Say what you will about how way-too-early Joe Lunardi's annual postseason Bracketology is -- and of course it's early; that's the point! -- it does provide a pretty sizable general snapshot of the also way-too-early expectations of the college basketball landscape as of this way-too-early date.
This is especially true of the top of the bracket. The bubble range is surely more unpredictable, but a look at the top three or four seed lines gives us a pretty decent idea of teams we can expect to be ranked in the top 10 to start the season, barring injuries and recruiting decisions and everything else that can happen in six months.
Myron and I discussed much of this earlier in the week, so why am I bringing it up now? Because after James Michael McAdoo announced his decision to return to North Carolina for his junior season, Joe slotted the Tar Heels in on the No. 3 line in his bracket. Expectations-wise, that strikes me as exactly right.
McAdoo is will receive the lion's share of attention in the offseason -- he is a former potential lottery pick who decided to stay two years longer than anyone expected, after all -- but the fact is his return isn't anywhere near as important as Marcus Smart's. Fact is, McAdoo had kind of a rough year. His counting numbers (14.4 points and 7.3 rebounds per game) look solid, but he shot just 44.7 percent from the field, turned it over on 18.2 percent of his possessions, grabbed just 8.5 percent of available offensive rebounds, and finished with a 91.3 offensive rating. It was pretty ugly stuff.
But even if McAdoo's return might receive outsized attention, he still has plenty of promise, and the same can be said of the rest of the Tar Heels. P.J. Hairston actually did have a pretty great offensive season (rating: 120.3). Point guard Marcus Paige should improve as a sophomore. Forward Joel James is a big body on the block who could benefit from just one go-to low-post move. And Roy Williams has a solid recruiting class -- featuring the No. 8-ranked power forward and five-star prospect Isaiah Hicks -- on deck.
The notion that North Carolina is routinely overrated in the preseason, simply because it's North Carolina, probably has at least some basis in fact; the Tar Heels are almost always expected to be a top-15 team whether or not their circumstances demand. It would be easy to make that case again here. But if McAdoo and Paige in particular make genuine strides in the offseason -- and that's a crucial if -- a No. 3 seed feels eminently doable. Fortunately, we've got a few months to settle the issue.