DWHoops continues our preseason countdown for the ACC with our pick for second in the league, the Tar Heels of the University of North Carolina.
DWHoops 2011 ACC Prediction: #2
1. Can Jessica Breland regain all-ACC form?
Breland showed so much potential and
production early in her career that the answer to this question will
essentially determine the outcome of UNC's season. All indications are that
she's better than ever following chemotherapy for Hodgkin's disease. In fact,
she probably could have started to play last March, but she was wisely held
back so as to have a full senior season. The Heels had a Breland-sized hole in
their roster last year and floundered in their half-court offense and on
defense. Breland's ability to block shots and score inside and out could
energize the rest of the team.
2. Is there a leader in this bunch?
Breland will be one of three seniors, but
guards Italee Lucas and Cetera DeGraffenreid were flops as leaders last year.
Lucas was so out of it at times that coach Sylvia Hatchell took her out of the
starting lineup and benched her for long periods of time. DeGraffenreid's
inability to hit any kind of jump shot toward the end of the year made her much
easier to defend. With Breland back, Hatchell hopes that the confidence of the
other two seniors will be restored. UNC teams do not do well without strong
upperclassman leadership; can Breland keep everyone in line while making the
adjustment of returning to basketball?
3. Will everyone be in shape?
For a team that loves to run, UNC has frequently
let some of their players get out of shape. This has hurt them late in tight
games, when those players cramp up or make defensive mistakes due to fatigue.
In particular, Waltiea Rolle is a player who showed tremendous potential as a
game-changer in the post at both ends, but who faded late in games. Big-time
recruit Tierra Ruffin-Pratt had shoulder problems, but her mobility suffered
from a lack of fitness. If this team can get leaner and stronger, they will be
able to close out opponents in a way they weren't able to do last year.