Friday, October 08, 2010

North Carolina Boots Will Graves

Will Graves appears to be gone from North Carolina for good after he was dismissed for breaking team rules. Keeping in mind the agent scandal involving North Carolina's football team, some people immediately thought that Graves was related to that, but Roy Williams has assured the media that it was something else. And it's not too shocking, because Graves has always been a knucklehead, including getting suspended from the team once before.

I've always been down on Will Graves. Last season I was like a broken record saying that Dexter Strickland should be starting over Graves, who I viewed as an out-of-control player who never thought before acting (see here and here for examples). And let's recall that North Carolina was just mentally weak last season, putting in possibly the most disappointing season of any team in the decade when you consider results compared to talent. Getting rid of Graves could be more of a plus than a minus in that department.

But that said, this opens up North Carolina as potentially a very thin frontcourt with the loss of the Wear twins to transfer. There probably isn't another team in the nation with three frontcourt players as talented as Tyler Zeller, John Henson and Harrison Barnes. But after those three? Justin Knox, the transfer from Alabama, is the only other forward on the roster. It's possible that incoming freshman Reggie Bullock can play some small forward because of his height (6'6"), but he's only 185 pounds and he'll probably get pushed around by bigger teams, the same way that John Henson was as a freshman. Considering the injury history of Tyler Zeller, this isn't where North Carolina wants to be.

Back in April I projected North Carolina to finish 2nd in the ACC, but that was before the departures of the Wear Twins and Graves. I still think North Carolina might be the second best team in the conference, just because there was quite a gap back to the rest of the conference. But Duke is now the heavy, heavy favorite to dominate the ACC. And North Carolina is a bad injury away from falling back into the middle of the pack of the ACC again.

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