But life moves on and so did a lot of UNC's scoring from last year. So what do I expect, hope and wish happens this upcoming season?
Well, unlike 2005-2006, this defending champ is stocked. After the 2005 title, the top seven scorers either graduated or left early for the NBA leaving the Heels with role players like Reyshawn Terry and David Noel and a great crop of freshmen (Tyler Hansbrough, Danny Green, Bobby Frasor, Marcus Ginyard). This year, Carolina lost a lot (Hansbrough, Green, Frasor, Ty Lawson and Wayne Ellington) but they kept a little bit more than before. Deon Thompson is the lone starter remaining, but the team still has Ed Davis (who would've been a lottery pick in the last draft), Tyler Zeller, Ginyard (who had a medical redshirt last year), Larry Drew and Will Graves.
Adding to that is, again, another great recruiting class. John Henson should be the starting small forward (more on that later); Dexter Strickland could get a ton of time as a combo guard; Leslie McDonald should get his chances backing up Drew; and the Wear twins add even more depth to the front court. With both Wear twins, Henson, Thompson, Davis and Zeller, we have six guys who are 6'9 or taller. A probable frontcourt of Thompson-Davis-Henson would be a matchup nightmare for opponents.
I'm not expecting a championship or even a Final Four berth -- but unlike '05, I have hopes that both those things could happen. If we could pull that off, that would be totally amazing! To lose a former National Player of the Year and the past two ACC Players of the Year, three first round draft picks and most of the perimeter scoring and then go back to the Final Four? Wow!
LARRY DREW II: He is the key to what kind of season the Heels will have. Drew didn't wow anyone last year in the minutes he had backing up Ty Lawson. Still, players and coaches keep saying that Drew really can run this team. I hope so. He's not a great shooter and hasn't shown the best decision making at times but that's to be expected from a freshman point guard. At UNC, you really see PGs step up in development in their second year.
MARCUS GINYARD: I think Ginyard will get the starting shooting guard gig off the bat. He is the Heels best defender and he will be needed for that. He also is a do-everything kind of guy who is athletic, can shoot and is smart. Expect him to become the leader of this team.
JOHN HENSON: We've been waiting for this kid for about four years now. He's 6'10 with looooong arms, quick legs and an outside game. He needs to bulk up a bit but the fact that he could come in at starting small forward makes Roy Williams drool. That would allow the Heels to put three trees on the court at the same time and hardly lose a thing. Henson has the ability to become one of the team's top scorers this season.
DEON THOMPSON: Thompson played really well last year. He showed a lot more confidence in his offensive game, played much better defensively and hopes to take on a leadership role on this team. The fact that he is comfortable with his turn-around shots keeps the lane from getting clogged up. I think Thompson could be the next Scott Williams -- a guy who was just a helper until his senior year when he became the man.
ED DAVIS: Davis is the guy that NBA scouts are drooling over. The lefty big man showed a nose for the ball with his rebounding and shot blocking. During the Final Four, he showed us that he could score as well. Davis will most likely be the focal point of the offense this year and should lead the league in rebounding and blocks.
TYLER ZELLER: People forget that Zeller came out of the gates with a bang last year. He broke his wrist near the end of his second game of the season and missed the next 10 weeks. When he came back, he was out of sync and out of shape. However, he really could become a star this year with his 7-foot frame and his ability to run the court. This kid is good.
WILL GRAVES: Another guy that will be counted on. Graves was suspended from the team last year due to undisclosed issues, but he's back with an edge. With Ellington, Green and Lawson gone, so went the Heels lone three point shooters. Graves, though, is one of the best gunners on the team and could see a strong bump in time if he shows he can nail those shots.
DEXTER STRICKLAND: This is a guy who could become the next Carolina star. He's a combo guard (more of a point) who is a beast in the transition game. That's always a good thing in Chapel Hill. He's a very good ballhandler who can get to the basket and finish (think Lawson). Strickland could get a lot of time backing up both guard spots ... or even taking either of the starting guard spots. The kid is that good. If he continues to develop his three-point shot, he'll be unguardable.
LESLIE MCDONALD: Think a freshman version of Wayne Ellington. He's a great catch-and-shoot player who does need to develop some slashing skills. Still, he's a smart player who is also a good rebounder for his position. He, like Strickland, could be a combo guard.
DAVID and TRAVIS WEAR: I hate lumping these two together, but the are so similar in their games. They are the same size, play the same position and have mainly the exact same skill set. They are very good mid-range shooters which will make them great at the high post. Because of that and their passing abilities, they could see some time at any of the forward spots to keep that size advantage at all times. They are neither very athletic, but both are extremely smart and understand the game better than most freshmen. There is some belief that one or both of these guys could redshirt this year.
JUSTIN WATTS: Here is a forgotten man. Remember that Watts saw some action during the late rounds of the NCAA Tournament, including the title game. He works very hard and is an unbelievable athlete. That could be key for a team that really doesn't have a ton of that in the backcourt. Sure, the numbers probably knock him out of a steady rotation, but he could have his moments.
This is a nice team. Again, I expect them to fight off Duke for the ACC title. I expect a Sweet 16 run ... pretty sure of an Elite Eight appearance ... hopeful for a Final Four berth ... and praying for another championship. This is a top 10 team all season long that will have its highs and lows because they are so young. But think about this: they will play AT Kentucky, AT Texas in Cowboys Stadium and AT Duke. They'll also face Ohio State, Michigan State and either California or Syracuse. They'll be tested.