Williams's Heels Poised to Contend

The season opener is more than five months away, but Roy Williams is already eager to get started on North Carolina's 2015-16 campaign.

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Roy Williams knows the Tar Heels can be contenders in 2015-16. And he doesn’t need media predictions to confirm it.

Indeed, he’s quick to dismiss the self-professed “way too early” Top 25 polls that were released by the major national media outlets as soon as last season concluded.

“It is so stupid,” Williams told InsideCarolina.com at a recent Rams Club Tar Heel Tour event. “I am not pointing any fingers, but it’s stupid. When it came out, people said ‘Well they are going to get this recruit or that recruit,’ and we didn’t. You look at somebody else and say they aren’t going to get certain recruits, and they did… Somebody that starts making predictions after the tournament, they don’t even know who is going to be on your club.”

North Carolina will nonetheless be at or near the top of the polls leading up to the season opener on Nov. 13. The Tar Heels return a deep, talented and experienced team in ‘15-16 – yet a team that still has plenty of room for improvement, according to Williams.

By the end of the ‘14-15 season, the Tar Heels seemed to be trending in the right direction, notching ACC Tournament wins over No. 14 Louisville and No. 3 Virginia and reaching the NCAA’s Sweet 16.

“I thought we were playing our best basketball at the end of the year, so I was very pleased there,” Williams said. “And yet it is very frustrating, because at the college level in those last couple of weeks, the difference between winning and losing is so small.”

To that end, UNC’s three close losses in March were to NCAA finalists Duke and Wisconsin, and a Notre Dame team playing as well as any in the nation.

“We played very competitively against both of those guys and led all three games in the second half at one point and didn’t finish the game,” he said. “… You have to congratulate them, but it also tells us that we’re pretty doggone close to being good enough but we couldn’t get it done on game night.”

UNC will return four of its five starters and nine of its top-10 scorers.

That level of returning experience speaks to the Tar Heels’ potential, which has to serve as a springboard for next season.

“Everybody should be very positive about what they’ve got to do,” Williams said. “But, just because they say it doesn’t make any difference. I told them the only way for our team to be better next year is every individual has got to get a lot better. I’m excited. I’d like to start practice today, but their bodies can’t handle it so we can’t start today. We do really have some good things.”

Williams cited three key areas for improvement this offseason.

“As a team we need to get better defensively, we have to stop fouling as much, and we need to stop turning the ball over because I thought those three areas really hurt us,” he said.

During his tenure in Chapel Hill, Williams’s most successful teams usually have balanced veteran experience and talent. For this team, that time is now, and the head coach knows it.

“I would think that we would be one of those teams that would have a chance,” Williams said. “… We have a chance to be very good.”

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