The North Carolina Tarheels disappointed a lot of fans last year when they bowed out to Kansas in the Elite 8 of the the Big Dance, despite being stocked with veterans primed to win the NCAA championship.

Bad signs

Less was expected of a team like North Carolina’s rival, the Duke Blue Devils. As the NCAA Basketball odds indicated, North Carolina had a major edge in experience and it was their time to win. When Duke rallied from a 10-point deficit in the final 2 1/2 minutes of the game to defeat the Tarheels, on an Austin Rivers 3 pointer making the final score 85-84, you just knew that this was not the Tarheels’ year.

A new beginning

Roy WilliamsThe Heels move on without Tyler Zeller as a spot awaits him in the NBA. Unfortunately, remaining underclassmen John Henson, Kendall Marshall, and Harrison Barnes, each one a star, have also decided to leave. 

If they couldn’t win this past season, it’s not likely to happen in the future, and the money is waiting. James Michael McAdoo is pondering his decision after just one year in college, but his father has hinted that he’ll stay with UNC, and they need him. McAdoo could use a little more seasoning before the little fish jumps into the big pond. 

Recruits 

North Carolina landed 4 of the top 100 recruits in the country, but I’m slightly surprised that they didn’t land anyone in the top 20. From a quick glance, UCLA made out like bandits while Duke managed to snag the number 12 player Rasheed Sulaimon.

Obviously, a university is concerned with its own recruiting situation but doesn’t want rival colleges to pick up big names. Overall, UNC did fairly well, picking up point guard Marcus Paige at 22, power forward Brice Johnson at 34, 6 foot 10, 260 pound center Joel James out of Fort Lauderdale at 60, and small forward J.P. Tokoto at 70.

The scout reports say that Paige is an excellent 3 point shooter who can create his own shot and get others involved. Brice Johnson, on the other hand, is a thin 6 foot 9 player with a long wingspan, a “Tayshaun Prince” if you will, with a lot of athleticism. Center Joel James’s ability to be physical with his bulk will be much welcomed at Chapel Hill. Lastly, Tokoto is a very cerebral player with the long arms and a developing body teams look for..

This looks like a promising group of players that are coming into a high pressure environment. North Carolina always does well recruiting-wise as they are contenders on a yearly basis 

Returning players

James Michael McAdooAs I mentioned before, James Michael McAdoo is most likely to return and expect major production from him as his 15.6 minutes per game will be dramatically increased. McAdoo averaged 6.1 points and 3.9 rebounds in his brief stints on the court.

 Junior forward Reggie Bullock also returns and will be looking to avenge a poor performance against Kansas, finishing with only 5 points and 7 rebounds in the biggest game of his life. You can expect him to be one of the team leaders along with senior guard Dexter Strickland and sophomore P.J. Hairston.

A major factor will be to see how Strickland plays after a January 19th injury in which he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. At 6 foot 3, Strickland is a very active player who can do many things on the floor. If the knee’s not bothering him, look for Dexter Strickland to make a statement in his senior season.

Bye Bye Rivers!

There’s always going to be Duke and North Carolina comparisons, but the Tarheels have got to be happy that Austin Rivers has elected to play just one year at Duke before entering the NBA Draft. This is a tough decision because players are loyal to the “Duke community,” and Boston coach Doc Rivers doesn’t seem like the type of father to let his kid skip college; but it was Austin’s decision, and Roy Williams must have a big grin on his face.

What to expect

NCAA basketball betting lines are still coming in for next year’s futures, but one can’t expect this team to be one of the favorites like last year’s team. Saying that, North Carolina will definitely be listed in the top 20 to win the 2013 NCAA Tournament - much of it off of reputation alone. Look for the level of competition to be high between UNC and Duke as both teams are equally talented. I won’t venture a guess on the record until college basketball lines come out but I expect this team to be less disappointing than last year’s team. 

Stay tuned for updates as the year progresses. ACC Basketball, which contains the biggest rivalries, is one of the hottest topics in college sports.