Saturday, November 01, 2008

Carolina Is Better Without Hansbrough

When you read this headline, you probably asked the following questions:

“Is this guy on crack?”

“He knows we’re talking about Tyler and not Ben Hansbrough, right?”

“Really, … Is this guy on crack or other elicit drugs that severely impair judgment?”

Due to a stress reaction, Hansbrough is out with an indefinite timetable and the unanimous preseason #1 team in college basketball is without two of its starters (defensive ace Marcus Ginyard is out until December). It would be preposterous to even suggest that Carolina is better off without Psycho T, his 22.6 points and 10.2 rebounds per game and his utterly Caucasian style of celebration. However, they are.

After a catastrophic national semifinal loss against eventual champion Kansas, the Tar Heels faithful were anticipating of its three best players – Tyler Hansbrough, Wayne Ellington, and Ty Lawson. Following a chain of events that saw Hansbrough indicate that he is coming back for his senior season, Ellington performing miserably in preparation for the draft and Lawson driving under the influence (also suffered an injury during workouts), the only losses for the Heels were reserves Quentin Thomas (graduation) and Alex Stepheson (transfer). Meanwhile, this did not stop Roy Williams and his staff from recruiting, as they anticipated losses and reloaded with the likes of PF Ed Davis (top 15 recruit), PF/C Tyler Zeller (top 25 recruit), PG Larry Drew and SG Justin Watts.

With a team that can go 12 deep, it would have been - even for a master psychologist like Roy Williams - to satisfy all players with the necessary playing time. This playing time will allow, especially in non-conference play will allow for Davis and Zeller to grow at an accelerated pace. That said, if Hansbrough is out for the next month, he will miss games against Kentucky, Michigan State, either Alabama or Oregon as well as a matchup versus either Notre Dame or Texas. In short, that’s a lot of growing up to, but it’s better to grow up in November and December rather than being thrown into the fire when conference play begins and everyone throws their best effort at the unquestioned pre-season #1 team in all of the land. Additionally, time without Hansbrough will allow for Lawson, Ellington and Danny Green (and even Bobby Frasor) to demonstrate their leadership abilities.

In the immediate, the injuries all but force Green from his preferred sixth man role which saw a giant leap in his production. This situation also forces the hand of a more welcomed yet significant problem. Unlike last year, the Tar Heels will have three able-bodied point guards in Lawson, Frasor and Drew. If the Heels play their cards right, they can pace Lawson, who was only “quick” as opposed to “blazing” towards the end of the season as he recuperated from an injury. Assuming Hansbrough’s stress reaction does not get aggravated and rehabilitates effectively, the Tar Heels will take a team with two to three additional key contributors over the loss of their best player during non-conference play.

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