As we roll into February, the preseason rankings are beginning to trickle out, and the one from the Sporting News has Carolina at #1.
Those college coaches preaching the “defense-wins- championships” gospel can’t be all that pleased with Roy Williams. He has won twice with teams that were brilliant on offense and just good enough on defense. This year’s Tar Heel squad looks to be cut from that cloth. Point guard Kendall Marshall has not been an elite defender and can struggle to deny penetration, but what might separate these Heels from their predecessors is the shot-blocking presence of 6-10 power forward John Henson. And, oh my, are they going to score points.
Kentucky is #2 and Duke #5.
Being #1 is nice and all, but wouldn’t it be better to start out somewhere else in the top 10 and gradually work your way up to the top spot? Being #1 comes with so many crushing expectations, and those can sometimes take their toll on a young team. Will this group of Heels be able to handle the hype like seasoned vets, or will it prove too much?
Also, that “oh, my, are they going to score points” line seems a bit overly optimistic. Just a word of caution. Last season with the same starting five, we often scored in the 60s. Hell, we beat Boston College by putting up just 48 points. Granted, everyone on the team should be improved this year, but if you look at the starting 5, only Tyler Zeller and Harrison Barnes would be considered scoring machines. John Henson is more of a defensive stopper, Kendall Marshall only shoots when he has to and Dexter Strickland doesn’t really shoot at all. These fabled hundreds of points per game may come from a healthy Reggie Bullock hitting from downtown and the impressive freshman, but then, they may not. With Leslie McDonald looking to be sidelined for almost the entire season with an ACL tear, the offensive prospects don’t exactly improve.
Thoughts? Will this team consistently score in the 80s and 90s and become the unstoppable offensive machine worthy of a #1 ranking as the Sporting News says?