North Carolina Basketball: 11 Reasons the Tar Heels Will Be the Team to Beat
In 2009, the North Carolina Tar Heels finished 20-17, and failed to receive a bid to the NCAA Tournament.
In 2010, the Tar Heels finished 29-8, and won the ACC regular season title.
Heading into this season, the Tar Heels will look to make even bigger strides back to the top as they return everyone from the 2010 Elite Eight squad.
The Tar Heels seem to have everything in their favor as they head into a possibly magical 2011 season. Now they just have to execute and deal with the pressure that comes with having talent and experience.
Here are eleven reasons the Tar Heels will be the best team in the nation in 2011:
Added Experience for Kendall Marshall
Point guard is the key to success on a basketball team.
It is a good thing the Tar Heels have one of the best distributors in the country in Kendall Marshall.
In 2010, the lefty provided a huge spark off the bench, and would eventually take over as the starter after Larry Drew's unexpected departure.
Marshall would average 6.2 points and 6.2 assists per game throughout the season. In 2011, he should be that much better.
With the year of added experience, coupled with the return of all his favorite weapons plus a few new toys, Marshall could break records dishing the ball.
If Marshall can become a more consistent shooter, he could make the Tar Heels' offense virtually unstoppable.
New Kids on the Block
As every great program does, the Tar Heels brought in a few fresh faces over the offseason.
A few of them such as Jackson Simmons, Desmond Hubert, and Stillman White, will most likely take redshirts or add depth to an already deep Tar Heels' bench.
However, two others will make an immediate impact on the hardwood.
James McAdoo is the prize of the class. A 6'8'' power forward, McAdoo is a superstar with a blue-collar attitude. He has a great face-up game and can knock down the open shot from the paint or the mid range. He is also a tireless worker on the glass and uses his length and athleticism to hinder opposing offenses. Look for McAdoo to have an impact similar to Marvin Williams in 2005.
P.J. Hairston should bring a much-needed perimeter presence to the Tar Heels. He is a sharpshooter, and he does not lack confidence. A potentially lethal combination. Hairston has been committed to the Tar Heels since his sophomore year in high school, so he is chomping at the bit to show Tar Heel faithful what he brings to the table.
Both of these players could potentially start for any other program in the country.
The fact they are on Roy Williams' bench is flat out scary.
Better Perimeter Shooting
If the Tar Heels had a glaring weakness in 2010, it was perimeter shooting.
Outside of Harrison Barnes, and a streaky Leslie McDonald off the bench, the Tar Heels had next to no outside threat.
Entering 2011, that situation should change.
Barnes should be even better from the outside, and McDonald should be better as well. A healthy Reggie Bullock could be a major addition, after his season was cut short by knee surgery. The addition of P.J. Hairston into the fold could give the Tar Heels their best perimeter shooter from day one.
As mentioned before, if Kendall Marshall can improve his outside shot, this team could become a viable threat from behind the arc.
John Henson's Development Offensively
John Henson is the reigning ACC Defensive Player of the Year, and potentially one of the most versatile players in the nation heading into 2011.
Henson has freakish length and the athletic ability to boot.
Offensively, Henson averaged 11.7 points per game in 2010. He will look to improve on that mark this coming season.
With his rebounding ability, Henson has the chances for easy layups throughout every game. He shows the willingness to play outside of the paint, but he lacks polish and the ballhandling necessary to do so.
Over the offseason, Henson more than likely spent many hours shooting jumpers, and especially knocking free throws down.
If Henson can hone his offensive skills even a little bit, he will be a scary player.
With an offensive repertoire, Henson has unlimited potential.
Loss of Key ACC Players
What do Nolan Smith, Kyle Singler, Malcolm Delaney, and Chris Singleton all have in common?
All were leaders for their respective ACC squads. None of these players will be playing college ball in 2011.
This factor may not impact the Tar Heels in the national ranks directly, but it will make a rigorous ACC slate that much easier.
These losses, among others, will allow the Tar Heels to be the most experienced and the most talented team in the ACC this season.
They will not go undefeated in conference play, but a successful season in-conference will catapult the Tar Heels to the heights they dream of this season.
Every Major Player Is Returning to Chapel Hill
Having talent is usually enough to make a run in the NCAA Tournament.
However, talent and experience is a deadly combination.
The Tar Heels will have just that in 2011.
With every major player returning the Tar Heels seem to control their own destiny. The level of talent, plus the chemistry gained from practicing and playing together in invaluable as this team looks to hang another banner from the Dean Smith Center.
The backcourt is defensive minded, and very capable of dishing the ball.
The frontcourt is the best in the nation, and has added blue-chip recruit James McAdoo to the fold.
Add player of the year candidate Harrison Barnes into the mix, and the Tar Heels have an almost unfair amount of talent returning in 2011.
A Healthy Reggie Bullock
Reggie Bullock arrived in Chapel Hill with high expectations.
Fans would be disappointed though, as Bullock averaged 6.1 points and missed the last ten games with a knee injury.
Heading into 2011, Bullock should be primed and ready to prove his worth on this deep Tar Heels' squad.
He has the reputation as a sharpshooter, and therefore could fill a needed role off the Tar Heels bench.
A team can never have to much scoring, and with the return of a healthy Bullock, the Tar Heels could have just that.
Bullock should come in with a chip on his shoulder as he looks for a fresh start and fights for minutes with Leslie McDonald and incoming freshman P.J. Hairston in the backcourt.
Harrison Barnes Is More Prepared
Entering 2010, Harrison Barnes had the weight of the world on his shoulders.
He was declared an AP first-team All American before his freshman season started, and labeled with lofty expectations.
Barnes would not respond well early in the season, but would use the second half of the season to prove how talented he really is.
He would finish the year averaging 15.7 points per game, and steadily progressed as the season wore on.
In 2011, Barnes will be prepared for the hype. He knows the expectations placed on him personally, and on the Tar Heels' team.
He will be a legitimate contender for many awards at the end of the season, and will prove why he is a lottery talent in the NBA.
Better Team Chemistry
Chemistry is as important a factor as any for a basketball team.
With every major player returning, the Tar Heels should know each other like the backs of their hands.
This will help this team on both ends of the floor, whether it be with help defense of backdoor cuts on offense.
Obviously the return of point guard Kendall Marshall helps this factor as much as any, but every veteran helps.
With veterans in place, and Roy Williams at the helm, the incoming freshman should have an easy transition into Tar Heel blue.
As the Tar Heels continue to grow and gel together, this team should get better as the season goes on.
Considering the talent showcased in the 2010 NCAA Tournament run, that is a scary thought.
The Tar Heels Have a Bad Taste in Their Mouths
The Tar Heels seemed to get better and better as the 2010 season moved forward, culminating in a heartbreaking Elite Eight loss to the Kentucky Wildcats.
No team likes to get knocked out in March, and the Tar Heels will use that to their advantage in 2011.
The Tar Heels will have one mission in 2011, and that is to hang a banner in the Dean Dome. Anything short of that will be deemed a failure overall.
The chip on their shoulder from last year's loss to Kentucky should translate into a focused and determined group in 2011.
Couple determination with talent and experience, and the Tar Heels will not come up short again in 2011.
NCAA Tournament Experience
A team could have a great regular season, and it will be valuable for that team heading into the next season.
But nothing is more valuable to a contender than NCAA Tournament experience.
With the tournament run last season, the Tar Heels gained just that.
The Tar Heels now know what it takes to go the extra mile for a tournament victory, and how to keep their heads in it when it counts.
In 2011, that should use that tournament experience to take the next step toward another title.