North Carolina Basketball: 10 Bold Predictions for the Tar Heels in 2011-12
With Harrison Barnes, John Henson and Tyler Zeller's announcements that they are coming back for another year on campus, Roy Williams' North Carolina Tar Heels went from reloading to riding on top of the 2011-12 college basketball world.
The Tar Heels return all seven of their top players (in terms of minutes and scoring), and they welcome ESPN.com's No. 4-ranked recruiting class.
To say that UNC is loaded may be the understatement of the year.
Here are 10 bold predictions about what will happen in Chapel Hill in the 2011-12 college basketball season.
Records will be broken. Dozens of games will be won—and who knows? Will Roy and his Tar Heels bring home another title?
10. Kendall Marshall Will Set the UNC Records for Assists and Assists Per Game
Kendall Marshall stepped into the role as starting point guard for the Tar Heels in mid-January. From that point forward, UNC posted a 17-3 record, including making it to the Elite Eight in the NCAA Tournament.
On the year, Marshall led North Carolina in assists per game (6.2). That figure is a little misleading, because that includes the first half of the season where Marshall was splitting time with Larry Drew II.
Early on as starting PG, Marshall dished out 16 assists against Florida State. This outing broke the UNC freshman record of 14 held by Ed Cota and Phil Ford.
That won't be the last assist record that Marshall will set.
With the offensive firepower that will be on the floor next season. Marshall should set the North Carolina single season assists and assists-per-game records.
Currently, Ed Cota has both of those marks. In 1999-2000, he handed out 284 assists, which was 8.1 APG.
Marshall had six games this past season where he had at least 10 assists.
Even more impressive than just the number of assists that Marshall handed out during his freshman season is his eye-catching assists-to-turnover ratio (2.5).
I would not be shocked to see Marshall come close to averaging double-figures in assists in the 2011-12 season.
9. John Henson Will Become the Tar Heels' All-Time Shot Block Leader
John Henson is one of the best shot blockers in the nation.
He combines his size and incredible length with outstanding athletic ability and timing to swat shots left and right.
Brendan Haywood holds most of the Tar Heels' shot blocking records—single game (10), season (120) and career (304).
Henson was two blocks shy (118) of tying Haywood's single season record in 2010-11.
If he blocks just 11 more shots this next season, he will set both the season and career records.
But remember, Haywood took four seasons to set the season record. Henson will do it in three.
Sorry, Brendan...I think you're name's coming off the record books.
8. John Henson Will Also Post 25 Double-Doubles in 2010-11
John Henson is a double-double (DD) Freak.
Henson posted 20 DDs this past season.
In fact, he actually averaged a DD (11.7 ppg and 10.1 rpg) for 2010-11.
Hall of Famer Billy Cunningham has the Tar Heels single-season DD record (22 in the 1963-64 season).
It's hard for me to imagine Henson will not take another step forward in the 2011-12 season.
7. Harrison Barnes Will Surpass Michael Jordan's Sophomore Season Scoring Mark
When you're taking down any of Michael Jordan's records, you're doing something special.
Harrison Barnes came to Chapel Hill with some very high expectation placed on him. He was thought of as one of the top high school seniors moving on to college.
Once on campus, Barnes was listed as an AP Preseason All-American.
After a very average start, Barnes turned it on towards the end of the season, averaging over 23 PPG during the Tar Heels' last six games.
Barnes may be in line to improve on MJ's UNC sophomore-season scoring record (721 points in 1982-83). To do this, he would have to raise his scoring level around four PPG from his freshman average (15.7)—a very reachable goal.
6. Tyler Zeller Will Still Be the Tar Heels' Leading Scorer Next Season
Tyler Zeller isn't flashy.
He doesn't "Wow" people with his ability to slide outside and shoot the three—last season, he didn't attempt a single shot from beyond the arc.
But Zeller does have a quiet way of taking over games.
For the 2010-11 season, Zeller tied with Harrison Barnes as the Tar Heels' leading scorers (15.7 PPG).
During the NCAA Tournament, Zeller stepped up his game, scoring nearly 26 PPG.
The 7'0" power forward goes about his business in workman-like fashion, shooting a high-percentage from both the field (54.7 percent) and at the line (76.3 percent).
While Barnes and Henson may grab more of the headlines and attention, Zeller may be the one who leads the team in scoring.
5. The Tar Heels Will Lead the Nation and Break the UNC Record for Blocked Shots
When you think of intimidating, shot-rejecting teams, North Carolina does not seem like it would be at or near the top of the list.
Kentucky? That makes sense.
Syracuse? I can buy that.
But, as it turns out, UNC was right on these teams' heels when it came to blocking shots this past season.
With Henson, Zeller and Barnes returning—along with freshmen phenom James McAdoo (described on ESPN.com as an "excellent shot blocker who erases teammate's defensive errors") coming on board, the Tar Heels' opponents may have a tough time getting shots to the rim.
To break the school record (219), UNC will only have to block an extra 16 shots over this past season—not exactly out-of-the-question for what could easily be the best front-line in college basketball in years.
4. The Tar Heels Will Lead the Nation and Break the UNC Record for Rebounding
With 42.5 RPG, North Carolina was the nation's rebounding leader in 2010-11.
With John Henson, Tyler Zeller, Harrison Barnes and Dexter Strickland returning and James McAdoo (6'8", 216 lbs), P.J. Hairston (6'5", 220 lbs) and Desmond Hubert (6'9", 207 lbs) arriving, is there any question that the Tar Heels will be even more dominant on the boards this season?
The UNC school record for RPG average is 50 years old (49.9 rpg in 1960-61). The Tar Heels grabbed 1,148 rebounds in 32 games.
Breaking this record will not be easy, but I think that the national record is safe. UConn grabbed an unbelievable 70 rebounds per game in 1955.
3. The Tar Heels Will Tie or Surpass the UNC Record for Wins in a Season
With the Tar Heels 2011-12 schedule still not finalized, it is hard to know how many games UNC will play next season.
However, it is very possible that North Carolina will tie or surpass its school record of 36 wins, which was established in 2007-08 when they made it to the Final Four.
2. The Tar Heels Will Win Both the ACC Regular Season and Conference Tournament
It is definitely not a given that whoever wins the ACC regular season will also win the conference tournament.
The Tar Heels won the regular season crown this year, but Duke won the ACC tourney.
UNC has won the regular season conference title 35 times. They have only won the ACC tourney the same year 12 times.
Next season will make 13!
1. The Tar Heels Will Win the 2012 NCAA Championship
North Carolina has won five NCAA Championships (1957, 1982, 1993, 2005 and 2009).
The Tar Heels will not only make it into the 2012 NCAA Tournament and advance to the Final Four, but
they will cut down the nets again and win another NCAA Championship next season.
With four potential lottery picks in their starting line-up, the Tar Heels are going to be very difficult to stop.
If the Tar Heels do win, this will be Roy Williams' third title (in nine years) since coming to Chapel Hill.
It will also put Williams one Championship ahead of UNC coaching legend Dean Smith.