By Ed Morgans @writered21 on July 4, 2014
The North Carolina Tar Heels are coming off what can only be described as a very weird year. Good enough to beat national powerhouses like Kentucky, Louisville and Michigan State, the Tar Heels also struggled often, losing to Miami, Wake Forest and Belmont. North Carolina won 12 in a row late in the season and then lost three of its last four. This season should be different, but there are questions. Here are five predictions for the Tar Heels.
North Carolina opened ACC play last season with a loss at Wake Forest, one that was followed by a stunning home loss to a weak Miami team. Two games later, a blowout loss at Virginia left the Tar Heels 1-3 in the league and never able to get back in the title race. Head coach Roy Williams won't accept such a sluggish start this season. Unless the Tar Heels are bombarded with difficult opponents early, look for UNC to start much better this year.
It's not as if the rivalry between North Carolina and Duke really needs any more fuel added to the fire, but when you take all the good players both teams already have with the freshmen classes each team has brought in, the games between the Tar Heels and Blue Devils in 2014-15 ought to even be more intense than recent meetings. The schools combined for seven McDonald's All-Americans, talent that already has UNC-Duke circled on their calendars.
Getting Marcus Paige back at guard was one of the best pieces of news Williams and North Carolina has gotten in a while. Paige was first-team All-ACC as a sophomore, but one of the troubling things about his game was his inconsistency. He often put up big numbers but got there by dominating one half and doing very little in the other. Paige should be more mature and consistent in 2014-15, making him and UNC a much more dangerous team.
With the recent announcement that NCAA is reopening its probe into alleged incidents of academic fraud at North Carolina, Williams again faces a season where off-court issues could potentially distract his team. Last season it was P.J. Hairston's eligibility (he never did end up playing). This season, as more information from the probe leaks, Williams' challenge will be to maintain his cool and keep his players focused.
North Carolina will show slight improvement over last season, as their group of recruits and getting Paige back should make for a better start to the season especially. But Duke is likely to be a tick better than the Tar Heels, and it stands to reason that one of Virginia or Louisville might finish ahead of UNC as well. The Tar Heels will go 13-5 in the ACC, finish third and be set up well for a decent NCAA Tournament run as a No. 3 or 4 seed.
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