Finding free time to post anything has been a challenge over the past few days amid a massive work project. A big thanks to C.Michael and Doc for keeping the blog rolling while I was working.
There are two thoughts I have about what Harrison Barnes' return to Chapel Hill means for next season.
1. Barring injury this team has the potential to be crazy good. As in, better than 2008 and 2009 good. The reason we go with potential is the perimeter shooting question needs to actually be answered against a legitimate team. Raining threes on Long Beach St. is not going to get it done, UNC needs consistent three point shooting at around 35% as a team with preferably at least three players above that. We know what the interior game is going to be like, consistent and very good. Tyler Zeller will likely add more range to his game. John Henson's offense game will get a little more refined and James McAdoo instead of Justin Knox is a huge upgrade on the offensive end. Add to that Harrison Barnes improving his ability to drive and create a shot in traffic, UNC has a huge chunk of the offense right there. The two biggest questions on offense are the three point shooting which has to be there to keep opposing teams out of zone defenses. The other is Kendall Marshall's ability to be a scoring threat to keep defenses honest permitting him to distribute the ball. If both those questions get answered to our satisfaction, this team could be better than the last title team. Looking at next season from here, I do think Barnes will be a better outside shooter as will a healthy Reggie Bullock. Leslie McDonald and Kendall Marshall also should chip in on the perimeter off the bench. Incoming P.J. Hairston has a reputation of filling it up from outside assuming it translates to college his freshman year. Oh yeah, UNC had a top ten defense last season and there is no reason to believe that won't keep going . As C.Michael pointed out in March, being in the top ten in both offense and defense is the path to a national title. Assuming the pieces fall into place, this will be incredible to watch.
2. All that being said, if it comes together, then this season is going to be fun to watch. I know the national title expectation is going to be placed on this team and rightfully so given the talent on the court. However, one of the "downsides" to 2009 was how much pressure was on that team to win it all. They returned everyone, had the best PG in the country, a national player of the year who was becoming a Tar Heel legend. The list went on and that team not winning it all would have been sorely disappointing. With the 2012 team, the same could be said except this feels much more like 2008 rather than 2009. Also, this group of players is one of the most popular among fans since 2009, maybe even more so. They are going to be fun to watch. For the wow plays, the Henson blocks, Black Falcon mode, Zeller running the court, sick dimes from Marshall, long shots from Hairston and Bullock, Strickland posterizing Duke players. The fun factor with both the way this team plays and their personalities in general means we as fans would be fools not to make an effort to enjoy this season as much as possible.
Yes, I know how this will go. People will complain about Roy Williams subbing too many players. As noted above, there are questions to be answered. Yet, this season could be at worst a Final Four run and at best a special season for the record books. It could be 2008 only this time the Heels go 38-2 and win the title. Whatever it is, my advice is to sit back and enjoy the ride.