Waiting for the NCAA's green light
Posted November 8, 2013
Updated November 10, 2013
He looked great in a grey suit with a maroon, paisley tie.
No, not Roy Williams, though I will admit to thinking that North Carolina's Hall of Fame coach does look like he's dropped a few pounds. Maybe it's due to worrying about the guy in the grey suit. P.J. Hairston is clearly in the best shape of his life, but when the NCAA allows him to display his new body-by-punishment remains to be seen. Until they determine the extent of the impermissible benefits Hairston received from area party promoter Haydn "Fats" Thomas, we can't determine the potential of this Tar Heels basketball team.
Oh, this team will be pretty good, maybe even very good. James Michael McAdoo will lead them in scoring and rebounding and looks to be a half step quicker than he was a year ago. He is clearly the high-performance sedan of the group, sort of like a 7-series BMW, with a top end speed few players his size ever possess. As long as he doesn't have to stray too far away from the basket, he'll take advantage of most defenders and utilize his quickness and mid-range jumper to challenge for all-conference honors.
In addition, Marcus Paige will be better than the 34% shooter from 3-point range that he was as a freshman and J.P. Tokoto is as good an athlete as we've seen in a Tar Heels uniform since Julius Peppers walked out of Kenan Stadium and into the Smith Center. Freshman guard Nate Britt looks like he can get into the lane and cause problems for a defense and his classmate Kennedy Meeks is a big (very big) body with soft hands and a nice touch.
North Carolina being good isn't going to be a great concern. But, they have very little chance of being great unless Hairston can take off that suit and slip into something a little more comfortable.
Things looked great against the Golden Grizzlies of Oakland Friday night. North Carolina led by 37 points at halftime in their easier-than-it-looked 84-61 season-opening win. Even though they bogged down in a 26-point second half, part of that was due to the fact that Williams was line up tinkering. Maybe because of the uncertainty of just when Hairston will be allowed to return. But, this isn't about beating up a team from the Horizon League, it's about this team reaching it's potential in, what will certainly be a very powerful Atlantic Coast Conference.
In order for North Carolina to achieve at a high level in a league that will feature a handful of teams with Final Four aspirations, they simply must have their most explosive perimeter player. Not to forget senior guard Leslie McDonald, as he too will be needed for Carolina to max out this season, but McDonald is probably better-suited as a valuable back court reserve. Hairston is an impact scorer, with a ton of horsepower, and -- when he puts his mind to it -- a very capable defensive presence.
Again, I think the Tar Heels can be good, even without P.J.. But, beating the likes of Duke, Syracuse, Notre Dame and Virginia without a player of his caliber -- not to mention without another wing player like him -- is going to take a fair amount of good fortune. The truth is that even with Hairston, North Carolina looks to be guard-thin. Of the dozen players Williams has at his disposal, it really appears that only five of them would be accurately classified as guards or wings. And, that would be far more troublesome on the defensive end of the court. Without, Hairston -- or McDonald -- that number shrivels.
On the bright side, McAdoo, Tokoto and Paige all played exceptionally well in the opener, scoring 50 of the Tar Heels' 84 points. Meeks still has a long way to go to be able to handle the pace of high level games and we'll have to see if the 5'11" Britt can hold up against the bigger, better competition he'll face in the very near future. This isn't doomsday for North Carolina. It's just the first step in trying to figure out a giant puzzle until the NCAA lets everyone know when Carolina can expect to have their Ferrari back on the road.
While the suit was sharp, Roy doesn't need any sartorial competition on the bench. He needs P.J. in shorts.