Kansas’ Jeff Withey had his way with the North Carolina front line in a dominating second half that helped the Jayhawks to a 70-58 win Sunday to advance to the Sweet 16. He had 16 points, 16 rebounds, and five blocks and looked like a player at times with little to no resistance against him at the rim.
While it is true that North Carolina had changed to a smaller and more versatile lineup part of the way through this season, its inability to do much of anything against Withey in that second half highlights a problem: what will the Tar Heels do about an interior presence next season?
James Michael McAdoo is projected to be a first round pick in the upcoming 2013 NBA Draft, ready or not as he may be for that stage. Draft Express currently has him as the No. 19 overall pick. He certainly did not play like a first round selection Sunday, going 5-of-19 from the field for 11 points and being unable to keep up with the physicality of Withey down low. So who remains?
Sophomore-to-be Brice Johnson will be the returner who logged the most minutes this season, having averaged 5.5 points and 3.3 rebounds in just over 10 minutes per game. He is still wiry and will have to continue to add significant muscle, but is beginning to come along offensively from where he was at the start of the season.
He’ll be joined by his fellow sophomore in the front court, Joel James. James is the opposite of Johnson, a beefy space-eater in the post who averaged 2.4 points and 2.5 rebounds in close to ten minutes per game. He will need to develop along with Desmond Hubert, who should be returning.
The incoming recruiting class has a pair of post players in 6-8 forward Isaiah Hicks and 6-9, 275-pound Kennedy Meeks. Hicks is the best of that duo, having won North Carolina Gatorade Player of the Year this season. But will he or any of the others be able to make an instant impact?
North Carolina’s success often goes along with an interior presence. Among them are Tyler Zeller, Sean May, and Tyler Hansbrough. We’ll be keeping an eye on how Marcus Paige continues to progress at the point guard position and how freshman Nate Britt can be brought into the fold at that spot as well, but don’t forget about the void on the interior.