Sunday, March 05, 2006

Proud to Wear Carolina Blue
By Imtiaz Mussa

Well Zach did a solid job of evaluating an overrated Duke team; I’m going to take a look at the winning team tonight, the University of North Carolina Tar Heels.

I have to admit that I thought this year was going to be one for rebuilding. After all, the team lost Sean May, Raymond Felton, Rashad McCants, Marvin Williams, Jawad Williams, Jackie Manuel, and Melvin Scott. How could a team recover from losing all of those players? Head Coach Roy Williams even acknowledged that losing May and Marvin especially was going to hurt. When the coach recruited Tyler Hansbrough to Chapel Hill, he thought that he’d have a front line of May, Hansbrough, and Williams. But that was not going to be the case. Most of the preseason predictions had this team going to the NIT this season but here we are, nearing the NCAA Tournament and UNC is in a familiar spot heading into the field of 65.

How did this happen? First, we all underestimated the impact that senior David Noel and junior Reyshawn Terry were going to have. They may not have played a significant amount of minutes last season but their leadership on the court has been tremendous. With his minutes doubled, Noel is averaging 12.9 PPG and 6.6 RPG while Terry has seen his minutes go from a miniscule 4.5 to 23.5. And in that time, he has become Carolina’s second leading scorer at 14.4 PPG. These two players are growing up as well as they have fully adjusted to their new roles on the team. They are this year’s Jawad Williams and Jackie Manuel.

Prior to the season, there was plenty of talk about how ACC Freshman of the Year was going to come down to Duke’s Josh McRoberts and UNC’s Tyler Hansbrough. It’s safe to say that this one is going to Tyler and I’ll even say that if it weren’t for JJ Redick and his much publicized season, (Thanks ESPN) the freshman would have a chance at ACC Player of the Year. There was really no way of knowing he’d be this good this quickly. He accepted the fact that he would have to take on a bigger role and has excelled. A scoring average of 18.7 PPG and 7.5 RPG is comparable to Sean May’s junior year. Tonight, Hansbrough sealed himself as a Tar Heel legend. Playing in front of the Cameron Crazies on Senior Night as they honor JJ Redick and Sheldon Williams, he scored 27 points and grabbed 10 rebounds as UNC got the win.

Other members of the freshman class are guards, Bobby Frasor, Danny Green, and Marcus Ginyard. Frasor and Green were looked at as the next Felton and McCants. Ginayard was the least heralded of the three as his role was up in the air. But he has settled into a role off the bench alongside Green while Frasor starts in the backcourt with walk on Wes Miller. Miller is starting to add another handler on the floor just in case Frasor gets flustered but in crunch time, Green takes his spot as he did tonight coming up with a big defensive play. Hansbrough already looks like an NBA player but if these guys stay for a full four years, they will be too.

Now don’t cut down the nets just yet, this team still has its flaws. They nearly handed Duke the game tonight after they decided to start pressing on the offensive end when they should have just dribbled the ball out, set the offense, and take time off the clock. It is that sort of inexperience that can hurt a team in the tournament. Also, Hansbrough is the only real threat on this team. If you figure out a way to take him out of the game, UNC is pretty much done. Nevertheless, Tar Heel fans have reason for excitement as there is silence coming out of Cameron Indoor Stadium.

And don’t get me started on next year; North Carolina has the best recruiting class in the country netting Brandan Wright, Wayne Ellington, Tywon Lawson, and Deon Thompson. Roy Williams is going to win another NCAA Championship before he’s done.


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