The North Carolina Tar Heels had plenty of talent in the starting five last season, but the bench and first player off of it definitely needed an upgrade.
Coach Roy Williams will have plenty to choose from, as there are several players who could come off the bench for an offensive spark or a defensive stop at any point in the game. The projected starting lineup will consist of do-everything guard Marcus Paige, freshman star scorer Justin Jackson, big men Kennedy Meeks and Brice Johnson, and defensive stopper J.P. Tokoto. Tokoto’s spot could be the most questioned of the group, but because of his experience and athleticism, he makes the most sense to be on the court when the game tips off.
That leaves a load of talent and a range of skills on the bench. Returnee Nate Britt offers experience and good ball handling when the game needs to regain some stability. While Britt did not fit in well as a starter last season, coming off the bench may be the best way to get the most out of the point guard. He could come in when Williams wants Paige to handle the ball less and work off of the ball more. Britt should be wiser with another year of experience, and that will make the Tar Heels that much better.
The Tar Heels also have the option of bringing in freshman wing Theo Pinson. Pinson is a lot like Tokoto because he can defend several positions and can use his athleticism to get to the hoop when many others cannot. He should add some flash when the game is too slow for Williams’ liking.
Another freshman, Joel Berry, may be the most likely player to come off of the bench first because he is the prototypical point guard Williams loves to have. He can create for teammates and for himself, run the floor with anyone, and contribute on defense with deflections and steals. Berry will likely be the first guard off of the bench when Williams wants to run a team off of the floor and out of the game.
The Tar Heels’ greatest weakness was their bench last season, but come next season, the bench will not only be the best it has been in years — it just may help the Tar Heels win the NCAA national championship.
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