The 2016-2017 Tar Heels that went on to bring a national championship home to Chapel Hill were an awesome combination of talented and likable. They certainly had their critics, whether it be questions regarding their effort, toughness, or talent, but they quieted their “haters” when they cut down the nets on April 3rd, 2017.
Seasons following a national championship run are usually down win-loss wise, but fans can remember the prior year and are usually still pretty content. Carolina’s team for the upcoming season will have a decent amount of contributors back from the championship team. This year’s basketball team should once again be a group that is very easy to root for, and each for a different reason.
The incoming freshmen:
Brandon Huffman, Sterling Manley, and Garrison Brooks
These freshman big men weren't huge recruits out of high school and decided to come to UNC and follow in the footsteps of the countless bigs that have blossomed in the Roy Williams system. It is hard to believe they won’t be four-year players while learning how to play at the collegiate level, and four-year players endear themselves to every fan.
Another low-rated recruit with many small conference offers that wants to come in and help the Heels no matter what his role ends up being. It feels like he will be a fan favorite being able to knock down jumpers
The jewel of the freshman class and a UNC legacy. Barely missed out on being a McDonald’s All-American, but fans had the chance to watch him play in the Jordan Brand All-Star game. The kid can play, and was named Player of the Year in South Carolina. What more can you ask for?
The Sophomore Class
B-Rob didn't get a ton of burn last year, but he celebrated the championship as hard as anyone. He'll have a bigger role without Justin Jackson and Nate Britt on the roster. Robinson has some bounce and isn’t afraid to go to the hoop. Once he gets a little stronger he will be able to hammer some home and get the fans out of their seats.
Another player capable of highlight dunks and nasty spin moves. Seventh should have a little extra run between the 1 and 2 guard with Britt gone as well. It also doesn’t seem like he’s afraid of the big moment after having the best game of his young career at Cameron Indoor with four points and four assists in eight minutes
The Junior class
After decommitting from VCU when Shaka Smart left for Texas to come to Chapel Hill, Kenny has had an incredibly tough stretch to the beginning his UNC career. Between the concussion sustained in the 2016 NCAA tournament and the knee injury leaving him sidelined for half of the 2017 season, it's easy to root for him to be a contributor for 2017-2018 season. He has the ability to heat up as we saw in his 19-point game vs Radford, and against Notre Dame. We’re all hoping Kenny can get a full season.
Let’s see. I could tell you that Luke will go down in UNC history, that he was the 2016 South Region’s Most Outstanding Player, or that he wanted to come to UNC without a scholarship, but I’d rather sum this sucker up with a gif
After many fans cursing him for keeping the Pittsburgh game close and dropping 24 in Chapel Hill, the redshirt sophomore decided to transfer to UNC without even knowing he could play without sitting out. He graduated from Pitt in three years, and fought against the blocking of transfers by universities, that’s more than enough to win me over.
The Senior class
Theo has the most personality on the team and isn't afraid to flaunt it. His post-game press conference antics, the pass to Maye against Kentucky, and the fact that he somehow always ended up throwing the ball up in the air at the end of NCAA tournament games (including the championship) will always be cemented in UNC history. Not to mention he can guard almost every position on the floor and does all the small things teams need to do to win. Battling through injuries and his ability to give the Heels the "X-factor" needed to win scrappy games helps him be #1 on the court and #1 in many fans’ hearts
Joel Berry II
There’s really nothing else that can be said about Joel. Berry was one of the leading players on the national championship team, Final Four Most Outstanding Player, and could be a favorite for ACC or even NCAA Player of the Year as a senior. The leader and floor general of the Heels spent about five minutes in the draft before deciding to come back for his senior year, and his jersey will hang in the rafters forever