About a year ago Chapel Hill was going insane when word came out that Tyler Zeller, John Henson and Harrison Barnes were all coming back to play once again under head coach Roy Williams. From that moment forward the expectations of a season ending in New Orleans with another national championship began to elevate with each passing day. And while making no excuses for this squad, looking back at it now, the reality is that last year’s team was to either win it all or not have a good season, something that seems unfair when you look at the whole story now. A story that did have a couple of bad losses, two games lost by a point each that could have easily been wins and lots and lots of injuries.
This time around, once the fans heard that James McAdoo was coming back, there was a sigh of relief, but not much more. Which might just be a good thing for this upcoming season. Last year the team had all the talent it needed to win it all, but it had all the pressure of a team that had to win it all, making it harder and harder to compete each game as you do not just play against the opposing team but against expectations as well. For one like myself, who has followed this team for a long time last season, win or lose, the fan base always had something to pick on, be it with the whole team or with an individual. Once again, not making any excuses for the players, but at the end of the line these are college kids and the expectations that the fans put on them was maybe just a tad too much. The squad that will don the carolina blue next season will do so with a lot less pressure on them, meaning that they might just play with less stress, a formula that might just make the team good.
It won’t be the same type of team as we are used to, with only James McAdoo as the experienced inside man, this squad will probably have a much more perimeter minded type of game plan than any other that has played in Chapel Hill in the last decade. But one thing that it will have in common with all the other teams that coach Williams puts on the court will be its quickness. The Heels are going to be long on the perimeter as well as agile, which can result in turnovers and those can produce easy points. The Heels might not dominate inside, but they might just be the team with the best defense that has played in Chapel Hill in quite sometimes with the likes of Dexter Strickland and Reggie Bullock on the court at the same time. While this season it was the combo of Zeller and Henson that wore out the opposition in the paint, next year it might be the array of guards that wear out the teams they face.
With no major expectations, with still plenty of talent, this is going to be one of seasons that will feel strange in someways. But in the end this is North Carolina and winning is something that the program, the team and the fan bases expects, so it’s going to be interesting to watch the future unfold for this squad who is not favorite by any way too early poll to be the best team in the conference.