With Harrison Barnes in charge, the Tar Heels are simply too dangerous not to win the 2012 title
The North Carolina Tar Heels have been a favorite to win the 2012 NCAA tournament since stars Harrison Barnes, John Henson and Tyler Zeller all decided to return to play in Chapel Hill this season.
While their season has been a roller coaster ride of puzzling losses and breathtakingly dominant performances, the team has now righted the ship just in time for tournament action.
Bad losses to Florida State and UNLV earlier this season gave critics reasons to doubt the Heels, but their 88-70 dismantling of Duke on March 3 gave a glimpse to just how scary this team can be when firing on all cylinders.
Here are five reasons why the North Carolina Tar Heels will be the last team dancing after the 2012 NCAA Men's Basketball Division I Basketball Tournament.
The Tar Heels were given the easiest road of the four No. 1 seeds in the 2012 NCAA tournament, which immediately makes them the favorite of the Midwest Region.
The second seed Kansas Jayhawks are no slouch, but they don't have the offensive firepower to compete with North Carolina. Their star, 6'10" junior Thomas Robinson, can have his production limited by UNC's twin towers John Henson and Tyler Zeller.
While Kansas point guard Tyshawn Taylor provides a tough matchup for the Heels, the same thing can be said for Harrison Barnes. The Jayhawks don't have a shooting guard or small forward who will be able to match up with the 2012 ACC First-Team selection.
The next highest seeded teams, Georgetown, Michigan, Temple and San Diego State, are all teams with significantly less talent than the Tar Heels, and none match their frontcourt depth.
Take a look at the numbers and it's easy to see that when Reggie Bullock shoots the ball well, North Carolina wins big. When he doesn't shoot it well, they lose, or win narrowly.
In their ACC championship loss to Florida State on Sunday, he shot a miserable 1-9 from the field, including 0-5 from behind the three-point line. He also shot a less-than-impressive 3-12 from the floor in their 69-67 win over North Carolina state in the previous game.
In their three games leading up to those contests, against Maryland, Duke, and Maryland again, he shot a combined 15-28 and 7-17 from three-point land. In those games, they won by at least 16 points in each game.
When he is efficient, North Carolina is very hard to stop.
The emergence of Kendall Marshall as a scorer is a great sign for Tar Heel fans as we enter tournament action this week.
Over North Carolina's past four games, he has averaged 15 points per game while shooting over 50 percent from the field. In those games, he has continued to post over 10 assists in each contest. If he can keep that up, he is easily the most efficient point guard in the country.
He provided Carolina with the winning basket in the North Carolina State game last week, showing that he isn't afraid to take the big shot.
He also makes the team extremely dangerous when he is scoring, because defenders won't dare him to shoot anymore. With him making several key baskets each game, North Carolina has scorers at every position on the floor.
If we take a look at North Carolina's team on paper, they have at least six future NBA players in Kendall Marshall, Reggie Bullock, Harrison Barnes, Tyler Zeller, John Henson and James Michael McAdoo.
Not many teams in America, if any, can match that kind of talent. Of those six, Barnes, Henson, Zeller and Marshall each received 2012 Atlantic Coast Conference First- or Second-Team honors.
Tyler Zeller was selected 2012 ACC Player of the Year, a testament to how much the senior has improved since last season.
Each and every one of those players are capable of exploding for huge offensive games on any given night, making them a matchup nightmare for opposing teams.
Much like last season, Harrison Barnes is improving as the season wears on. He has had big games in North Carolina's past four contests, including dropping 23 points and seven rebounds in the 2012 ACC Championship game against Florida State.
While his statistics don't exactly jump off the page at 17.4 points and 5.2 rebounds per game, his efficiency and skill set are what sets him apart from other players at the college level.
He is a surefire future NBA star who has the maturity and the focus to take this tournament by storm. He badly wants a national championship, and he is dead-set on bringing one to Chapel Hill this season.