The University of North Carolina men's basketball team has built a prestige and tradition which will stand for many years to come.
The 2011-12 team is no exception to the rule. The preseason No. 1 ranking is just a number, but the talent and experience the Tar Heels have on the current roster gives this team the ability to be very special.
With that, here are 20 bold predictions for the Heels.
Through the first six games of the 2011-12 season, sophomore guard Kendall Marshall has been stellar delivering the basketball to his teammates. Marshall is averaging 10.8 assists per game and eyeballing a record.
In 1999-2000, Tar Heel guard Ed Cota smashed the single-season assists record by dishing out an astounding 284 assists for the year. That is an average of 8.1 assists per game.
It is my opinion that Marshall takes this record down and averages around 8.5 assists per game to become the single-season assists record holder for the University of North Carolina.
Also, watch to see if Marshall can break the game assists record held by Raymond Felton—he dished out 18 assists against George Mason on Dec. 7th, 2003.
Junior forward John Henson has been nothing short of a beast during his career on the defensive blocks, and I believe his efforts will pay off as another Carolina record will crumble.
In 2000-01, Brendan Haywood recorded 120 blocks for the season. That is a record that will tumble in 2011-12 to Henson. To achieve this feat requires Henson to average approximately 3.1 blocks per game.
Through the first six games of the 2010-11 season, Henson is averaging 3.4 blocks per game.
As the 2010-11 season unfolded, Harrison Barnes developed a reputation and earned the nickname Mr. Clutch with his ability to hit one big shot after another late in games. Now a sophomore, Barnes should be called upon to repeat his heroics as the Heels play in close games.
I predict Barnes to rise up and hit at least three game-winners in the 2011-12 season.
The 2011-12 UNC Tar Heels will dominate home games and post an undefeated 16-0 home record.
The Dean Smith Center in Chapel Hill will be rocking for the home team in 2011-12 as Carolina rolls over the competition.
Junior forward John Henson has been brilliant with the basketball in the first six games of the 2011-12 season, averaging 16.8 points and 10.2 rebounds per game.
I believe as the ACC season gets closer, Henson will take it to another level and record at least 20 double-doubles in 2011-12.
Harrison Barnes has a knack of getting it done when he needs to step up. Typically a slow starter, I expect Barnes to get better as the season goes on.
In my opinion, Barnes will nip Zeller in scoring average by averaging 18.5 PPG. It is my opinion that we will see four 30-point games by Barnes.
Over the past few years, Coach Williams has taken a lot of heat for carrying timeouts home with him after losses. As teams made runs on the Heels, Williams has developed a reputation for allowing his team to stay on the floor and play through the run.
Coach Williams believes that by doing that, the Heels get better at stopping runs on their own. And for the most part, it works.
However, in Cameron Indoor Stadium in 2011, the Heels allowed two major runs by the Blue Devils, and even though Carolina made a big rally at the end of the game, Duke put the Heels away and Coach Williams pocketed timeouts that were valuable in a very emotional game.
Junior guard Dexter Strickland was under fire for most of 2010-11 for his inability to hit big shots from the perimeter, even when left wide open as his defender left him alone to double-up in the lane.
Strickland connects on about 25 percent of his three point attempts. It is rumored that he worked entirely on his perimeter shooting game during the offseason.
Strickland will drive to the lane more as his defender leaves him. The jury is still out on how well he will hit his outside jumpers, but I believe as he takes his game to the basket, Strickland will have a big season as the team's starting shooting guard.
Carolina plays 15 non-conference games in 2011-12. UNC has already absorbed their first non-conference loss of the season, getting drubbed by an undefeated UNLV squad in Las Vegas on Nov. 26th.
This will only help the Heels; they will lose no more than one more non-conference game as the ACC regular season approaches.
Dangerous Non-Conference Games Left:
11/30; in Chapel Hill vs. Wisconsin.
12/03; in Lexington vs. Kentucky
12/21; in Chapel Hill vs. Texas
In 2011, senior forward Tyler Zeller became the eighth player ever from the University of North Carolina to be named to the Academic All-American First Team, and the first since Eric Montross to do so.
Repeating this task is incredibly hard, but I expect to see Zeller on this list again in 2012.
Freshman guard P.J. Hairston has already made an impact in the first six games of the young season. I expect he will get much better moving forward and possibly stake his claim as the sixth man on this team.
Hairston will make a big difference as the ACC season approaches, and he will average at least 11 points per game coming off the bench. Hairston will also score 20 plus points in at least four games.
The University of North Carolina men's basketball program has endured four major transfers the last four years.
Alex Stepheson left the University in 2008 and returned close to home at USC. In 2010 after playing one season, forwards Travis and David Wear left UNC for UCLA, citing homesickness. On Feb. 3rd, 2011 Larry Drew II abruptly left Chapel Hill after losing his starting point guard job to Kendall Marshall.
If anything, Coach Williams was more loyal to Drew than Drew deserved, yet he took his silly antics to UCLA, where he has only one year of ineligibility left.
Through the first six games in 2011-12, Reggie Bullock has provided a spark off the bench from the perimeter. Bullock is currently hitting just under 46 percent of his three point attempts.
Bullock will improve this percentage and shoot around 48 percent from the three-point line as his knee continues to heal.
I believe the North Carolina Tar Heels will finish the ACC with a 14-2 conference record and win the ACC Regular Season Championship for the second consecutive year and 36th time in team history.
This will be a stepping stone to other accomplishments and accolades the team considers goals.
I believe that sophomore guard Kendall Marshall, sophomore forward Harrison Barnes and senior forward Tyler Zeller will receive All-ACC honors at the conclusion of the season.
I also believe that junior forward John Henson will receive All-ACC Second Team honors.
UNC will put much emphasis on the ACC Tournament, and take it truly seriously in 2012.
The Heels will go into Atlanta, Ga. in March and come out 2012 ACC Champions.
The previous slides has carried us to this point. I believe the body of work the Tar Heels will lay down will carry them to the overall No. 1 seed in the 2012 NCAA Tournament.
New Orleans is calling, and the Tar Heels will answer.
UNC will advance to the 2012 Final Four and break the tie with the UCLA Bruins for the most Final Four visits. Anything less than a Final Four will be a failure for the current University of North Carolina men's basketball team.
North Carolina will win their sixth NCAA Tournament in 2012. The legacy will continue and the Tar Heels will bring Coach Roy Williams his third NCAA title.
Sophomore forward Harrison Barnes has developed a reputation as Mr. Clutch in his short time in Chapel Hill. Big shots in crucial situations in big games.
As the 2012 Final Four approaches, Barnes will begin to distance himself from the pack and continue to prove that he is the best college basketball player in the nation.
Look for No. 40 to be the guy in New Orleans whenever Carolina needs a shot.