Harrison Barnes' decision to turn down a likely top-five pick and return to North Carolina for his sophomore season immediately propelled North Carolina to the top of most college hoops prospective preseason polls. At this point, the only thing that might keep UNC out of the top spot in October is if Kentucky stars Brandon Knight and Terrence Jones decide to stick around and jockey for time with John Calipari's loaded 2011 recruiting class. (Which seems unlikely, but hey, lockouts are scary. You never know.)
Naturally, Barnes' return got most of us thinking about the players UNC is bringing back: Barnes, forwards John Henson and Tyler Zeller, point guard Kendall Marshall, and so on. It was easy to forget, then, that Roy Williams is adding a rather loaded recruiting class of his own this fall, too.
That class starts with forward James McAdoo, the No. 5 overall player in the class of 2011, according to ESPNU. McAdoo isn't the ultra-talented but raw athletic project type (see: Derrick Favors) we sometimes associate with elite power forward prospects. In fact, ESPNU's recruiting experts see McAdoo as the most polished and fundamentally sound player in the 2011 class. In a normal year, or for almost any other team in the nation, McAdoo would be an immediate starter and likely star. For the 2011-12 Tar Heels, which have three potential lottery picks in the frontcourt in Barnes, Henson, and Zeller, he'll be fighting for time.
Unless, that is, Williams says "screw it" and goes for a video game lineup -- moving Barnes to the two, and wedging McAdoo in on the block with Henson and Zeller. I have no idea if this would work, but it sure sounds enticing. Moral of the story: Carolina will have a stacked frontcourt even when a starter or two is on the bench.
Of course, that doesn't fix UNC's shooting woes -- its biggest Achilles Heel in the past two seasons -- and tending to that problem should be among Williams' top priorities this offseason. Fortunately for him, Williams also has recruit P.J. Hairston, the No. 12 overall player in the incoming class, arriving in Chapel Hill this summer, too. Hairston is touted as an elite shooter, the kind of player who, according to ESPNU's scouts, is made special thanks to his "deep shooting range off the catch or dribble and his ability to get on a roll and knock down two or three in a row before the defense knows what hit it." Despite UNC's offensive excellence last season, no one shot the ball better than 38 percent from 3. Hairston, a Carolina native, could be good enough to do that right away.
Whether Hairston can beat out junior Leslie McDonald (owner of that 38 percent clip last season) or sophomore Reggie Bullock (who arrived in Chapel Hill last season as an elite shooter and impact recruit in his own right) remains to be seen.
But that's kind of the point: The Tar Heels don't just have the best four players from an Elite Eight team coming back. They'll also return a glut of young guards eager to make their mark. And they'll toss two of the best 15 recruits in the country in the mix, too.
In other words, UNC should be more talented, more experienced, deeper, and more skilled in all the right places.
I mean, come on, right? As if this team wasn't scary enough already.