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Sport Five big questions as UNC basketball begins practice and hosts Late Night with Roy.

06:45  27 september  2019
06:45  27 september  2019 Source:   latimes.com

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North Carolina’s 2019-20 basketball season officially begins on Thursday with its first practice, followed by its annual Late Night with Roy event Friday night at 8 p.m.

The first preseason game will be on Nov. 1 against Winston-Salem State.

This season’s UNC team will look a lot different than the 2018-19 team that finished 29-7 and had its season end in the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16. With a brand new team that includes some talented newcomers, the Tar Heels should be good.

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But how good they’ll be remains unclear.

Here are five questions as UNC begins a new season:

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HOW WILL THE NEW TEAM MESH?

UNC will look like a different team than the one that took the floor last season. The Tar Heels lost four starters from the 2018-19 team — Coby White, Kenny Williams, Cam Johnson and Luke Maye — the latter three seniors.

And they’ve added six new players, including two graduate transfers and four freshman.

So it could take a while for this team to mesh together on the court.

The same happened last season. The Tar Heels started the 2018-19 season 12-4, which included an 84-67 loss to Michigan, and an 83-62 loss at home to Louisville. After that, they turned it around and won 15 of their last 17 games through the ACC tournament. And they entered the NCAA tournament as a No. 1 seed.

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The Tar Heels will likely come together at some point. But they’d rather do it sooner than later.

At least seven of the first 11 opponents on their schedule played in the 2019 NCAA tournament. And possibly eight if UNC were to face Gonzaga, Oregon or Seton Hall in the third game of the Battle 4 Atlantis.

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IS FRESHMAN COLE ANTHONY AS GOOD AS ADVERTISED?

Yes, said Evan Daniels, a national recruiting analyst for 247sports. Anthony was the No. 3 ranked recruit in the Class of 2019, and the top rated point guard.

The 6-2, 185-pound point guard averaged a near triple-double in his final season at Oak Hill Academy. In 26 games, he averaged 18 points per game, 9.8 rebounds, 9.5 assists and 2.3 steals.

“He’s very good,” Daniels said in a phone interview Thursday with The News & Observer. “I think Cole’s got a chance to be the most productive freshman in college basketball this year.”

There are videos on Instagram of him putting up buckets in pickup games against NBA players. Anthony is the son of Greg Anthony, who played for the UNLV Running Rebels team that won the NCAA national championship in 1990. After that, he spent 11 seasons in the NBA.

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As the projected starting point guard, Cole Anthony will try to replace the production of White, who averaged 16.1 points per game last season, and 4.1 assists. He was the Tar Heels’ second leading scorer.

Daniels said Anthony’s “motor” and his “natural scoring ability” are among his biggest strengths.

“He’s comfortable shooting on the move, pulling up off the dribble and he plays hard on defense,” Daniels added.

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WHERE MIGHT THE SCORING COME FROM?

If Daniels is correct, one of those players is Anthony.

But the Tar Heels need a lot more than Anthony to score. The Tar Heels lost their top five scorers from last season’s team in White, Maye, Johnson, Williams and Nassir Little.

Garrison Brooks, a 6-9, 230-pound forward returning for his junior season, averaged 7.9 points per game and was the team’s sixth leading scorer.

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It could also be William & Mary grad transfer Justin Pierce, a 6-7, 215-pound forward, who averaged 14.9 points per game last season. However, he had seven games where he scored in single digits, which included a two-point game against Virginia.

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HOW DIFFERENT WILL THE OFFENSE LOOK?

North Carolina has often had to go small the past two years, which historically hasn’t been UNC coach Roy Williams’ preferred style of play.

Maye, who played the four, often liked to play from the 3-point line. The 2018-19 Tar Heels were loaded with shooters and broke a program record for most 3-pointers in a season (312). The Tar Heels don’t appear to have that this season.

The 2015-16 and 2016-17 teams that made it to the national championship game started two traditional big men.

And with 6-10, 240-pound freshman forward Armando Bacot, Brooks, and junior Sterling Manley returning, Williams can go back to his preferred style of play if he so chooses.

It’s possible you could see the Tar Heels work the ball inside out this year, especially with few apparent 3-point shooters.

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CAN UNC GET BACK TO THE FINAL FOUR?

For a while, the Tar Heels were starting to look like regulars in the Final Four. They made it to the championship game in 2016 and 2017, winning the second one.

But the past two years, they haven’t made it past the Sweet 16. In 2019, it appeared that was possible, but UNC ran into a red-hot Auburn team and lost 97-80.

The Tar Heels have a good mix of veterans and talented freshmen on this team. They also appear deep. Leaky Black, a 6-7, 185-pound forward and point guard, returns. So does senior Brandon Robinson, who will likely provide the leadership and defense.

Junior guard Andrew Platek also has experience playing and that will help, especially if injuries occur.

It just depends on how well they play together.

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©2019 The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.)

Visit The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.) at www.newsobserver.com

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