UNC and the NBA Draft: Who Stays, Who Goes?

NEWARK, NJ - MARCH 25: John Henson #31 of the North Carolina Tar Heels points to the sky on bench to celebrate the defeat of the Marquette Golden Eagles during the east regional semifinal of the 2011 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at the Prudential Center on March 25, 2011 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)

With the NCAA tournament finally in the books – yes, that nightmare of a championship game did eventually end – most Carolina fans have little to do but anxiously wait for announcements about entering the draft or staying in school. I always feel bad about speculating about whether players should leave or stay. For one, UNC has a small army of NBA contacts to poll about a particular player's chances in the pros, while I've got my own half-assed opinions. And two, I don't know these kids, I have no idea what they're thinking, and I don't really have any better rumor-mongering skills than anyone else. I am, in short, not to be trusted on these sorts of things.

That being said, since it's looking like news will start to break as early as this morning, here are my thoughts on what's likely to happen:

Harrison Barnes: Barnes is, of course, a solid lottery pick. He would have been one last season had NBA rules allowed it. The only reason for him to stay at Carolina is his own competitive drive to win a national championship and complete his college career before moving on to the pros. Now Barnes is by all accounts quite competitive in that regard, and the rumors are bubbling up that he will indeed stay. (Just check the right sidebars of the main page for that.) And if true, UNC immediately becomes the favorite to win the national championship and the hype machine is cranked up to eleven all over again.

John Henson: Henson is also being projected as a lottery pick, although he's less of a lock. If I can see anyone declaring but not signing an agent, it's him. He could definitely use another year of seasoning, but whether it's better to do so here or in the NBA, I don't know. He's 6'11" and the ACC Defensive Player of the Year – he won't go hungry.

Tyler Zeller: Zeller is likely a mid to late first-rounder – think about it, Hansbrough went at 13th – and the rumor is he'll go if Barnes and Henson both do. Which makes sense; he's seen most of the championship team go pro, or in Larry Drew's case just go, and rebuilt once. If players from the two classes after him start leaving, I can definitely see the appeal of joining them over rebuilding again. 

My personal, unfounded guess? They all stay. I say this in part because I want them to stay, but this team also gives off a vibe of having unfinished business, and a strong motivation to bring home a championship. Keep in mind, the titles are almost becoming expected at UNC; you can count the number of players under Williams who don't have a championship ring on one hand. That's a very tempting reason to stay, especially for the players who played through the NIT season. So everybody stays. How about it?

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