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Hoopsbag: North Carolina edition

It's been a few weeks since I've tried to answer some of your queries, comments, raves and rants about North Carolina hoops. So here goes.

Remember: Send your offseason interrogatives by visiting this page. You can also email me at bylinerp@gmail.com or contact me via Twitter at @bylinerp.

Krista from Coats, N.C.: With the mass exodus of players going to the draft, what are the chances that UNC will land Alex Oriakhi next season? Is there a time period that we should find out?

Tim from Cincinnati, Ohio: Hi Robbi, have you heard any word on Alex Oriakhi perhaps coming to UNC or any interest on UNC's part towards him?

Pickeral: Oriakhi -- the UConn forward who plans to transfer because of the Huskies’ 2013 NCAA tournament ban -- plans to visit UNC, Duke, Missouri and Kentucky, Kevin Duffy of the Connecticut Media Group reported earlier this week. And the 6-foot-9, 240-pound rising senior spoke to UNC coach Roy Williams on Wednesday night, the player confirmed to InsideCarolina.

His dad also named Xavier, Ohio State and UNC-Charlotte as possible destinations.

Chances are, Oriakhi won’t make a decision until after April 10, the NCAA deadline for underclassmen to declare for the NBA draft or opt to return to school; that will give him a definitive look at the rosters he has a chance to join. But the fact that UConn lost its appeal on its postseason ban Thursday lets schools know that he definitely will be able to play somewhere else next season (had the Huskies won the appeal, Oriakhi would have had to sit out a year).

No doubt, he would be a huge addition for the Tar Heels, who are losing four-fifths of their starting lineup to the NBA draft -- including starting forwards Tyler Zeller and John Henson. Rising sophomore James Michael McAdoo (who announced Thursday he is returning to school) should slide into one of those starting slots, and Oriakhi -- who averaged 6.7 points and 4.8 rebounds for the Huskies in 2011-12, after producing 9.6 points and 8.7 rebounds as a sophomore on UConn’s NCAA title team -- would likely fit into the other.

But with so many suitors, and only one more year to play, he’ll almost certainly be pondering several things: Which team can give him the most playing time? Which team can he help go the farthest in the NCAA tournament -- and in turn, help him go as high as possible in the NBA draft? And which team has a system/point guard that can get him the ball?


Craig from Santa Cruz, Calif.: Not sure why amongst all the what ifs in your piece about the Tar Heels' legacy you did not include: What if Larry Drew hadn't thrown a fit and quit? He was good as a backup with excellent perimeter defensive skills. Dexter Strickland was a shooting guard repurposed to point after LD2 bolted. Stilman [White] would not be on the team had LD2 not quit.

Pickeral: You make a good point, Craig. Theoretically, if Drew II had been on the roster, UNC would have had a more solid backup in the mix when Kendall Marshall fractured his wrist during the NCAA tournament.

But I’ll take that ‘What if?’ in another direction. If Drew II had not bolted in the middle of the 2010-11 ACC season (without telling his teammates, and letting his dad make the call to coach Roy Williams, remember), would that team have bonded together, and made it to the NCAA regional finals that season? Would Marshall have become a leader so quickly? Would Harrison Barnes, John Henson and Tyler Zeller have all returned for the 2011-12 season? Would this team have had the same chemistry?

Many believe Drew II’s departure was addition by subtraction. He didn’t want to back up Marshall; he made that pretty clear. So adding him back into the theoretic mix would add a whole lot of other “what ifs” to the equation, too.


Margaret from Durham, N.C.: I don't see Tyler Zeller's name on the NBA lists of probably declaring or declared. Does he intend to play in the pros?

Pickeral: Hey, Margaret. Because he’s a senior, Zeller is not going to be mentioned on those lists. He does plan to play professionally, and ESPN’s Chad Ford currently has him projected as No. 12 in his top 100.


Alex from Virginia: Any chance Stilman White will change his mind about going on his mission and return to UNC next season?

Pickeral: No. White said going on his two-year Mormon mission -- which he actually delayed for a year, in order to play for the Tar Heels in 2011-12 -- has always been a dream, and he plans to leave after this semester.

As of the final week of the NCAA tournament, the point guard from Wilmington, N.C., was still filling out his paperwork, and didn't know if he would serve his mission inside or outside the U.S. He'll be back as a sophomore in the 2014-15 season.


Ed from South Carolina: Robbi, which player to you look most forward to watching next season?

Pickeral: That's a hard one, Ed, because there are so many choices. I can't wait to see how quickly incoming freshman Marcus Paige adapts at point guard; how Dexter Strickland and Leslie McDonald look after their knee injuries; and all that Reggie Bullock can do, what with the way he's improved his defense to go along with his outside shooting.

But if I have to choose one guy, it's McAdoo. He decided to return for his sophomore season to improve his overall game, and if he continues to build on what he did over the last 4-to-6 weeks of the season -- the steals, the dunks, the rebounds -- he's going to be fun to watch. Especially because he'll be such a key player in the post.

Who is your pick?