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The Hype Machine Cranks Up

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For Harrison Barnes that is.

A couple of pieces that hit the interwebs this week. First up from Fox Sports' Jeff Goodman who goes as far as to call Barnes "The Savior", "The Man"  and makes a comparison to Kobe Bryant.

Barnes, after spending a few days working on his perimeter skills at Chris Paul’s Camp down in Winston-Salem, finally stepped foot on campus earlier this week.

Which also means that The Savior won’t be doing any interviews until his first official college basketball game (those are the North Carolina rules).

Barnes is a heck of a player, arguably the most talented incoming freshman in the entire country.

But he alone can’t rectify all the issues in Chapel Hill.

Barnes does solve perhaps the most glaring need – a wing that can create his own shot and also someone who is able to make a play with the game on the line.

It’s likely he can help with filling more than one of the Tar Heels weaknesses: Barnes can also make shots from the perimeter and is capable, even as a freshman, of quickly becoming the team’s leader.

Goodman does not place the entire burden of turning UNC around on Barnes. He rightly points out that Larry Drew and Kendall Marshall are huge pieces as is Reggie Bullock. However, Barnes gives them a go-to scorer and a solid perimeter shooter. What Goodman does not point out is Barnes also gives UNC an alpha dog leader and a very smart player who can create offense for his teammates as well as for himself.

Luke Winn wades into the pool over at SI.com with a glowing report which says Barnes has the complete arsenal of skills and based on this excerpt might have Tyler Hansbrough's work ethic:

I witnessed Barnes giving at Paul's camp. On Day 1, in a suicide-sprint drill, Barnes outran every point guard other than Georgetown's Chris Wright; and after the campers' grueling workout was complete, Barnes was the lone player who remained out on the court, doing additional shooting drills. It may please North Carolina fans to hear that, but they're likely more curious, or anxious, to find out just how much Barnes can give to the Tar Heels in Year 1. He certainly isn't the first recruit of his caliber to enroll at UNC, which has produced 10 draft picks since 2006, but he arrives following a season in which the Heels spectacularly underachieved, finishing 16-16 in the regular season and missing the NCAA tournament for the first time under coach Roy Williams.

To say the Tar Heels struggled to score in '09-'10 would be putting it gently: They ranked 92nd in adjusted offensive efficiency after finishing in the top 10 each of the previous six years. Carolina has two NBA prospects on the interior in Tyler Zeller and John Henson, but there's a massive point-production void on the perimeter, and Williams' best option is to make Barnes the No. 1 option. After watching him for three days at Paul's camp, it's clear Barnes has a more advanced and diverse offensive arsenal than anyone on the Tar Heels' current roster.

In other words, Barnes is exceptionally versatile and works his rear end off. Winn goes as far as to say Barnes is option #1 for Roy Williams once the Heels actually start playing games.  Based on the reports trickling out of pick-up games that already appears to be the case with Barnes leading the current roster of Heels(minus Graves and Drew) in scoring vs some of the alum.

The questions all of us have struggled with since last spring was how many eggs do we put into the Harrison Barnes basket? Do you believe the hype? Is he good as advertised? If UNC had a "normal season" by Tar Heel standards(24-28 wins, Sweet Sixteen appearance) then we probably would less prone to ask these questions. Unfortunately last season was a disaster. As much as I would like to give Goodman grief for labeling Barnes any kind of "savior" I can't. To a great extent he is correct. At present, what UNC needs and what Barnes can give gives them a tremendous boost over last season. Toss in an improved Drew(we hope!), Bullock, Henson with some extra weight not to mention an idea what he is doing, suddenly you have the pieces to be a top ten team. It is still a team game but in this case UNC needs the offense in particular to sort of revolve around Barnes or at the very least flow through him. The good news is it appears Barnes has the skills and I also believe the right head on his shoulders to accept that mantle.

And in case you are still unconvinced here are three quotes about Barnes that is sure to set you at ease.

@bomani_jones: Barnes is as advertised. Bullock's nice. Marshall ok. RT @TheRafters: how the heels look? the young ones.

@johnhenson31: you heard it here first....Harrison Barnes is a Machine...I think he just sleeps on a charger...lol...no but seriously... 0_o

Nolan Smith: "He could be something special."

The hype machine is rolling for Barnes but so far it looks completely deserved.