impact guy next season with Bullock's departure. James Michael McAdoo needs to develop more actual basketball skill after two seasons of looking the part but not showing any consistent numbers that would foot with his size and athleticism. He shot under 45 percent from the field this season, all from two-point range, which is truly poor for a 6-foot-9 forward. His draft stock won't sink any more than it already has, and there's a reasonable chance that he can improve it next season, especially being allowed to play more of his normal position with the arrival of two more promising freshman bigs and the other returnees from this season's roster.
All in all, Carolina is in very good shape after these draft decisions. Increased depth along with more experience for the returning core puts the Tar Heels, an 8-seed in this past season's NCAA tournament, strongly back in the mix for the ACC crown next year.
What stood out more during an examination of how the Tar Heels will look this season is how well, relative to perception, the Tar Heels have weathered downturns in light of personnel changes. The 2010 NIT season and the first half of 2010-11, before Kendall Marshall took over at the point, stand out in the minds of a lot of people, but that was really the outlier blip despite what feels like a sizable perception of Roy Williams' "dips" in team performance in Chapel Hill as he reloads.
After losing everyone off the 2005 national champions, Carolina (fueled by freshman Tyler Hansbrough) was actually a 3-seed in the 2006 NCAAs. That's a footnote because they were dumped in the Round of 32 by eventual Final Four Cinderella George Mason. Then the 2007 NCAAs started a run of five Elite Eights in six seasons, including two Final Fours and Roy's second national title in 2009. The 2012 team was also a huge title contender until Marshall broke his wrist against Creighton in the Round of 32. They still nearly made the Final Four.
It's funny to feel like Roy is underappreciated, especially in light of Mike Krzyzewski's last decade of NCAA tournament underachievement (against seed expectation), but Duke (and Kansas) are 1- or 2-seeds every season, even during what should be roster transitions. That earns a ton of perception equity, and rightfully so. There are no 8/9 games or home NIT dates with William & Mary. Then again, those programs haven't experienced en masse departures like North Carolina (although Kansas is facing one right now).
Anyway, after a season of upheaval in the ACC, we should be right back where we normally are next season. Duke should be excellent once again and Carolina should have every opportunity to win the league as well. They have more than enough other capable shooters to make up for Bullock, and with the increased size on the roster for next season, they can also compensate for his rebounding and defensive capabilities. Given Roy's NCAA tournament track record, another run to the Elite Eight or better looks very possible. That would make it seven of those in a decade, with at least three Final Fours and two national titles. Would you have guessed that? Neither would I. Wonder if Andrew Wiggins knows?