Mark it down. North Carolina will be the preseason favorite to win the National Championship next season. Sorry Kentucky and Ohio State fans, but with Harrison Barnes decision to return to UNC for his sophomore season– the Tar Heels are going to be the number 1 in all the polls in November.
Barnes, a likely top-5 pick in this year’s NBA draft, will be joining fellow Carolina underclassmen John Henson and Tyler Zeller- both of whom decided to stay in school as well– forming what has to be the most dynamic front court in the nation next year. Throw in superb distributor Kendall Marshall at the point and incoming McDonald’s All-American freshmen James McAdoo and P.J. Hairston and you can see why they’ll be the favorites entering the fall. Barnes explained his decision (from UNC athletics):
“Opportunities, both beneficial and life changing, can seem to make the next phase of my journey an easy decision. But I am a student-athlete at the University of North Carolina. I’m here to experience college life, grow as a person, receive a quality education, and be part of the greatest basketball family in college sports.
“The experiences I’ve enjoyed on and off the court will be invaluable. These experiences will help fuel my journey in the NBA and beyond.
“I look forward to meeting the challenging journey in the NBA, but my decision on November 13, 2009, still holds true. I’m focused on being a student-athlete. And my decision is to continue this part of my journey at the University of North Carolina.
One has to think that the NBA lockout had an impact on Barnes decision. Nevertheless, Roy Williams has one of the most talented teams returning next season (and probably in the past 10 years). If he isn’t cutting down the nets in New Orleans during the first week of April next year, the Tar Heels faithful will inevitably be disappointed.