Can the Tar Heels repeat as champions?

Can the Tar Heels repeat as  champions?
November 09
01:00 2017

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Tar Heels are the reigning defending Division I college basketball champions.  The team was affectionately dubbed the “Redeem Team” because they lost in the championship game of the 2015-2016 season to the Villanova Wildcats on a last-second shot.

That team was a perfect mixture of veteran leadership, clutch shooting and dominating rebounding that lead to the sixth men’s basketball championship in school history.  The team is ranked ninth in the pre-season poll as they look to repeat.

The Heels lost quite a bit from the championship team but should still be a team to be reckoned with come tournament time.  Even though they return a few starters from last year’s team they did lose the likes of Nate Britt, Kennedy Meeks, Isaiah Hicks, Justin Jackson and talented freshman Tony Bradley.

I know that is a big list of players to replace, especially in the front court.  The Heels do return Final Four Most Outstanding Player Joel Berry III along with Theo Pinson and tournament hero Luke Maye. 

Head Coach Roy Williams was able to bring in some top talent to try and replace what he lost with the likes of five-star recruit Jalek Felton, nephew of former UNC great Raymond Felton; big man Garrison Brooks; sharp shooting guard Andrew Platek; along with post players Brandon Huffman and Sterling Manley.  UNC was able to secure some veteran leadership with the transfer of big man Cameron Johnson from the University of Pittsburgh.

While young, the Heels should have a good mixture of young and veteran talent.  With Joel Berry III likely sidelined up to a month with a broken hand, it should allow some of the young guards like Felton and sophomore Seventh Woods to see more play at the point.

The biggest hurdle for the champs will likely reside about 10 miles down the road.  Yeah, that’s right the Duke Blue Devils have reloaded once again with another stellar recruiting class coupled with what they already had in place. Duke secured four five-star recruits to join senior holdover Grayson Allen.  Duke is Number One in the pre-season poll.

Michigan State, Kansas, Arizona and Kentucky all have Final Four potential.  Within the ACC, conference Miami, Louisville and Notre Dame will be formidable teams to deal with once conference play arrives.

With three national championships under his belt, Williams should be able to round this team into shape by the time the tournament arrives.  I think they may be one star player away from competing with the top teams in the nation but with a championship pedigree, anything is possible.

For the Tar Heels’ sake, lets just hope they do not repeat what happened following their last national championship in 2009, where they failed to make the tournament.  I don’t think the Heels will fall victim to what happened in the 2009-10 season because of the players they have returning, but stranger things have happened.

I feel the key for the Heels this season could be the shooting guard position.  If either Kenny Williams or Brandon Robinson can step up and give UNC valuable minutes at the two-guard spot, they will find themselves in a good position.

All in all, the Heels will be a talented team, but when it’s time to cut down the nets at the championship game, I don’t think they have enough to make it there.  While this could prove to be a rebuilding year of sorts with the NCAA investigation over and UNC cleared of any wrong doings, those five-star recruits will return to Chapel Hill and they will be back in the Final Four in no time.

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Timothy Ramsey

Timothy Ramsey

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