Commentary

Are you experienced?

Young roster isn't the problem -- Tar Heels' shortcomings are fundamental

Updated: February 10, 2010, 12:59 PM ET
By LaRue Cook | ESPN The Magazine
Strickland/Wear/HensonUS Presswire/Icon SMIUNC's highly touted freshmen have not delivered thus far.

The Inside the Bracket series takes you deeper inside what specific games mean to likely NCAA tournament teams … or at least those we thought would be there. Today's example: the ACC rivalry between the North Carolina Tar Heels and the Duke Blue Devils.

When a team loses four starters to the draft, it's usually time to hit the reset button, even at an elite program like North Carolina.

But despite the departure of Tyler Hansbrough, Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington (all first-rounders) and Danny Green to the NBA, Roy Williams was probably expecting much, much more out of the second-best recruiting class in the country.

Of Williams' five touted freshmen, only Dexter Strickland, Travis Wear and John Henson are averaging more than 10 minutes per game. But Henson, who was ranked as the No. 6 prospect in the 2009 class, just behind Kentucky's John Wall, is not even hitting the 20-minute mark.

In fact, only Strickland is being used on more than 20 percent of UNC's possessions, and what has Carolina fans even bluer is that the trio is combining with Leslie McDonald and David Wear to score just 19.0 points per game. All five have offensive ratings under 100, according to Ken Pomeroy's advanced metrics. By comparison, not a single Kansas starter has a rating less than 107.

In no small way, that underachievement has led to a 13-10 record and a 2-6 ACC start for the Tar Heels, which may have killed their NCAA tournament hopes.

You could add it all up to experience, or lack thereof. (UNC ranks 290th in experience among Division I teams, according to KenPom.com.) But inexperience alone isn't to blame in Chapel Hill. And experience by itself doesn't guarantee strong performances.


To see what's really tripping up the Heels and why experience hasn't proved either helpful or problematic for other NCAA teams, you must be an ESPN Insider.