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Several major losses have been mitigated by one big freshman gain

ASK MOST coaches to tell a story about recruiting a star player, and they'll regale you with tales of high school state-championship heroics and 50-point performances in AAU tournaments. Ask North Carolina coach Roy Williams to recall his recruitment of Harrison Barnes, and he proffers a tale of a sunrise trip to the track at Ames (Iowa) High. "It was six in the morning, totally dark, and nobody else was there, but Harrison was working out," Williams says. "He's a gifted athlete, but his mind is probably the strongest part of his game."

When Barnes committed to North Carolina, it was a rare moment of good news for a program that has been reeling. The Tar Heels went 20--17 last season (5--11 in the ACC) to miss out on the NCAA tournament for just the third time in 36 years. The turmoil continued through the off-season. In addition to losing two starters to graduation, the team also lost sophomore Ed Davis (NBA draft), sophomore twins David and Travis Wear (transferred to UCLA), and senior Will Graves (dismissed on Oct. 7 for failing to follow team rules).

Yet Williams's ability to land the consensus best high school player in the country has brought hope back to Chapel Hill. During the Tar Heels' two-game exhibition tour to the Bahamas in August, Barnes had 44 points and 13 rebounds, and he hit 7 of 10 from three-point range. He is the first freshman to be voted to the preseason All-America team since voting began in 1986.

To shore up the lack of frontcourt depth, Williams brought in Justin Knox, a 6'9" transfer from Alabama who will be eligible to play right away because he has already earned his degree.

UNC has a glut of perimeter talent (notably its prized freshman recruits, 6'3" point guard Kendall Marshall and 6'7" shooting guard Reggie Bullock), but in the end its best chance to make the Final Four will be for Barnes to deliver on his sky (blue) high expectations.


Coach Roy Williams (8th season)

2009--10 record 20--17

ACC 5--11 (T-9th)

NCAA tournament Not selected


Returning starter

*High school stats


Nov. 12 Lipscomb

Nov. 18 Hofstra*

Nov. 19 W. Kentucky or Minn.*

Nov. 23 UNC Asheville

Nov. 28 College of Charleston

Nov. 30 at Illinois

Dec. 4 Kentucky

Dec. 8 at Evansville

Dec. 11 Long Beach State

Dec. 18 Texas

Dec. 21 William & Mary

Dec. 28 Rutgers†

Jan. 2 Saint Francis (PA)

Jan. 8 at Virginia

Jan. 13 Virginia Tech

Jan. 16 at Georgia Tech

Jan. 18 Clemson

Jan. 26 at Miami

Jan. 29 NC State

Feb. 1 at Boston College

Feb. 6 Florida State

Feb. 9 at Duke

Feb. 12 at Clemson

Feb. 15 Wake Forest

Feb. 19 Boston College

Feb. 23 at NC State

Feb. 27 Maryland

March 2 at Florida State

March 5 Duke

*Puerto Rico Tip-Off in San Juan (championship game is Nov. 21)

†Game played in New York City


This is a rematch of the 2005 national championship game, but winning in Champaign won't be easy. The Illini are an on-the-rise team that is anchored by three seniors, so North Carolina's young guns will have to grow up quick. A win here would be a huge confidence booster for the rebuilding Tar Heels.

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HARRISON BARNES Mentally tough and prodigiously skilled, Barnes is the first freshman preseason All-America in 24 years.