Harrison Barnes Returns to UNC: Will This Be Roy Williams' Best Team Yet?

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Harrison Barnes Returns to UNC: Will This Be Roy Williams' Best Team Yet?
Nick Laham/Getty Images

Since taking over on Chapel Hill in 2004, North Carolina head coach Roy Williams has enjoyed unparalleled success in the world of college basketball.  The hall-of-famer has guided the Tar Heels to an incredible 225-62 record, five ACC regular season championships, two national titles and helped 12 players reach their childhood dreams of playing in the NBA.

After a rough beginning, last season’s Heels—one of the youngest but most talent-laden squads in the country—rebounded to win the conference and come within seven points of advancing all the way to the Final Four.  NBA early entry implications aside, UNC figured to use their late season prowess as a springboard to dominance in 2011-2012.

This, though, is the age of “one and done,” when elite collegians rarely forgo a chance to be selected in the NBA draft.  Often, even those players with no guarantee of being selected choose to realize their professional dreams.  Thus, surefire first round prospects like UNC’s Harrison Barnes, John Henson and Tyler Zeller are never expected to stay in school.

Well, Carolina fans across America rejoiced today, as Barnes—a likely top four draft selection—announced he would join Henson and Zeller back on campus next season to form the devastating nucleus of a potential national champion.

Combine those three thoroughbreds with just returnees like precocious sophomore PG Kendall Marshall, athletic young wings Reggie Bullock, Leslie McDonald and Dexter Strickland, and Williams would have more than enough firepower to deliver another national title to Tar Heel nation.  Throw in a top five recruiting class led by all-everything F James McAdoo, and the Carolina cupboard is overflowing with top-tier talent.

Such a loaded roster begs a scary question for the rest of college basketball: are the 2011-2012 Tar Heels the best team Williams has ever had? In answering, it makes sense to examine only Williams’ two title-winning Carolina teams, as the Heels will unquestionably sit atop every preseason poll when November finally rolls around.

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