The last time the North Carolina Tar Heels entered a season with as much hype as they are in 2011-12, they beat Michigan State for the national title by 17 points.
While there are plenty of differences between that team and this year’s team, it’s not crazy to believe the 2011-12 team could be just as successful as the 2008-09 team.
In honor of the team’s pursuit of its 6th national title, here are six reasons you should be completely fired up for this season.
Last season, Marshall was a freshman who was forced into action due to Larry Drew III leaving the program.
While most freshmen would have played poorly or crumbled under the pressure, Marshall was brilliant.
After becoming the starting point guard against Clemson, Marshall averaged 8.33 points, 7.73 assists and 3.2 turnovers a game.
With a full offseason to work as the starter, Marshall can easily improve on those numbers.
Eight of UNC’s top 10 scorers return from last year.
Even though the Tar Heels were 102nd in the NCAA last year in field goal percentage, at .449 percent, they still scored 76.7 points per game, good for 24th in college hoops.
With all the firepower returning, mixed with the incoming freshman class, it’s easy to imagine this team scoring at least 80 points a game.
While UNC may not have the best recruiting class in the country, it is a top 10 class of players who compliment exactly what the Heels need.
P.J. Hairston is a deadly long range shooter who can give Dexter Strickland and Reggie Bullock breaks, and James McAdoo is another potential stud down low to bolster the Heels' already loaded frontcourt.
Tyler Zeller, John Henson and Harrison Barnes were, in some order, the Tar Heels’ top three scoring rebounders and shot blockers last season. All three will be returning this season.
When Henson stays out of foul trouble and doesn’t force shots, his length and athletic ability makes him a rebounding/shot blocking machine. He also showed glimpses last season of a developing jumper.
Zeller may be the craftiest big man in college, although he isn’t too athletic or strong, he’s deceivingly quick and finds ways to score and get rebounds.
Barnes came in last season under some of the least fair expectations a college athlete has ever faced, and predictably struggled. However, in ACC play, he came into his own and averaged 17.3 points per game.
Those three, plus McAdoo, give Carolina arguably the best frontcourt in the country.
One of the Heels’ biggest problems last year was their inconsistency from deep. Part of that was because of Reggie Bullock’s bad knee, and the other part was Barnes’ slow start.
The loss of Leslie McDonald really hurts, but a healthy Bullock, along with consistent production from Barnes, Marshall and Hairston, could make three point shooting a strength for the Tar Heels.
Looking at North Carolina’s schedule this year, there is a chance they go undefeated—if, of course, they don’t do what they do every year and lose one game they should win by 35.
The biggest potential threat to an undefeated season comes Dec. 3 at Kentucky. If Kentucky can mature enough by that point, they will probably beat the Tar Heels. However, if Kentucky is still developing their freshmen, Carolina should be able to handle them.
Other than that, potential games against Michigan State, Wisconsin, Texas and of course, Duke provide challenged. However, if UNC manages to play to their potential, it’s possible that they can go 30-0 during the regular season.