ACC Basketball: 2015-2016 North Carolina Tar Heels Preview

North Carolina Tar Heels


26-12 (11-7 ACC) in 2014-2015


Key Returning Players

  • PG Marcus Paige
  • PF Brice Johnson
  • C Kennedy Meeks
  • F Justin Jackson


  • J. P. Tokoto (entered NBA draft, picked by the Philadelphia 76ers with the #58 pick)


  • SG Kenny Williams, 4-star recruit (#84 in ESPN100 for 2015 class)
  • SF Luke Maye, 4-star recruit (#97 in ESPN100 for 2015 class)




Going 26-12 each year would be a godsend for most college basketball programs. But, UNC is not like other programs when you factor in the Tar Heels’ history, success and tradition. For the past three years, UNC has had a 2-digit number in the loss category. In head coach Roy Williams’ illustrious 27-year career, he’s never had a stretch that long of losing 10 games or more. With the outrageously high standards of UNC Men’s Basketball, some have begged the question that this season may be his best chance to ever win another NCAA title.

Semantics aside, the 2015-2016 Tar Heels have been lauded with accolades, including being ranked as the AP’s #1 team in the preseason. Looking at the pieces that return, it’s not hard to see why. UNC has the benefit of continuity this year, which is a rarity for top-tier programs in the one-and-done era. They return their top four players in senior PG Marcus Paige (will miss the first 3-4 weeks of the season with a hand injury), senior PF Brice Johnson, junior C Kennedy Meeks, and sophomore F Justin Jackson. To put it another way, the Tar Heels return 88.1% of their scoring from a team that reached the Sweet Sixteen the prior year. Compare that figure with other top-five teams like Kentucky and Duke. You could also make the argument that all four of those players returning have legit NBA potential. Yeah, UNC is pretty stacked.

 Sure, the Tar Heels did lose a solid player in guard J.P Tokoto, but his production can be made up by a few role players (like SG Theo Pinson) and a pair of incoming four-star recruits in SG Kenny Williams and SF Luke Maye.

Despite being deemed as the top team in the nation, the Tar Heels will have to clean up a few flaws if they’re going to go all the way. For one, they need to find another reliable three-point shooter (outside of Paige). The first few weeks of the season will be telling to see if they have another guy that can consistently knock down at least 35% of shots from outside the arc. Also, UNC could seek to improve their overall defense. According to advanced statistics from, the Tar Heels ranked #94 in overall defensive efficiency. If they can somewhat alleviate these flaws from last year, the Tar Heels could be headed for both a conference and national title.

Schedule and Prediction


Simply put, UNC may have the toughest regular season schedule in the nation. While there are other ACC teams that have tougher conference schedules, there’s not another team (outside of maybe UVA) in the ACC that will have as many tough non-conference battles as the Tar Heels. Of course, the matchup with #3 Maryland on Dec. 1 is a huge game. UNC also has a big challenge on the road against a top-35 Texas Longhorns team on Dec. 12, plus a test against UCLA on Dec. 19. You also can’t overlook games against Temple (Nov. 13), Wofford (Nov. 18), Northern Iowa (Nov. 21) and Northwestern (Nov. 23). Looking at a few websites that rank every college basketball team from 1-351, UNC will face eight of (arguably) the top 75 teams in the nation in first month of the season. Even for the preseason #1 team, that’s a challenge, especially with their top overall player (Paige) out for the first few weeks.

Looking at the conference schedule, UNC’s home-and-away opponents this season are #5 Duke, Syracuse, NC State and Boston College. It would not be a surprise if UNC went 7-2 or 6-3 combined against this group. So, they should handle their business in that respect, as well as rolling through teams like Clemson, Wake Forest and Pittsburgh.

The games where I could see the Tar Heels having trouble are road tests against #6 Virginia, #19 Notre Dame and possibly Louisville.

If I had to guess, I would say that UNC wins somewhere between 25-27 regular season games. This team is obviously really good, but I don’t think they’re quite as good as the units that coach Williams’ had from 2007-2009. While they are ranked #1, I could easily see them slipping up five or six times in the regular season.

Of course, the big question is, ‘will they win the NCAA tournament?’ Honestly, I’m going to lean toward no and would take the field. So much can change during the course of a season and it’s not like the Tar Heels are THAT much better than other top-10 teams like Maryland, UVA, Iowa State and Oklahoma.


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