UNC basketball has always been one of the nation’s high profile programs. Lately there’s even more of a soap opera vibe than usual in Chapel Hill. This column doesn’t attempt to provide answers. Instead, we simply present some questions that folks along Tobacco Road are asking about the Tar Heels.
1) Which is the real UNC basketball team? Are they the squad that impressively knocked off Michigan State, Louisville and Kentucky, or the one that lost to Belmont and UAB and got taken to overtime by a young Davidson team?
2) Has Leslie McDonald’s return been “subtraction by addition”? McDonald sat out the first nine games due to NCAA violations for receiving improper benefits. He returned to the team to add some outside shooting punch, but some observers have opined that the Tar Heels’ on-court chemistry looked better before McDonald was back in the mix.
3) Is the team finally over the PJ Hairston distraction? Hairston also received improper benefits, and the team expected his return along with McDonald. Even Athletic Director Bubba Cunningham stated before the season that Hairston would miss some games but would play this season. The question of Hairston’s eligibility dragged on, as Hairston (and McDonald) sat on the UNC bench in street clothes. Now that Hairston’s off the team for good, the distraction should be lessened as the players know PJ won’t be coming to the rescue.
4) Did UNC’s handling of the Hairston situation damage its reputation with future recruits? For months, fans thought the delay with the Hairston decision was due to the NCAA dragging its feet. Then it was revealed that instead, UNC hadn’t even applied for PJ’s reinstatement. Hairston’s family wasn’t happy with the school, and future recruits could view the situation as an indication UNC will protect it’s own reputation rather than go to bat for a player.
5) Why didn’t UNC fight for Hairston’s reinstatement with the NCAA, or at least request it? UNC’s statement referenced “inconsistencies” between Hairston’s statements and evidence discovered elsewhere. It has not been specified what the “inconsistencies” were. Speculation has been that UNC chose to shut the file on Hairston rather than risk further investigation by the NCAA.
6) How much longer will Roy Williams remain as head coach? During the Hairston situation, it was clear from Roy’s comments that there’s tension between him and Athletic Director Bubba Cunningham. There’s precedent for that, as Kansas fans remember Roy’s poor working relationship with then Jayhawk AD Al Bohl before Williams left KU. And Roy’s health issues are well documented, another reason for speculation around his potential retirement. However, given the monster recruiting class arriving next season, don’t expect Ol’ Roy to go anywhere in the next couple of years.
7) How far can Marcus Paige take this team? Paige is having a breakout season, becoming the clear on-court leader of the team. When he’s at his best, the Tar Heels can compete with anybody. However, when he has an off game (which is rare), the team is vulnerable. We saw that in Winston-Salem last Sunday, when Paige struggled and middling Wake Forest was able to win in fairly comfortable fashion.
8) Will James Michael McAdoo play up to his potential? When McAdoo was a high school junior, he was advanced enough to seriously consider skipping his senior year to enroll at UNC. After his freshman year at UNC, he was a projected NBA lottery pick. He remained in school but his game hasn’t progressed as expected. He’s shown only flashes of potential to dominate. If he can deliver consistently then it won’t be a surprise for this team to make the Final Four.
9) Will Roy Williams employ a zone defense? Going back to the Wake Forest game, the Deacons repeatedly beat the UNC defenders off the dribble. Despite Wake not being a strong outside shooting team, Coach Williams stayed with the man defense. So the Deacs continued attacking the rim, converting layups and drawing fouls. This UNC basketball team hasn’t played great man-to-man defense. But Roy is consistent, he’s made no bones about the fact that he doesn’t like playing zone, and never will.
10) Will UNC basketball suffer NCAA repercussions from the university’s athletic/academic scandal? Former UNC African-American Studies (AFAM) department chairman Julius Nyang’oro has now been charged with criminal fraud, arising out of sham AFAM classes in which athletes were awarded passing grades despite classes never meeting and no work being assigned. The bogus grades allowed players to remain academically eligible to compete. It’s been revealed that many UNC basketball players from the 1993, 2005 and 2009 title teams took AFAM classes (several were AFAM majors), but the school has not been forthcoming with details about which players were in the phantom classes. Recent news has included embarrassing revelations of illiteracy among UNC basketball players. Nyang’oro has been conspicuously silent throughout the fiasco. That will change if he’s forced to testify, which could spell more bad press for UNC.
Did we get the questions right, or did we miss the mark? Do you have answers to the questions? Let us know in the comment section below!