UNC: 5 Players Who Must Step Up with Barnes, Henson and Marshall Going Pro

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UNC: 5 Players Who Must Step Up with Barnes, Henson and Marshall Going Pro
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Tyler Zeller was a senior and it was his time to go. Kendall Marshall, Harrison Barnes and John Henson chose to leave UNC early for the NBA. It looks like the North Carolina Tar Heels basketball program just did a nose dive, right?

Not so fast.

The beauty of college—and one as prestigious as UNC—is players are always coming in to fill a spot. There will likely be growing pains with the incoming freshmen, but that doesn't put the program in the dumps.

Consider that North Carolina lost two players they were counting on in 2011-12. They lost Leslie McDonald and Dexter Strickland to knee injuries. We all thought those were crushing blows on a team that wasn't very deep.

UNC still made it to the Elite Eight and only lost to Kansas in the final minutes of the game—playing with a third-string point guard.

I've listed five returning players that will have to step up their game and make an impact on this young Tar Heels team of 2012-13. I will also glance over some of the incoming freshman and returning bench players.

I feel a lot better about the situation in Chapel Hill after writing this—and I hope my fellow UNC fans will feel the same after reading.

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