The University of North Carolina Men’s Basketball team is going to be heading into this season with a chip on their shoulder. Many college basketball experts had them pegged as the best team in the country last year. They almost proved that to be true, they won the ACC and made the championship game. Unfortunately, North Carolina lost in maybe the most exciting NCAA Final Four Championship game in history to Villanova. If you ask any North Carolina player, they will tell you that they were the better team last year. No one would question you if you think that they would have won that game nine times out of ten.
Naturally, the Heels feel they have something to prove this year. The question is can they win the championship that got away from them last season? The two stars during North Carolina’s Final Four run last year, Marcus Paige and Brice Johnson, both split for the NBA draft. They lost some leadership in senior Joel James too.
Thankfully, Roy Williams is a master recruiter. The Tar Heels combined their excellent recruiting class with a plethora of returning talent to receive a preseason ranking of sixth. Two upperclassmen will lead the team into battle this year, Joel Berry II and Justin Jackson. Berry came into his own as the Tar Heels point guard last year in the tournament. Many pundits think that he will be the best point guard in the NCAA this year.
The road to the ACC championship is going to be harder than it was last year. The degree of difficulty is higher not just because North Carolina lost some talent this year. Louisville, who took themselves out of postseason contention last year, are reentering the fray in the Atlantic Coast Conference. There are also the common conference foes to battle.
The preseason ACC favorites in most people’s minds this season is Duke. The Blue Devils being the favorites is something that North Carolina has experience dealing with before. The two schools have probably the most storied intra-conference rivalry in the history of college basketball. The rivalry will be just as heated this year for the two schools located just miles from each other.
The University of Virginia has seen a resurgence in the quality of its basketball program this year. Last year, the Cavaliers made it all the way to the Elite Eight. Virginia will prove to be a tough test for the Tar Heels this season thanks to their incredibly efficient offense. Virginia will be spreading teams out and hitting threes this season again.
The predictions for UNC this year are probably the most varied of any team in the NCAA. Some predict that they will contend for the title again. There are also some college basketball experts that predict that they will finish as low as 7th in the ACC.
The team’s success primarily revolves around their new upperclassmen’s leadership and the contribution of their incoming recruiting class. The coaching skills of Roy Williams and his ability to develop young talent should be a huge benefit to the team. If history is a good indicator, The University of North Carolina Tar Heels should be right at the top of the pack again in the 2016-2017 season.