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Thursday, December 13, 2012
Hoopsbag: North Carolina edition

By Robbi Pickeral

Note: Second question updated Thursday afternoon.

Each week, I’ll try to answer your queries, comments, raves and rants about North Carolina hoops (and other related issues/teams). Send your interrogatives by visiting this page. You can also email me at or contact me via Twitter at @bylinerp.

Only a slow trickle of Hoopsbag questions this week, but then again it's a slow time, what with exams slowing the game schedule. But here are a few….

Jim from North Carolina writes: Brice Johnson has only started one game this season, but he’s scoring a whole lot more points than [Desmond] Hubert or [Joel] James. Why isn’t he the permanent starter yet?

Pickeral: Jim, I wrote about the revolving door at center on Wednesday, and a big concern seems to be Johnson's size. At 6-foot-9 and 187 pounds, there’s a great big question as to whether the freshman is going to be able to take a pounding from opposing ACC big guys come conference play, especially if he's in the game beside forward James Michael McAdoo.

As I wrote:
Sophomore James Michael McAdoo is the team’s leading scorer (15 ppg) at the other post position, but he prefers to play facing the goal, not with his back to the basket. He’s not a physical, big-bodied traditional power player like UNC has had in past seasons, but with James in the lineup beside him, he doesn’t necessarily have to be.

“If you have Joel in the game, that means James Michael doesn’t have to guard a big guy,’’ Director of Basketball Operations Joe Holladay said. "... Let’s say you play Brice and James Michael together. Well, one of them’s going to take a beating, because they’ve got a bruiser on the other side, once we get to the ACC, so it might affect one or the other. So I don’t mind Joel being down there low, even though he’s not a point a minute like Brice.”

Also, coach Roy William said at his press conference on Thursday afternoon that Johnson is "a long way" from where he wants him to be, defensively.

"He said it himself the other day: He played zone in high school. It’s two things: You have to learn all the principles, which is really hard, it takes a long time – and then it becomes second nature and you say, why did it take me so long to learn? And then the other thing … he’s got to get his intensity level way higher than it is, and then maintain it.

"We showed one play in one game; it might have been the Indiana game. And I said, ‘How did you feel you you watched that?’ And he said: ‘Embarrassed.’ Because you don’t know that; you see it on tape, and it helps you understand it. But it’s getting better. He’s not getting better as fast as I want him to, or I’m sure as fast as he wants to. But he’s trying, and trying to get better, and I’ll take that."

That doesn’t mean Johnson won’t ultimately be the full-time starter; I honestly don’t think Williams has made a decision yet. It’s a matter of weighing scoring (which Johnson brings) versus power (James) and defense (Hubert).

Jeff Hensley from Medford, Oregon, writes: Just saw the list of Tar Heels on the All-Time Great March Madness players. Ty Lawson didn't make it??? How in the world did that happen? Antawn Jamison made it over Lawson? And don't get me wrong, I LOVE Jamison, but Lawson had as much to do or more with Carolina's 2009 Championship as Hansbrough did!

Pickeral: Agreed that Lawson is an eye-brow raising omission, considering he was 12-2 for his career in the NCAA tournament and averaged 20.8 ppg over five games during the 2009 NCAA tournament (despite his infamous injured toe), when UNC won the title. My guess: Wayne Ellington was named MOP of that tournament, so Lawson somehow got overlooked by the committee at

I also sort of wondered how the 2004-05 title squad got left out of the 25 All-Time March Madness teams. But then again, UNC’s other four NCAA championship teams made the list, and it’s always a great debate, choosing one over the other over the other.

Janie from Virginia writes: Are the Tar Heels doing their annual Christmas shopping trip for families this year? I always like to hear about what they guys pick out for the kids….

Pickeral: According to Adam Lucas of, the team made its annual shopping trip last week. Each player was given a wish list from a needy local family, and a $70-per-person spending limit. (The story doesn’t mention, unfortunately, which players found themselves in the Barbie aisle, picking out dolls for the little girls on their list. That image always makes me smile.)