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SI's Top 20 Scouting Reports

1. North Carolina Tar Heels
With Lawson's foot on the gas, UNC will again be one of the nation's fastest teams.
With Lawson's foot on the gas, UNC will again be one of the nation's fastest teams.
John W. McDonough/SI
Nonconference Schedule
Nov. 14 Davidson (in Charlotte)
Nov. 18 Iona
Nov. 20 South Carolina State
Nov. 23-24 Las Vegas Invitational (vs. Old Dominion; plus BYU, Louisville)
Nov. 28 at Ohio State
Dec. 1 at Kentucky
Dec. 4 at Penn
Dec. 16 at Rutgers
Dec. 19 Nicholls State
Dec. 22 UC Santa Barbara
Dec. 27 Nevada
Dec. 30 Valparaiso
Jan. 2 Kent State
Jan. 9 UNC Asheville
Fingers are crossed for a possible matchup with Louisville -- a good bet to meet the Heels in the Las Vegas Invitational. A matchup with Kentucky in Lexington a week later gives Carolina a chance to make fans in the Bluegrass State feel truly blue. Five other 2007 NCAA tournament teams lard a slate that's deceptively tough. Grade: B+
Fast Facts
Coach: Roy Williams (5th year)
2006-07 record: 31-7
ACC record: 11-5 (T-1st)
NCAA tournament: Elite Eight
Starting Lineup
PG Ty Lawson* 5' 11" Soph. 10.2 ppg 5.6 apg
SG Wayne Ellington* 6' 4" Soph. 11.7 ppg 2.1 apg
SF Marcus Ginyard 6' 5" Jr . 4.1 ppg 3.2 rpg
PF Tyler Hansbrough* 6' 9" Jr. 18.4 ppg 7.9 rpg
F Deon Thompson 6' 8" Soph. 4.7 ppg 2.4 rpg
Key reserve
F Alex Stepheson 6' 9" Soph. 2.1 ppg 2.2 rpg
*Returning starter

The Tar Heels' merriest prankster is highly serious about getting them to the Final Four

During last season's NCAA tournament, Tar Heels coach Roy Williams said that his starting point guard, Tywon Lawson, was the team's Dennis the Menace. The comic-strip character is a renowned tornado of trouble, and Lawson is a 5' 11" whirlwind who averaged 10.2 points and 5.6 assists as a freshman. But the real similarity, insists Mr. Wilson -- er, Williams -- is that Lawson "is like a little kid who does things just to see your reaction."

Indeed, life as a Tar Heel offers Lawson the opportunity not only to run an elite basketball team at breakneck speed -- the Heels were the fastest team to make the NCAAs, averaging 73.1 possessions per game -- but also to wreak havoc behind the scenes. "I don't like people to be bored in the locker room," he says. Says backup point guard Bobby Frasor, whose pale arms Lawson likes to slap so he can admire the resulting handprint, "If you were to just scratch Ty, he'd probably break something on you." Coaches aren't immune from Lawson's pranks -- he has hidden Williams's Sprite during film sessions -- and neither are fans. At a team banquet in April, Lawson announced he was leaving for the NBA, then paused before telling a silenced crowd he was kidding.

There was a serious reason for Lawson to return to Chapel Hill. With him at the helm, the Heels are well-positioned to win the national championship. Williams thinks Lawson played his best basketball at the end of 2006-07; over his final 16 games Lawson had a brilliant 3.5-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. Coming out of Oak Hill (Va.) Academy in '05, Lawson wanted to play alongside fellow Maryland native Kevin Durant and even briefly considered withdrawing his commitment to UNC. Instead he happily ended up with this year's preseason Wooden Award favorite, 6' 9" forward Tyler Hansbrough, who Lawson says is "the hardest worker I've ever seen -- ever."

With forward Deon Thompson poised to have a breakout year in place of departed lottery pick Brandan Wright, Williams has already said the Heels can play faster than they did last season. This year Lawson should lead the sprint to San Antonio. "Anything less," he says, "and it'll be a wasted season." -- Luke Winn

Issue date: November 19, 2007