The college basketball season is finally here, but for North Carolina, two of their starters will have to wait a little longer to get their first game action of the regular season. Both P.J. Hairston and Leslie McDonald have not been cleared by the NCAA yet due to an “ongoing issue” and will be forced to sit out tomorrow’s season opener vs. Oakland.
Hairston is suspended indefinitely by the UNC so he wasn’t expected to play the first game anyway. McDonald, on the other hand, sat out the Tar Heels’ exhibition game for the same reason he will be sitting out the season opener. UNC and the NCAA are trying to get everything settled and to get both players cleared as quick as possible.
Neither Hairston or McDonald had been playing with the starters at all during practice, so Roy Williams has prepared his team to be without two of their better players. Freshman point guard Nate Britt will start along with Marcus Paige, James Michael McAdoo, J.P. Tokoto, and whichever center’s name coach Williams chooses out of the hat.
Kennedy Meeks, Joel James, Desmond Hubert and Isaiah Hicks are the likely candidates to start in that spot. All four of them will see action regardless of who starts.
The absence of Hairston and McDonald won’t exactly hurt the team. They have enough talent to handle the beginning part of their schedule without two of their better players. It will allow Britt and Tokoto to get some valuable experience, and it will also allow for coach Williams to mix up his lineups and test out new things.
One thing we know Williams is going to try and do and do it early is have McAdoo play the three. This will allow for Carolina to go big and have three forwards on the floor. McAdoo has been working a lot at the three this offseason and during practice. If it works out, this can make the lineup tough to match up with because of McAdoo’s athleticism for a big guy.
Carolina is prepared to play without Hairston and McDonald, so they should have no problem holding off Oakland in the first game of the season.