While the start of the college basketball season is a little less than two months away, teams around the nation have concerns about last year’s departures. The University of North Carolina is one of them as the 2017 NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player winner, Joel Berry II, is currently on the Los Angeles Lakers. Berry had a storied college career as he led the Tar Heels to two regular season ACC championships, an ACC Tournament champion, two Final Fours and the 2017 national title.
His clutch scoring will be missed as North Carolina turned to him when the team needed a basket late in the game. Senior forward Luke Maye is the natural option to take more of the scoring load for North Carolina as he is the team’s top returning scorer at 16.9 points per game. Maye hit the game winner in the 2017 Elite Eight matchup against Kentucky, so he is a definite late game option for the Tar Heels.
Cameron Johnson and Kenny Williams should also see more looks at the basket as both players were primarily three point shooters last season. The duo combined to make 119 three-pointers and that number is only going to increase with Berry moving on to the NBA. North Carolina will need both players to be more than just shooters as the team’s best passer and defender in Theo Pinson also graduated.
Johnson and Williams are both good perimeter defenders, which should ease some of head coach Roy Williams’ concerns on the defensive end. Offensively, the duo are not as well-rounded as Berry and Pinson, but the arrival of two McDonald’s All-Americans should help the Tar Heels have one of the nation’s top offenses.
Nassir Little won the MVP of the McDonald’s All-American Game after he scored 28 points on 12-17 shooting and should bring that type of offensive efficiency to North Carolina. His ability to attack the basket and finish through contact gives Williams a perimeter option that he has not had since Harrison Barnes in 2012. Little’s overall game should fill the void that Pinson left and take some of the scoring load off of Maye, Johnson and Williams.
Coby White is the other McDonald’s All-American joining the Tar Heels and he should provide the scoring and shooting that Berry II provided them over the past three seasons. White ended his prep career as North Carolina’s all-time scoring leader with 3,573 points, including a state record 1,069 points in his junior season. His ability to stretch the defense will help players like Johnson and Williams get more open three-pointers, but White’s penetration will get Little and Maye easy points around the basket.
Berry II and Pinson had incredible careers at North Carolina and replacing them is no easy task for coach Williams. The additions of Little and White, along with the return of Maye, Johnson and Williams, should make the Tar Heels one of the top teams in the ACC.