ACC Nation was in Greensboro, NC, recently for the ACC’s Operation Basketball. Patrick and Chris got to talk with all 12 men’s basketball coaches, plus select players from each school, and over the next few days we’ll let you know what they found out. ACC Nation will preview each of the 12 men’s basketball programs, going in reverse order of last year’s final regular-season standings, with one preview a day as we approach the start of the season.
Wake Forest – Oct. 31
Georgia Tech – Nov. 1
Virginia Tech – Nov. 2
Clemson – Nov. 3
Miami – Nov. 4
Virginia – Nov. 5
Maryland – Nov. 6
Florida State – Nov. 7
North Carolina State – Nov. 8
Boston College – Nov. 10
(2005-06 season: 12-4 ACC, 23-8 overall; lost in the second round of the NCAA Tournament to George Mason 65-60)
Last year was supposed to be a down season for North Carolina. But talk of the Tar Heels stumbling ended around the time a young Carolina squad won at Kentucky in early December. Carolina went on to finish second in the ACC’s regular season, advancing to the NCAA Tournament where the Heels were eventually beaten by George Mason in the second round.
Roy Williams, a year after winning his first national championship, never bought into the talk of a down year.
Said Williams, “I’m dumb enough to think that if we had gotten past George Mason maybe we could have won the whole thing again.”
This year the talk is of another national title for Williams and the Tar Heels. The coach isn’t getting sucked into that discussion either.
“I really don’t spend too much time worrying about it,” Williams said. “Last year at ACC media day we were picked sixth. I didn’t go home and say, ‘Oh gosh guys, that’s great, let’s see if we can finish sixth.’ We had our own hopes and dreams that I used as opposed to expectations.”
His players, at least publicly, have taken the same approach to a season that has them ranked No. 2 nationally and touted as one of a handful of teams that could win it all in the spring.
“We don’t really worry too much about the hype,” said Reyshawn Terry. “I’ve been on teams that have been at the top and we kind of let that get to our heads. So coach just tells us not to worry about the hype and take one game at a time. If we just try to do that, hopefully everything else takes care of itself.”
There are two main reasons for such high expectations in Chapel Hill.
First, Tyler Hansbrough decided to pass on his NBA future for now, instead returning for his sophomore season. Hansbrough led Carolina with 18.9 points and 7.8 rebounds, something unheard of for a freshman at North Carolina.
Second, Hansbrough and the other Carolina veterans will be surrounded by the nation’s top recruiting class. Tywon Lawson, Brandan Wright and Wayne Ellington will probably make the biggest impact early, but Alex Stepheson, Deon Thompson and William Graves should also contribute this season.
Combine the freshmen with Hansbrough and five of Carolina’s other stop seven scorers from a year ago, and some wonder how Williams will find playing time for everyone. The coach figures it will all work itself out on the floor.
“I think players determine who plays,” Williams said. “If I’m better than you are I’m going to show it during practice.”
Maybe the most debated subject in the offseason has been the point-guard position. Bobby Frasor ran the point last year, handling the job adequately enough in his freshman season. But Lawson comes in this season with talk of being the next Phil Ford. Williams has tried to put any end to the discussion that Frasor will lose his starting job at the point to a freshman.
“I think he is comfortable there,” Williams said of Frasor. “He’s a point guard. Everyone wants to say he can play shooting guard or something like that, but what the crap do you do with Wes (Miller)? What do you do with Marcus (Ginyard)? What do you do with some of those other guys? He’s a point guard, but more than anything he’s a basketball player. He had a heck of a year for us last year, period, but when you make him as a freshman he really had a heck of a year. Tywon and Quentin (Thomas) both are doing a good job in practice.”
Williams said outside of Hansbrough, the rest of the players will have to fight for a starting job. In the team’s final exhibition Saturday night, Hansbrough, Wright, Ellington, Frasor and Danny Green started, but six other players played double-digit minutes. And Terry didn’t play, but will probably get every opportunity to be a starter this season.
Last season Terry came in as an unknown and ended up landing on the All-ACC third team after scoring 14.3 points a game, second only to Hansbrough.
“I definitely feel like I accomplished a great deal last year, but I’m not satisfied with where I am right now,” Terry said. “I definitely feel like I have a whole lot more to prove.”
The season will start with Carolina among the favorites to win it all. How it will end will be determined over the next four and a half months. As for Williams, he isn’t worried about what anyone else says about his team. He knows what he wants out of this Carolina team.
Said Williams, “No one is going to put as much stress or pressure on me as I’m going to put on myself.”
- Patrick Hite