I will give CBS Sports credit where it is due. They have the best college basketball coverage on the internet. You may not always agree with their writers all the time but you can't knock the sheer volume of content leading up to the season.Before jumping into the lists, Jeff Goodman checked in on the Tar Heel practice. You can read his report here. Good stuff all the way around including high praise for Dexter Strickland's improved offensive game and who will stand out between Reggie Bullock and P.J. Hairston who Goodman says are both top 50 shooters.
Now the much vaunted CBS Sports position lists. This season, in addition to those, they did a Top 100 college basketball players. Here is a look at the various lists and where the various Heels landed.
2. Harrison Barnes (sophomore forward, North Carolina). Barnes finished strong last season and could lead the Tar Heels to a national championship. — G.P.
8. John Henson (junior forward, North Carolina). His offensive game is still a work in progress, but he's long and is arguably the most dominant defensive player in the nation. — J.G.
12. Kendall Marshall (sophomore guard, North Carolina). His game is so pure at the point, only Jordan Taylor is a more enjoyable backcourt player to watch. Perfect guy for this group of Tar Heels. — M.N.
13. Tyler Zeller (senior forward, North Carolina). Back-to-back Heels. Zeller can run the floor beautifully and has done a fine job fulfilling the expectations put on him when he replaced Tyler Hansbrough. He's not better than Hansbrough, but he's as close as you could expect him to be. — M.N.
83. James McAdoo (freshman forward, North Carolina). Many tab him a future lottery pick, but with so much NBA talent around him, we had to not give him the benefit of the doubt just yet. — M.N.
97. Dexter Strickland (junior guard, North Carolina). The forgotten fifth starter for UNC, Strickland is arguably the team's best on-ball defender. — J.B.
3. Kendall Marshall(North Carolina)
You watch Marshall's game and you instantly get why he fits so well into Carolina's scheme. It's also a wonder why Roy Williams didn't start him from the get-go last year. He is the best pure point guard in college basketball.
1. Harrison Barnes(North Carolina)
If you find an argument with Barnes at No. 1 here, then you're either desperate for attention or can see into the future and know of a world where Barnes' ability has inexplicably dropped out of orbit. The UNC 3/2 hybrid has so many polished facets to his game, but it's his toughness that has recently come on and taken him to the elite level.
5. John Henson(Jr., F, North Carolina)
Henson blocked more than 11 percent of opponents' shots last season, which is particularly impressive when you take into account just how terrified so many teams were to go inside against UNC. They'd much rather shoot long, get back on defense and avoid getting killed in the secondary break. What I'm saying is, when John Henson puts his hand in the air in Chapel Hill, you can see it from Washington, D.C.
7. Tyler Zeller(Sr., F, North Carolina)
It's great to look back, think of Zeller as a freshman, then realize what he's become. Awesome ability all over the floor for Roy Williams' team, but Zeller's the kind of piece every coach wants. Big man with great hands, post moves, can run adeptly in a high-powered offense. He's also a tough son of a gun.
I have a problem with these lists.
I know, anyone who reads that has to be thinking how can you have a problem with these lists? Barnes is the #1 wing player, Marshall the #3 PG. Henson and Zeller are both on the big man list. These four are in the top 13 out of 100 and there are two more Heels on that list besides. What kind of nit picking fan would have a problem with four of top 13 players and six in the top 100?
Well, since you ask I think Zeller is being vastly underrated as it compares to Marshall and especially Henson. For some reason everyone is operating on the belief that Henson is UNC's best big man and it has nothing to do with his offense. Henson's offense is still in need of refinement whereas Zeller is possibly UNC's best offensive option even with Barnes on the team. Over the course of the 2011 season when there was PG shuffling and Barnes shooting poorly, Zeller was the most consistent Tar Heel on the roster. In four NCAA Tournament games Zeller scored over 20 points in every one of them. This might be sacrilegious but you can make an argument that Zeller is more talented and skilled than even Tyler Hansbrough was. Certainly his junior year production was almost on par with Hansbrough and there is every reason to believe he will pick up where he left off. Will a more consistent and dominant Barnes curtail some of Zeller's production? Probably but even then we are looking at probably a 2-3 ppg difference in average between the two. There is also the flow of the Tar Heel offense which is interior focused and a point guard who can deliver the ball to Zeller in position from which he can score on practically anyone.
The point is there are not many seven foot tall players who have great footwork, a nice shooting touch, a go to move which is near impossible to defend and runs the floor in an offense built to run with a point guard who throws passes on a rope like he is an NFL quarterback. Oh and Zeller isn't a bad defender either. In fact Roy Williams has said he thinks Zeller is a better defender than Henson. Zeller does a better job getting in the right position and also draws charges on a consistent basis which is an automatic turnover. In short, Barnes might be UNC's best player but Zeller has been the most consistent. He is the anchor of the offense and a big reason the 2011 season did not go off the rails during the first 12 weeks.
This is not a knock of Henson who I think is great and his defense is absolutely important to how good this team can be. I also realize this is ultimately moot in the grand scheme of things. UNC is loaded and who cares if Zeller is considered the fourth best player on the team as long as the team gets it done. I guess I am annoyed at the short sightedness of it which reeks a little of laziness. Henson is a flashier player and a complete freak so I think it is easy to tabbed him as the better option in these lists. However, if you put a gun to my head and told me I had to pick one big man, it would be Zeller every time.
Lucky for us, Roy doesn't have to make a choice, he gets to play them both with Barnes, Marshall, Strickland, Hairston, Bullock, McAdoo and Justin Watts.
Anyone excited yet?