Harrison Barnes' decision to return to UNC today certainly makes the Tar Heels the consensus No.1 choice in the early polls for the 2011-12 season. Barnes joined Tyler Zeller and John Henson in skipping out on the NBA for at least one more year, meaning the Tar Heels' entire starting 5 will return from a Final Eight team. And UNC will add James McAdoo, who had 26 points in the Jordan Brand Classic all-star game in Charlotte Saturday night and would start for 95 percent of all college teams right now.
Does all that assure a national title? Of course not. But it certainly makes it more likely -- this does feel a lot like early 2008, when Tyler Hansbrough, Wayne Ellington, Ty Lawson and Danny Green all came back for another run at a title and got one a year later.
But remember, UNC also had a team in 1984 that included Michael Jordan (in his final year), as well as Sam Perkins, Brad Daugherty and Kenny Smith, and that team didn't win it all. In the NCAA's one-and-done postseason format, anything can happen. And other teams aren't standing still, either -- Kentucky had four players in that all-star game in Charlotte Saturday night, and several will contribute immediately.
Still, this was great news for all Tar Heel fans. The UNC second string for 2011-12 would be quite a team in itself, and Roy Williams is going to have a nice problem trying to distribute minutes fairly for this bunch. A friend of mine suggests that the next Tar Heel team may have as much talent as any team in the state since the 1992 Duke Blue Devils -- and he might be right.