With Harrison Barnes, a top three talent in the upcoming 2011 Draft, returning to Chapel Hill, there's no doubt that the Tar Heels are our early pre-season favorites. They return their top seven players, losing only 5th-year senior Justin Knox to graduation, and add-in the likes of high school All-Americans James McAdoo and PJ Hairston to fill the void. Barnes joins first-round prospects John Henson and Tyler Zeller back in the frontcourt, while Roy Williams also brings back one of the most electrifying point guards in the country in rising-sophomore Kendall Marshall.
Marshall was moved into the starting lineup about mid-way through the ACC schedule, and Barnes was the biggest recipient of Marshall's play. He was overwhelmingly more confident and he, along with Henson and Zeller, received many more open looks as a result of Marshall's ability to slice through the defense and penetrate into the lane.
McAdoo, a 6'8" incoming-freshman, was just named a co-MVP of the Jordan Brand Classic over the weekend and will be a tremendous upgrade over Knox. He can score with either hand around the rim, help on the boards and will help solidify a rather shallow frontcourt.
Along with the continual development of Barnes, Henson, Zeller and Marshall, Roy Williams is also bringing back one of the top recruits from last year- Reggie Bullock, a high school All-American who couldn't find his jumper in his first year in the rotation. Bullock and his jump shot will be counted to give the Tar Heels a boost off the bench. Add in the likes of Leslie McDonald and Dexter Strickland, two rising-junior guards, who both averaged about 7 points per game a year ago, and North Carolina has the deepest backcourt in the entire country.
Even if Kentucky returns Brandon Knight and/or Terrence Jones to their star-studded recruiting class, the Wildcats will be chasing the North Carolina Tar Heels for the 2012 national title.