The departure of Harrison Barnes, John Henson, Tyler Zeller, and Kendall Marshall to this summer's NBA draft leaves Carolina entering its third distinct rebuilding season under Roy Williams.
Though the 2012 squad will not leave Chapel Hill with a national championship, it has in common with its 2005 and 2009 predecessors that nearly all of the key players will leave a team that had been building steadily toward success for three seasons. The two seasons that followed those titles offer two extremes for how a rebuilding campaign can proceed.
In 2006, the Tar Heels rode the breakout success of freshman Tyler Hansbrough to an upset of Duke at Cameron, and a No. 3 seed in the NCAA tournament. In 2010, however, preseason expectations built on the return of Ed Davis and Deon Thompson were shattered when Carolina missed the tournament in one of the program's most frustrating seasons.
College basketball pundits—and Carolina fans—have already taken to wondering and worrying which course the 2013 season will take: 2006 or 2010? As is so often the case with such questions, reality is likely in between.
The 2013 squad will not likely feature a consistently reliable scoring option of the caliber of Hansbrough in 2006, and it will instead rely on a variety of guys to chip in the occasional big night. For that reason, 2013 may fall short of that group's success. But the overall returning talent is stronger next year than in either of the previous rebuilding seasons, and there are five compelling reasons why it is far less likely that 2013 goes the way of 2010.