2014 North Carolina Tar Heels Predictions and NCAA Basketball Futures Odds
by Aaron Smith - 11/6/2014
The North Carolina Tar Heels have been in the news during the offseason for all the wrong reasons. The academic scandal surrounding the program has been all the talk. I have to imagine that Roy Williams and his team are extremely excited that it is just about time to get back on the court for some meaningful games. Now the task will be to play well enough that the talk is about the team's play on the court instead of off-the-court problems.
There's never a shortage of talent at North Carolina. The Tar Heels program has such a storied history that top-notch recruits are going to come here no matter what. Last year's team went 24-10 in the regular season and finished third in the ACC with a 13-5 record. They lost in the Round of 32 to Iowa State.
North Carolina made an exhibition trip to the Bahamas in August. The team actually blew a late lead and lost to a local team 84-83 in their first game. The second game of the trip went much better as the Tar Heels played a more complete game. Roy Williams hopes the team can build off the lessons they learn from that trip. The ACC is loaded this year, so winning in this conference won't be an easy task.
2014 North Carolina Key Losses & Additions
James Michael McAdoo was considered a disappointment by some, but not by Coach Williams. McAdoo was one of the most dependable players for Williams, and though his shooting numbers were up and down, he consistently helped his team do the things needed to win games. He was the team's leading rebounder and second-leading scorer last year. Leslie McDonald's career at North Carolina was up and down, but he was a key contributor to the team last year. All in all, the Tar Heels lost less than they have in most recent seasons.
Three key five-star recruits enter for the Tar Heels this year. Joel Berry II is expected to back up at the shooting guard spot early on, but he might push for the starting point guard job by late this year. Berry's quickness is amazing. He was the first ever three-time winner of Florida's Mr. Basketball Award. Williams calls him "a true quarterback on the floor." Justin Jackson was co-MVP of the McDonald's All-American Game at the end of last year. Jackson is a guy who can provide instant offense. He averaged 31.5 points per game in his senior year of high school. Theo Pinson is an athletic long-armed wing who looks like he has the potential to be a lock-down defender. Pinson can score as well, and his body type and game are similar to that of Jackson's. These three will make a big impact right away.
2014 North Carolina Backcourt
Nate Britt wasn't really ready to play last year, but P.J. Hairston's absence forced him into the lineup. Britt made only 25 percent of his long-range shots last year. He decided in the offseason to switch from shooting left-handed to right-handed. It's unconventional, and we'll see how it works. He'll be pushed for time by Berry if he struggles at all, because Berry is the future of this program at the point guard spot. Marcus Paige was North Carolina's most consistent performer last year. He averaged 17.5 points per game and shot 39 percent from three-point range. Paige hit tons of clutch shots for the Tar Heels. Paige's competitiveness and athleticism are a nice combination. Jackson might see some time at the shooting guard spot to give Paige a rest once in a while. Stillman White is back with the team to provide extra depth here.
2014 North Carolina Frontcourt
Kennedy Meeks is a player who looks ready for a breakout season. Meeks has lost almost 40 pounds since he got to campus, and his conditioning is said to be much improved. Meeks was very good in the paint last year when he played, but he averaged only 16.3 minutes per game. Expect his minutes and productivity to climb this year. The coaching staff believes he is ready to get out and run with the team, and that is going to make a huge difference for the Tar Heels. Brice Johnson had to play as an undersized center in his early days at North Carolina, but Johnson is now in a better role at the power forward spot. Johnson is a very good low-post scorer, and the team will need more consistency from him this year. J.P. Tokoto showed how athletic he is multiple times last year, and his shot-blocking prowess is amazing for a small forward. Tokoto shot only 50 percent from the free throw line, though, and that needs to go up or he hurts his team late in the game. Joel James, Desmond Hubert, and Isaiah Hicks will get playing time in the post as well.
2014 North Carolina Futures Odds
The oddsmakers know what kind of upside these Tar Heels have. Bovada has installed them as the fifth-favorite to win the NCAA Championship at +1200. Sportsbook.ag has them tied for fifth-favorite as well at +1700 to win it all.
2014 North Carolina Tar Heels Predictions & NCAA Basketball Picks
The North Carolina Tar Heels are a team that I believe will be a good one to go against early in the year. This team has some new players who are going to play a big role, and that takes some time to adjust to for college athletes. The recruiting class here was great, though, and these guys are going to be terrific by the end of the year. Meeks is the key for this team. If he has a breakout season like I think he might, watch out for this team by the end of the season!
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