Chapel Hill, NC (SportsNetwork.com) - The 12th-ranked North Carolina Tar Heels get things underway at home on Friday, as they welcome the Oakland Golden Grizzlies to the Smith Center for the 2013-14 season-opener.
It is difficult to imagine a 25-win season being considered a disappointment, but in Chapel Hill, good just isn't good enough. The Tar Heels finished third in the ACC (12-6), and found their way back to the NCAA Tournament, but to most, including Roy Williams, anything short of a conference crown and Final Four is unacceptable.
Greg Kampe begins his 30th season at the helm of the Golden Grizzlies, who are heading into their first season in the Horizon League. The team's last campaign in the Summit League wasn't hugely successful, as Oakland finished just 16-17 overall. The team found a little more success in conference play at 10-6, but was bounced from the CIT in the opening round. A fresh start in a new league could be just what is needed for an Oakland squad that returns a nice nucleus, including a veteran star in the backcourt.
This is just the second time these two programs have met on the hardwood. The Tar Heels won the first and only meeting, a 96-68 rout in the 2005 NCAA Tournament, en route to the national title.
The offensive gameplan for Oakland is simple - get up and down the court and fill up the basket. The team ranks third nationally in points scored over the last five seasons, (13,686) and trails only BYU and Missouri in that area. The Golden Grizzles had four players finish the season with double-digit scoring averages. Oakland has a potential Horizon Player of the Year candidate in senior guard Travis Bader (22.1 ppg), who led the nation in 3-pointers last season (4.2 per game) and needs just 101 more makes from beyond the arc to tie J.J. Redick's all-time NCAA record. Bader has plenty of help around him, including fellow senior guard Duke Mondy (12 ppg, 5.1 apg), who led the nation in steals last season (100). Junior center Corey Petros (12.5 ppg, 8.2 rpg) and West Virginia transfer Tommie McCune (6-8, 200) should bolster play up front.
It will be tough to gauge UNC's ACC hopes early on, as the team will begin the season at less than full strength. Star guard P.J. Hairston (14.6 ppg) and point guard Leslie McDonald will not be available to start the season as both face eligibility issues coming in. That will leave the team a little thin along the perimeter to begin. The hope is that sophomore point guard Marcus Paige (8.2 ppg, 4.6 apg) can keep things heading in a positive direction until the roster is restored. The frontcourt is where North Carolina will see the most improvement. James Michael McAdoo (14.4 ppg, 7.3 rpg) is the star up front and may live up to the hype he didn't a year ago. A great deal of the heavy lifting will come courtesy of incoming freshmen Isaiah Hicks (6-8, 210) and Kennedy Meeks (6-9, 285). Hicks is as athletic as they come and can do it all at both ends of the court, while Meeks could develop into a monster in the middle.