North Carolina Basketball: Harrison Barnes and Teammates on Wooden Watch List

Ethan BackCorrespondent IOctober 3, 2011

NEWARK, NJ - MARCH 27:  Harrison Barnes #40 of the North Carolina Tar Heels reacts after a play during the second half of the game against the Kentucky Wildcats in the east regional final of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at Prudential Center on March 27, 2011 in Newark, New Jersey.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Nick Laham/Getty Images

The simple truth is that the North Carolina Tar Heels have one of the most—if not the most—talented rosters in all of college basketball.

UNC's status as a preeminent national title contender was solidified today, as four players, including Harrison Barnes, were named to the Wooden Award Preseason Top 50. This marks the first time in history that a team has had four players on the list for the prestigious award.

Harrison Barnes, point guard Kendall Marshall and bigs John Henson and Tyler Zeller will look to have a great seasons to justify their appearances on this list and possibly even win the award.

Barnes has to be considered a frontrunner, and while the other three Tar Heels most likely won't be in consideration for the award come the end of 2011-12, the preseason list gives us a good opportunity to examine each player's strengths.

The former No. 1 high school recruit in the nation from Ames, Iowa, Barnes will be expected to assume the mantle of North Carolina's undisputed leader throughout the 2011-12 season.

As a small forward, he will be expected to put up great numbers in many statistical categories. Beyond the stats, however, he will be called on to close out games for the Tar Heels and lead them to victories against topflight competition in the ACC and the NCAA tournament.

Manning the point guard position, Marshall has the ability to lead the nation in assists.

He averaged 6.2 assists per game last season as a freshman, and that number could rise up to above eight given UNC's uptempo system and vaunted secondary fast-break. With so much talent around him, he might never even have to shoot.

While Barnes is regarded as North Carolina's best player, Marshall is essential to the Tar Heels' success. Look for him to have an excellent sophomore campaign.

Henson is the ACC's closest thing to a guaranteed double-double. The 6'10" big averaged 11.7 PPG and 10.1 RPG last season, and he can easily increase his scoring average if he can increase his free throw percentage, which was an incredibly disappointing 47.9 percent last season.

Regardless of this, he is a key component to North Carolina with his prowess on the glass and on the defense end. It will be interesting to see if he has added the necessary bulk to become a truly dominant force.

Zeller, a true seven-footer, is possibly the best post-player in the nation. His field goal and free throw percentages have been stellar throughout his career, and he can be a force on the boards. UNC maintains a great balance by feeding him the rock down-low, which keeps opposing defenses honest. Zeller will look to close out his career at Chapel Hill as a winner.

It is clear that the Tar Heels of North Carolina have extremely talented players. Hopefully, these great individuals will be able to mold together to form one cohesive unit during the 2011-12 college basketball season; anything short of an NCAA title will be considered a failure.