North Carolina Basketball 2014 – Ten Hot Questions Could Burn the Heels

roy-williams-north-carolinaUNC 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!



  1. Good questions concerning UNC, but don’t expect any answers from them. UNC is at its best when stonewalling and using the phrase “everyone does it”.

  2. UNC is so dishonest why do they need to keep score. They could just tell the UNCult masses they won. Their Lemmings will march over the ledge bragging of victories over Wake Forest and Miami

  3. Carolina has too much talent not to finish near the top of the conference standings,but expect more surprising results along the way.

    • Since you left your comment mentioning Prof. Willingham, her story has evolved even further. First the UNC administration appeared to disagree with her study, but now it appears Willingham isn’t backing down while UNC isn’t coming out of this looking good at all.

  4. Can’t understand why everyone is so surprised at what the “Carolina Way” actually is. Cheating, entitled, uppidy arrogance This crap has been going on since way back in the Dean Smith era. Now, at least, UNCheater fans might finally get some glimpse of why the rest of the sporting world hates them so much. And, NO, it’s not jealousy; it’s pity.

  5. Question 6A: When Roy DOES leave, will it be after a woody-hayes moment ? Looking more and more likely with each water-torture scandal-drip and each wtf loss. And what good is another “monster” recruiting class ? He already has more McD boys than the entire AAC.

    • Response to ralphie:

      Good point about monster recruiting classes. Some UNC fans have complained that Roy has underachieved many times with rosters loaded with talent. However, the two times he has won NCAA titles have been when his rosters contained so much more talent than his opponents, that his coaching deficiencies didn’t matter. (Detractors will point out that both of those title teams were comprised mainly of AFAM students, raising the question of whether those banners should still be hanging). Roy’s class next year might be another one of those uber-talented groups, we shall see.

  6. Let me preface my comments with the fact that I hold two degrees from UNC and I am a die hard Tar Heel fan, but I grew up as a State fan because my father went there, so I feel like I can espouse on all this with a bit more objectivity than most of the Tar Heel Nation.

    I think that the “real” UNC basketball team this year is somewhere in between, but receding by the game. In watching their last games, they seem like a team that is lost and disconnected with themselves. One could speculate on the many viable factors that could be affecting them, but if I took a shot at a primary cause, I would speculate that there are some underlying detrimental currents in the locker room perhaps tied to the whole Hairston mess.

    This team is largely young, but most elite teams are these days due to the annual NBA pillaging that we all affectionately know as The Draft. This team seems to have had trouble finding an identity and a leader since Hairston was so unceremoniously escorted off campus as he should have been immediately back in May. This team is leaderless, and as brilliant as Marcus Paige can be at times, he is still no Ed Cota or even Steve Hale, much less a Rashad McCants or Donald Williams. Until they find a leader that is not bucking for five years probation in the criminal justice system, they are on a course that will earn them a 16-16 record at the very best.

    If Coach Williams and UNC had done the right thing at the outset, then we may be talking about how brilliant Coach Williams has guided such a young team to victories over the number one, two, and three teams in the nation and a possible undefeated season so far (UNC has not yet lost a game that they could not have won on pure talent alone) instead of lamenting the steadily unfolding train wreck before our eyes.

    As far as the academic issues go, I really don’t think that UNC Basketball is doing anything that most elite programs in the revenue sports are doing, often with the seeming blessing and wink-wink/nod-nod from the NCAA who is more than willing to look the other way as long as the TV checks are big enough. It’s just the fact that UNC has operated under an almost “holier than thou” facade for decades coining phrases like “The Carolina Way”, etc., and waving it in everyone’s face as if to personify total perfection and innocence. EVERYONE wants to see someone that snooty be taken down a notch or two eventually.

    Roy Williams’ complete and total bungling of the whole Hairston situation in May was, at best, idiotically pathetic and would have gotten just about every coach in the nation not named Coach K, Roy Williams, Jim Boeheim, or Billy Donovan fired immediately. I don’t even think that John Calipari (as corrupt as he is) would even survive the bowels of the Kentucky Basketball system of amorality with one of his star players caught in a vehicle rented to a well-known habitual felon and drug dealer containing other felonious thugs, guns and drugs and then turning around and getting busted AGAIN only weeks later for driving a Camaro at 100+ MPH that was rented to someone else associated with said aforementioned well-known habitual felon and drug dealer.

    It’s just the fact that it’s Carolina and that everybody not bleeding Carolina Blue has been drooling and having dirty dreams about this scenario for decades. One would have to think that Lefty Driesell has not stopped smiling since May.

    Will all this damage UNC’s and Roy’s ability to recruit? Probably not in the long run, but the specter of possible looming sanctions due to the onion peeling that is the UNC AFAM scandal, may take its toll in the short run. However, it may not due to the prevalence and preference of the “One and Done” mentality that Calipari has proudly and boastfully brought out in to the open with no seeming problem so far from the accountants at the NCAA. SEC football (with the exception of Vanderbilt) as well as Kentucky basketball, has seemed to cultivate a culture of academic fraud and abuse as well as a disregard for off-the-field shenanigans as the operational norm and anyone hardly raises and eyebrow anymore due to the money that they generate for the “non-profit” NCAA. Somehow, Ohio State also seems to be coated in teflon as well and still perennially fields championship contenders in both football and basketball with all they have been recently caught doing.

    However — this is Carolina Basketball and Carolina Basketball should be nominated for sainthood because they have been doing it “The Carolina Way”.

    Right now, though, due to Williams’ feebly blatant attempt to sweep the Hairston thing under Dean’s rug and then having it blow up in his face AGAIN as Hairston was caught seemingly practicing for NASCAR time trials in a Camaro that wasn’t rented to him, has left UNC Basketball looking like the Prom Queen that got caught in the back of the bus with half the football team and her dress laying in the middle of the floor.

    Regretfully, as a UNC alumnus and fan, I feel as if I am watching the scene at the end of “Grease” where the spandex clad and cigarette smoking Olivia Newton-John is trying to fit in the “in-crowd” and despite her wicked dance moves and sexily raunchy appearance, something about it still just doesn’t look or feel right.

    In short, if Roy Williams and UNC both had done the right thing and immediately kicked Hairston off the team and out of school pending further investigation, then we’d all be sitting here at our computers laughing about Duke being taken down by a Clemson team picked to finish no better than 12th in the ACC.

    • Response to “pink floyd”:

      Thanks for the insightful comment, especially as you are a UNC grad. In addition to the substance of your comment, the fact that you managed to mention Steve Hale, Lefty Driesell and Olivia Newton-John all in the same post is rather impressive.