Tar Heels fans are hoping that this upcoming season can end up the same way the previous one did: Winning over 30 games, beating Duke as many times as possible, and seeing Roy Williams give himself and the Heels its second NCAA title since 2005.
Coming off a year that saw them go 34-4, 13-3 in conference play, and win their fifth title in school history, the Heels did fail to win the ACC tournament, the biggest failure of the year. They did have to go without star point guard, and, the motor of the team, Ty Lawson.
The thing Tar Heel fans are dreading in 09-10', not seeing the man who they have adored over the last four years, the man who took them to the top of the ACC and the college basketball world: Tyler Hansbrough.
Along with Hansbrough goes other seniors, Bobby Frasor, and Danny Green. Also departing from the championship team, stars Ty Lawson and, Wayne Ellington. Those five guys were the key to the Tar Heels' amazing four year run that included back-to-back Final Four appearances, and, of course, a national title.
Without those studs, it could be a big task for Carolina to remain at the top of the ACC and the national polls.
The good thing Heels fans can look forward to? The return of stellar big men Ed Davis and Deon Thompson. Those two should provide a much needed lift down low after the departure of Hansbrough.
Davis averaged seven points and seven rebounds a game on the year. He had a very solid championship game, coming off the bench and scoring 11 points and grabbing seven boards.
Davis is a favorite of the Heels' head man, Roy Williams. Thompson is the star of the two. Last year, Deon averaged over 10 points and five rebounds a game. He didn't have the tournament like Davis. He put up eight points and four boards a game. Not bad numbers, but they should have been better.
Also coming back will be two key sophomores that the Heels will need if they want to have success.
Tyler Zellar, the 7'0" backup big man, should have a solid sophomore campaign. He will see more playing time now that Hansbrough is gone.
Zellar sat out some of last season with an injury he had in the Kentucky game. He should be a key roll for the Heels' this upcoming season.
The other key sophomore, point guard Larry Drew. Drew had limited minutes a year ago behind the Heels point guard Ty Lawson. Drew took his time and had a solid year. He could be Carolina's starting point guard by the time the season rolls around.
Also coming back in 2009-2010, Marcus Ginyard. Ginyard missed all of the Tar Heels 2008-2009 championship season due to a stress fracture in his left foot. Ginyard was a key role player for North Carolina in 2007-2008. He can bring a lot to the table in 09-10', especially his leadership.
Ginyard should be gone along with Hansbrough, Green, and, Frasor, but he was granted a medical redshirt, and will be on the roster for the upcoming year.
I expect him to hopefully stay healthy, and have a very productive senior season. Expect him to have a year much like Reyshawn Terry did back in 2006-2007 as a senior.
As the new season comes, so will new faces. And nobody put together a better recruiting class (well, maybe Kentucky), than Roy Williams and North Carolina.
Williams will welcome a lot of talent to the 2009-2010 Tar Heel squad. The big sign of his class, 6'10" big man John Henson.
Henson averaged over 24 points and 12 rebounds a game a year ago as a high school senior in Texas. Henson also had some very nice all-star games. He had a pretty nice McDonald's All-Star game. Henson should be a contributor from day one. He is very effective on the low post on both offense and defense. Williams is very excited to have the 6'10" lanky monster. Henson should be a big plus for Carolina in '09-10'.
Also joining Henson will be two very solid guards, Dextar Strickland and Leslie McDonald. Both guards are quick, and have nice handles. Strickland could give Larry Drew fits for the starting spot at the point. McDonald should be a nice bench player for Roy Williams. Both should contribute right off the bat. Or at least the Carolina faithful hope so.
Also coming in, a set of twins. David and Travis Wear from Huntington Beach, Calif. The twins, both standing at 6'9", should be two huge additions for North Carolina. Both can post well, defend the ball, get to the basket, and shoot. It should be a treat watching the two twins battle it out for playing time, and helping the Heels' in 2009-2010.
North Carolina can have a very solid '09-10' season. They will be young, for the first time in a while. They won't have the leadership like they have had, or the dominating post presence of Tyler Hansbrough, the outstanding point guard play of Ty Lawson, and the sharp shooting and scrappy play of Wayne Ellington and Danny Green.
The schedule isn't completely full yet, or at least it wasn't the last time I checked. The important games to remember, of course the big Duke games, and against Kentucky. The Kentucky game won't be as easy as it has been of late. The Cats can give Carolina a run for their money this time around.
Roy Williams should tack on more wins to his resume in 2009-2010. Carolina won't be the most experienced team in the country, but they can be one of the most athletic, and talented.
Look for Carolina to win around 24-28 games, compete to win the ACC, and make a run to another Final Four appearance. The Elite Eight seems like a long shot for this young group, maybe even the Sweet 16.
Just don't count ol' Roy out. He may be young, he may not have the talent he has had in the past, but don't count him out.