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50 Days to Tipoff: UNC And FSU Previews

Both Teams Are Looking At A Step Back After Losing Key Players

NCAA Basketball: Final Four Championship Game-Gonzaga vs North Carolina Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Countdown to Tipoff: 18 Days


FSU

Florida State was a pretty good team last year. They finished in the top-25, tied for 2nd in the ACC, and ended up a 3-seed in the NCAA Tournament. They also had a penchant for losing big when they did. They got run off the court in the second round of the tournament by Xavier, 91-66. Overall it was a successful year for the Seminoles who have turned into a team that compete with the top of the league.

Unfortunately for FSU, it looks like this will be a rebuilding year. They lost probably their three best players in Jonathan Isaac, Xavier Rathan-Mayes, and Dwayne Bacon. Those three accounted for roughly half of the points the Seminoles scored. Beyond them, they lost experienced big men Michael Ojo and Jarquez Smith. They did bring in the 11th highest ranked class this season, led by SF MJ Walker (who chose Tallahassee over Tech).

People have been picking FSU all over the place, but largely in the back half of the league this season. MJ Walker and returning guard Terance Mann should be good ACC players next year, and I like PJ Savoy to be another wing who is solid. The Seminoles don’t really have any big men they can count on, especially offensively. Ike Obiagu was a top-60ish recruit, but he is very raw. This team reminds me of the Leonard Hamilton teams of old that had like four 7-foot centers, but only one could play any offense.

Most people seem to be picking them in the back half of the league and I’ve even seen a few that put them right near the bottom of the league, but I think they’re a little better than that. If they can find some scoring they could be middle of the pack. I’ll take them 9th in the league. KenPom has them 55th in the country and 11th in the league. Last year GT destroyed them 78-56 in Atlanta.

UNC

As you may know, the Tar Heels had a very good season last year. They won the regular season ACC title and capped off the year with a national championship. They did lose a whole lot from the championship team, but that’s to be expected. Losing Justin Jackson, Kennedy Meeks, Tony Bradley, and Isaiah Hicks is going to hurt a lot, especially when it comes to size. The Tar Heels as usual recruited well, but not quite at the levels that top teams have recently. Incoming PF Garrison Brooks and Pitt transfer Cam Johnson should play key roles on this team while guard Jalek Felton could be a contributor.

Roy Williams offense is very reliant on having a great point guard running the up-tempo system. And boy do they as Joel Berry III returns. He will be one of the best players in the ACC and UNC can be one of the top teams again if they can find one or two players to really step it up. Johnson is money from deep and he should immediately slot into a big role on the team. Luke Maye and Theo Pinson look set to take over the frontcourt this season after losing Hicks, Meeks, and to a lesser extent Bradley. Both are capable players, but have big holes to fill.

Picking this team to finish in one of the top couple positions requires you to have a lot of faith in Roy Williams. Joel Berry III is a fantastic player, but overall this team lacks the depth and high level talent that some other contenders have. Still, I think William’s system will keep them competitive and I’m picking them to finish 3rd in the ACC. KenPom has them at 13th in the country and 3rd in the ACC. Last season Georgia Tech shocked the world by taking down the Tar Heels 75-63 at home in their ACC opener.