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UNC Basketball 2017-2018 Preview: Seniors

The heart and soul of the Tar Heels resides in the senior class.

North Carolina Tar Heels Championship Welcome Rally Photo by Sara D. Davis/Getty Images

It is incredible to think of the run that the seniors on this year’s UNC basketball team have been on in their time at Carolina. They’ve been to back-to-back title games. They are national champions. They have a chance to lead their team to a third straight Final Four.

When you think about the motor behind the Heels, the seniors are it. It helps to have one of the very best point guards in the country suiting up for your team.

#2 Joel Berry II (6’0”, 195)

Gonzaga v North Carolina Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

It should be indisputable that Joel Berry II is a very real contender for best point guard in college basketball. Berry deciding to return for his senior year at Carolina changed so much about the outlook for this year’s team for the better.

The biggest question surrounding Berry’s senior campaign will be whether or not he is able to stay healthy after a rash of unfortunate injuries. He sprained both of his ankles in UNC’s run to the national championship last season, but still managed to show up in a big way in the title game that ultimately helped the Heels overcome a cold-shooting Justin Jackson to top Gonzaga.

Berry kicked off his senior season with a broken hand that came from a human moment involving video game defeat. People will obviously have their opinions about that, but it’s a good reminder that these guys are, at the end of the day, young adults and not basketball robots. Joel is expected to miss a couple of the team’s first games of the season, hopefully being able to return by the time Carolina heads to the west coast for the PK90 tournament.

If we know anything about Berry, it’s that he’ll use everything as fire to give it his all when he returns to the court. Berry is the heart of the team and he’s a competitor to his core. It seems like a given that he’ll give it his all to leave Chapel Hill on a high note.

#1 Theo Pinson (6’6”, 220)

Gonzaga v North Carolina Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

As cliche as it sounds, if Berry is the heart of the team, Theo is the soul. It was evident last season when Pinson was out with an injured foot that the team just worked better when he was on the floor. He may not put up eye-popping point totals, but Pinson stuffs the stat sheet in nearly every game by doing a little of everything.

One of the most impressive parts of Pinson’s game is his incredible court vision. The way he is able to find his teammates makes him a fantastic facilitator. Beyond that, he can play nearly anywhere on the court. Theo’s versatility had him playing almost every position at one point or another, including being charged with guarding Florida State’s 7-footers last season.

Theo being able to play up and down the lineup gives Roy Williams a lot of options this season when trying to figure out where to slot in everyone, especially until Berry returns in a couple weeks. We’ve already seen that in action so far in the exhibition games where Theo occasionally ends up as the tallest guy on the court.

It would be easy for some to underrate what Theo brings to the team without him accounting for a decent chunk of the team’s scoring, but sitting down to watch a game in order to really see all that Theo does paints quite a different picture.

#25 Aaron Rohlman (6’6”, 210)

NCAA Men's Final Four - Practice Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Rohlman is a former JV player who earned a walk-on spot for last year’s team. As a result, he doesn’t get a ton of playing time. He did appear in 33 minutes of game action last season with his predominant contributions coming via rebounds. He pulled down 12 boards on the defensive end across 20 games last season.

Special Edition:

#13 Cameron Johnson (6’8”, 210)

NCAA Basketball: North Carolina Midnight Madness Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

With two years of eligibility left, Cam Johnson isn’t technically a senior. Whether or not he returns to Carolina for a second season likely depends on how this season goes for him, so we’ll label him a senior for this particular exercise in previewing the team.

Johnson had to work pretty hard to become a Tar Heel after Pittsburgh wanted to block his eligibility to play at Carolina this season. Even though Johnson fulfilled his graduation requirements at Pitt, they wanted him to sit out a year if he transferred to an ACC team for his graduate studies.

Determination prevailed, and Johnson was able to come to Chapel Hill without having to sit out a season. His addition to the team looks like a huge one for Roy Williams, giving the team an impressive threat from three-point range following the departure of Justin Jackson.

Between Late Night With Roy, the Barton College exhibition, and the Disaster Relief Jamboree, Cam has already shown a lot of what he can bring to the team. He was especially impressive in the Jamboree exhibition, knocking down a couple big three-point shots. There were some questions as to whether or not he’d start right away, but the answer to that has been yes so far, getting the start over Kenny Williams. That may change if Roy decides to go a different way once Berry is back, but it’s hard to argue that Cam hasn’t deserved it so far.

Carolina fans may best remember Cam from nearing shooting Pitt into an upset at the Dean Dome last season. He absolutely went off against the Heels, and put his team in a position to win right down to the final possession. If he can channel that kind of performance FOR the Tar Heels this season, everyone will be ecstatic about having him on the team.