Player to Watch: Strickland. UNC’s starting shooting guard/back-up point guard/best perimeter defender tore a ligament in his knee in January at Virginia Tech, and was sidelined for the remainder of the season. He said last month that his surgery went well, his knee was healing fine and he expects to be ready to play by the start of practice next fall.
But it will be interesting to see exactly where he fits, considering UNC has so many wings. With starting point guard Kendall Marshall gone and freshman McDonald’s All-America Marcus Paige on the way, will the Tar Heels want to give Strickland even more ballhandling duties? Does he earn his starting shooting guard slot back because of his defense? And how much will his shooting improve?
Question Mark: Could outside shooting finally become a strength again?
UNC’s last two NCAA tournament exits were marred by clanks and clunks. The Tar Heels were a measly 2-for-17 (11.8 percent) from 3-point range in the NCAA regional finals against Kansas last month, and an ugly 3-for-16 (18.8 percent) in the Elite Eight against Kentucky in 2011.
But with McDonald back after sitting out 2011-12 because of offseason knee surgery, Bullock more confident after starting 18 games in place of Strickland, and Hairston boasting a full year of experience under his belt, the Tar Heels boast a trio capable of putting up big numbers (and percentages) from beyond the arc. Plus, each can play small forward, as well.