It was an off year for UNC after cruising to the NCAA Championship in 2009.
They had lost four superstar starters to the NBA Draft: Wayne Ellington, Danny Green, Tyler Hansbrough and Ty Lawson. As a result, they struggled to find their identity as a team.
The Tar Heels found themselves in the NIT after a season plagued with injuries and ugly losses, but the perennial powerhouse program couldn't even manage to win the lowly tournament.
It was frustrating for fans and coach Roy Williams, but there is always hope for the Heels at Chapel Hill.
The 2011 season did not disappoint, and was capped off with the defeat of arch-rival Duke, securing the title of ACC champs.
This year's Tar Heels better resemble Roy William's squad back in 2009, when they rolled through the tournament and dominated Michigan St. in the championship game.
Freshman PG Kendall Marshall is becoming a Ty Lawson look alike. Not only because he wears No. 5, but because the way he can push the ball up the court. Since taking over the starting role, he's played above his years, proving that he can finish at the rim or dish it off for a pretty assist.
Tyler Zeller is no Tyler Hansbrough, but in his third year he's doing his best to replace one of the greatest Tar Heels of all time with his smooth jump hook and presence in the paint.
John Henson and Dexter Strickland are starting to play to their potential, and this crew is finally playing like a team. A little experience can go a long way.
John Henson has developed into a defensive force in his second year at UNC. His certainly hasn't suffered the sophomore slump.
Henson's averaging nearly 10 rebounds per game along with 3.1 blocks. He's perfected the ability to pump up the crowd by using his lengthy limbs to swat shots and slam over defenders.
He also averages double figures and is shooting the ball better than last year.
Henson and Zeller make the Tar Heels inside game their biggest offensive threat.
Their inside presence combined with guards who can hit the three consistently (Marshall, Barnes, McDonald), significantly improved Roy Williams' attack in 2011.
UNC's bigs also run the floor well, and are just as good defensively as they are with the ball in their hands. This will be an exciting team to follow in the big dance.
On January 18, 2011, the Marshall Plan was taken into effect. Freshman Kendall Marshall took over as UNC's starting point guard, and outperformed the demoted Larry Drew, who soon left town.
Marshall instantly opened up the offense because of his knack for finding the open man. He's averaging eight assists in his last 10 games, but he can put points on the board himself as well. He's averaging 9.6 per game in the same span.
Roy Williams has found the orchestrator of his offense, and his decision to finally start Kendall Marshall is paying dividends.
Harrison Barnes is the kind of player UNC was lacking last season, an offensive superstar.
Despite being a freshman, he's a guy who you can trust with ball for the final shot. He kept the Tar Heel's ACC chances alive with a clutch three against FSU, and then put up another 18 point game against Duke.
He may not have started off hot coming in as a preseason All-American, but he has dashed through the finish line.
Will Harrison's emerging talent carry the Tar Heels on a tournament run?
One thing is certain, because of Barnes this team is looking much better than it was 12 months ago.