Roy Williams expects that his 2012-13 Tar Heels will once again have balance, as he has emphasized in his previous nine seasons as Carolina's head coach. It's just that this year, he expects a different kind of balance.
Williams's two national championship teams at UNC have been anchored by dominant post men. Sean May turned in one of the best postseasons in Tar Heel history in helping Carolina to the 2005 championship. The 2009 club, which had the most dominating NCAA Tournament of any Tar Heel club ever, featured the school's all-time leading scorer, Tyler Hansbrough, in the post.
"I've always felt we have to have balance," the head coach says. "With our teams, we've had balance, but maybe it's been skewed towards the post. Now it's going to be skewed a little bit in the other direction."
Williams hasn't had a sudden change of heart and suddenly eschewed the Dean Smith formula of looking inside first. But he is a realist, and he knows the post depth is as thin as it's ever been in his tenure in Chapel Hill. There's James Michael McAdoo, who the coach noted is probably "more comfortable in the mid-range than in the post right now."
After McAdoo there's, well, a few question marks, made up primarily of sophomore Desmond Hubert, freshmen Brice Johnson and Joel James, and sophomore Jackson Simmons. That's forced Williams to reevaluate his 2013 club.
"You look at what the strengths and weaknesses are with every club," he says. "If you look at this team, you'd have to say we don't have any of those players like a Sean May or a Tyler Hansbrough or a Tyler Zeller or a John Henson who has proven over an entire season they can score inside. So where is our scoring going to come from?"
It's probably going to have to come from the perimeter. The perception of Carolina as an inside-oriented team dates back to Smith, and there's some truth in it. The legendary coach's philosophy was pretty simple: where are players most likely to make a shot? Near the hoop. Where should his teams take the most shots? Near the hoop.
But there's also some truth in the fact that the very best Tar Heel teams have had very good outside shooting. Wayne Ellington was the 2009 Final Four Most Outstanding Player and ranks second all-time at Carolina in three-pointers made. Rashad McCants, from the 2005 national champions, is right behind him in third place. They are the only two Williams-era players in the top seven on that list.
It hasn't just been brute force since 2003. Two of the top three seasons in school history in three-point attempts have come since 2003. In the Williams era, Carolina is 135-13 (.912) in games when it has hit at least 38 percent from the three-point line.
So, how often can they do that this year? That's the key question. The best career three-point shooter among the returning Tar Heels is Reggie Bullock, at 35.2%. The wild card is P.J. Hairston, who alternately exceled and struggled as a freshman before ending the season in a slump.
The Greensboro native says the addition of Hubert Davis to the coaching staff will have a positive effect on the team's perimeter shooting. "He was one of the best shooters in the history of the NBA," Hairston says. "Why wouldn't I listen to him? When you can get that advice coming from a fellow shooter, for a shooter, that's so valuable."
It's coincidence that in Davis's first year on the bench, the Tar Heels suddenly have a roster built much more in his image. Williams still believes in pounding it inside. But he also believes in winning games, and he knows this particular team might have to achieve that goal in an unusual--for Carolina--fashion.
"We have Reggie," Williams says. "We have P.J. We have Leslie (McDonald). We have some people who can really shoot the basketball. P.J. has to prove he can do it in a game consistently. But that's where a lot of our scoring can come from. We are going to emphasize the three-point shot a little more.
"We're going to work like crazy with James Michael and Joel and Brice and Desmond to give us that balance I've always felt we have to have. But if these perimeter guys can shoot the ball as well as I think they can, we've got to have them in a position to get better shots."