For the second time in three years, the confetti has fallen for Villanova, and the 2017-18 college basketball season has come to an end, meaning it’s time to look ahead to next year.
Fortunately, for the fourth straight season, the North Carolina Tar Heels will have the talent and the depth necessary to make a National Championship run. The loss of invaluable seniors Joel Berry II and Theo Pinson will certainly be a tough task to overcome, but UNC will have the personnel to do so.
2018 All-American Luke Maye, along with elite defender and shooter Kenny Williams will be back for their senior seasons, and graduate transfer Cameron Johnson is expected to be as well. Carolina should also benefit from the development of rising sophomore bigs Sterling Manley and Garrison Brooks, who will both take on larger roles next season.
In addition to those returning key players, Head Coach Roy Williams has signed his best recruiting class in four years, ranked 8th in the country. The class is led by a pair of McDonalds All-Americans in Nassir Little and Coby White, who are joined by four star combo guard Rechon “Leaky” Black.
Simply put, there are a lot of reasons to be optimistic about the 2018-19 Tar Heels. However, that optimism will be short lived if Carolina is unable to find an answer at the point guard position.
All of Roy Williams’ best teams at UNC have been led by terrific point guards. In 2005 it was Raymond Felton, in ’09 Ty Lawson, in 2012 Kendall Marshall, ’16 Marcus Paige, and ’17 Joel Berry II.
The most likely candidate to win the starting point guard position is junior Seventh Woods. In his final radio interview of the season, Williams noted that Woods’ experience with the offensive system and the program itself would give him a head start for next year’s starting job.
Woods struggled for the majority of the 2017-18 season. The South Carolina native averaged 1.1 PPG and 1.0 APG in seven minutes of action per contest. More concerning than the stats was Woods’ poor decision-making and how often he committed turnovers.
It is very important to note, however, that Woods has dealt with a plethora of injuries throughout his career at UNC, most notably a stress fracture in his right foot this season that caused him to miss nearly two months of action.
When Woods is healthy and playing at a high level, his physical tools allow him to be a very good defender and distributor in transition. If he can remain healthy this offseason, Woods will have a great chance to be a solid starter come day one for the Tar Heels.
Outside of Woods, two incoming freshman with promise will have a chance to secure the job: Coby White and Rechon “Leaky” Black. White is an elite scorer (He broke the all-time North Carolina High School Basketball points record) who will likely contribute at UNC right away. Black is a 6’7″ guard/wing who can make plays all over the court, and has even earned comparisons to Theo Pinson.
White’s talent and scoring punch will give him the upper hand to play over Black early, but the reality is Roy Williams will go with whomever understands and runs the offense the best, and gives 100 percent effort on both sides of the floor.
In an interview with the Wilson Times, White claimed that he is ready for the challenge. “Given my work ethic and my ability to compete, I give myself a good shot to go in there and make an immediate impact because of my energy and the abilities I have on the court.” White said. “But I think my work ethic is what’s going to separate me from getting a starting job and what not.”
Those are the kind of attributes a Roy Williams point guard needs to possess. If White consistently brings what he claims he can bring to the court, he will likely find himself as the starter.
Whether it is Seventh Woods, Coby White, or Rechon Black, consistency at the point guard position will be key for the 2018-19 North Carolina Tar Heels. If Roy Williams and company can find a player to bring them this consistency, Carolina will once again contend for a National Championship.