#1 North Carolina Tar Heels: College Basketball 111 in 111

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Welcome to The Sports Bank’s second annual college basketball season preview series.  Last year we looked at 99 teams in 99 days.  This year, we are being slightly more aggressive and expanding to 111 teams in 111 days.  We will rank the 74 power conference teams and top 37 mid-majors in reverse power ranking order.  We’ll break down rosters, non-conference schedules, and pick a player to watch for each team.

With all five starters back including the best frontcourt in the country, it is easy to see why North Carolina opens the season at #1 in our college hoops rankings.  The Tar Heels tip-off their campaign to cut down the nets this evening when they take on Michigan State as part of the Carrier Classic.  (By the way… HURRAH to me for making it… 111 team preview in 111 days!)

Last Season: 14-2 in ACC, 29-8 overall
Predicted ACC Finish: 1st

Projected Depth Chart
C: Tyler Zeller (Sr)/Desmond Hubert (Fr)
PF: John Henson (Jr)/James McAdoo (Fr)/Jackson Simmons (Fr)
SF: Harrison Barnes (So)/Justin Watts (Sr)
SG: Dexter Strickland (Jr)/P.J. Hairston (Fr)/Leslie McDonald (Jr-out for season)
PG: Kendall Marshall (So)/Reggie Bullock (So)/Stillman White (Fr)

Gone: F/C-Justin Knox, PG-Larry Drew II (transfer-UCLA), F-Will Graves

harrison barnes nba draft

2011-2012 Outlook:
All three members of UNC’s frontcourt could have easily bolted for the NBA Draft and been first round picks.  Harrison Barnes even had a good chance of been the top overall selection.  After getting off to a slow start during his freshman season that caused head coach Roy Williams to openly defend his ability, Barnes played extremely well down the stretch, becoming the scoring threat that many expected him to be.  Assuming he can pick up where he left off and sustain the level of play for an entire season, he is the favorite to be college basketball’s top player.

The duo of Tyler Zeller and John Henson gives Carolina a ton of size and skill inside.  Zeller is a talented back-to-the-basket player but has also developed a nice mid-range game over time.  He is also the perfect big man for the Heels’ up-tempo offense as he runs the floor as well as any center in the country.

Henson makes his biggest impact as a rebounder and shot blocker due to his ridiculous length.  Gaining weight and strength remains an obstacle that Henson has yet to overcome, but he is still such a unique talent who continues to get better and better.  He has made strides in his post game but still needs to work on his outside shoot.

UNC’s starting frontcourt is so talented that McDonald’s All-American James McAdoo, who has the talent to be a top five pick in next summer’s NBA Draft, will be the sixth man; similar to what Marvin Williams was for the Heels during the 2004-2005 season.  McAdoo can play any position in the frontcourt as he is physical enough to battle down low, but also has the athleticism and shooting ability to be effective on the perimeter.  Freshmen Desmond Hubert and Jackson Simmons will try to provide even more depth inside.

In the backcourt, UNC really took off last season when Kendall Marshall was moved into the starting line-up.  He is a throwback point guard with terrific court vision and excels in leading the break for Williams’ run and gun offense.  Marshall is not a true scoring threat but doesn’t really have to be on this team.  His size and strength do allow him to back down smaller point guards and get after it on the defensive end.

The team’s top perimeter defender though is Dexter Strickland.  He can lockdown opponents on the wing and understands his role.  With no true back-up for Marshall, Strickland will also play some point when needed.  He is at his best offensively when in attack mode but has been an inconsistent outside shooter during his two seasons on Tobacco Road.

The season-ending ACL injury to combo guard Leslie McDonald actually isn’t that big of a deal for Carolina’s depth at guard.  Reggie Bullock returns after suffering a torn meniscus late last season.  He offers a lot of versatility for a 6-7 guard and could even see some time at the point.  Justin Watts brings experience off the bench and can play bigger if needed.

The biggest area of weakness for the Heels last season was their three-point shooting.  That is where freshman P.J. Hairston will really provide a spark off the bench as he has NBA range and is a lights out shooter.  He is also brings physicality to the floor that allows him to play bigger than he is listed.  Fellow freshman Stillman White should only see action in mop up duty.

With a roster consisting of five likely lottery pick, North Carolina will be the team to beat this season.  They will be a difficult team to match up with and like any Roy Williams’ coached team, will flourish in the open floor.

Player to Watch: Kendall Marshall
I am a sucker for a pure, old school point guard just like Marshall.  At times, his decision-making was a bit erratic but he understands when to push tempo and slow things down without needing to be a scorer.  To be honest, he has a lot of Jason Kidd to his game.

Key Non-Conference Games:
11/11 vs. Michigan State (Carrier Classic)
11/25 vs. South Carolina (Las Vegas Invitational)
11/26 vs. USC/UNLV (Las Vegas Invitational)
11/30 vs. Wisconsin (Big Ten/ACC Challenge)
12/3 at Kentucky
12/10 vs. Long Beach State
12/21 vs. Texas

OTHER 111 IN 111’S:
#2 Kentucky Wildcats
#3 Ohio State Buckeyes
#4 UConn Huskies
#5 Duke Blue Devils
#6 Syracuse Orange
#7 Baylor Bears
#8 Pitt Panthers
#9 Vanderbilt Commodores
#10 Memphis Tigers
#11 Florida Gators
#12 Xavier Musketeers
#13 Louisville Cardinals
#14 Arizona Wildcats
#15 Wisconsin Badgers
#16 Alabama Crimson Tide
#17 Gonzaga Bulldogs
#18 Marquette Golden Eagles
#19 Texas A&M Aggies
#20 Michigan Wolverines
#21 New Mexico Lobos
#22 Temple Owls
#23 Cincinnati Bearcats
#24 Kansas Jayhawks
#25 UNLV Rebels
#26 Washington Huskies
#27 UCLA Bruins
#28 Butler Bulldogs
#29 Missouri Tigers
#30 Texas Longhorns
#31 Villanova Wildcats
#32 Michigan State Spartans
#33 Florida State Seminoles
#34 Notre Dame Fighting Irish
#35 Harvard Crimson
#36 Illinois Fighting Illini
#37 Oregon Ducks
#38 Wichita State Shockers
#39 Cal Golden Bears
#40 Belmont Bruins
#41 Mississippi State Bulldogs
#42 Saint Mary’s Gaels
#43 Purdue Boilermakers
#44 BYU Cougars
#45 Kansas State Wildcats
#46 West Virginia Mountaineers
#47 Virginia Cavaliers
#48 George Mason Patriots
#49 Old Dominion Monarchs

#50 VCU Rams
#51 Kent State Golden Flashes
#52 Arkansas Razorbacks
#53 St. John’s Red Storm
#54 Northwestern Wildcats
#55 Georgetown Hoyas
#56 Miami Hurricanes
#57 Nevada Wolfpack
#58 Detroit Titans
#59 UCF Knights
#60 Long Beach State 49ers
#61 Virginia Tech Hokies
#62 Clemson Tigers
#63 New Mexico State Aggies
#64 Tennessee Volunteers
#65 Iona Gaels
#66 Murray State Racers
#67 N.C. State Wolfpack
#68 Fairfield Stags
#69 George Washingon Colonials
#70 Indiana State Sycamores
#71 Oklahoma State Cowboys
#72 Indiana Hoosiers
#73 UAB Blazers
#74 Iowa State Cyclones
#75 Creighton Bluejays
#76 USC Trojans
#77 Weber State Wildcats
#78 Maryland Terrapins
#79 Tulsa Golden Hurricane
#80 Minnesota Golden Gophers
#81 Western Michigan Broncos
#82 Dayton Flyers
#83 Stanford Cardinal
#84 Yale Bulldogs

#85 Georgia Bulldogs
#86 Rutgers Scarlet Knights
#87 Richmond Spiders
#88 Ball State Cardinals
#89 Utah State Aggies
#90 Arizona State Sun Devils
#91 Marshall Thundering Herd
#92 Oregon State Beavers
#93 Washington State Cougars
#94 Iowa Hawkeyes
#95 Ole Miss Rebels
#96 Nebraska Cornhuskers
#97 Oklahoma Sooners
#98 South Florida Bulls
#99 LSU Tigers
#100 Colorado Buffaloes
#101 DePaul Blue Demons
#102 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
#103 Wake Forest Demon Deacons
#104 Seton Hall Pirates
#105 Providence Friars
#106 Auburn Tigers
#107 South Carolina Gamecocks
#108 Texas Tech Red Raiders
#109 Penn State Nittany Lions
#110 Boston College Eagles
#111 Utah Utes

David Kay is a senior feature NBA Draft, NBA, and college basketball writer for the Sports Bank.  He also heads up the NBA and college basketball material at Walter Football.com and is a former contributor at The Washington Times Communities.  David has appeared on numerous national radio programs spanning from Cleveland to New Orleans to Honolulu.  He also had the most accurate 2011 NBA Mock Draft on the web.

You can follow him on Twitter at DavidKay_TSB.

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