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October 28, 2011
League preview: ACC
We continue with our league breakdowns for the upcoming season; we'll work backward from league No. 32 to our top-ranked league.
The breakdowns will become more in-depth as the leagues get bigger.
One look at our preseason All-ACC team gives you an idea of the expectations that await North Carolina this season.
Four of our five first-team selections are Tar Heels: Harrison Barnes (our preseason player of the year pick), John Henson, Kendall Marshall and Tyler Zeller. UNC became the preseason pick to win the national title as soon as Barnes, Henson and Zeller decided to return to school instead of turning pro.
Their choices brought immediate references to the 2009 North Carolina squad that got much stronger when Tyler Hansbrough, Ty Lawson and Wayne Ellington chose to delay the start of their NBA careers by a season.
Of course, that 2009 team went on to win the national championship. No wonder so many people expect this season's North Carolina squad to follow suit, even as coach Roy Williams tries to point out that a talent-laden roster doesn't necessarily guarantee postseason success.
"We have the chance to be a very good team," Williams said. "We have the best mix because we have experienced talent. Most of the time, you have one or the other. You should always choose talent, but if you have experienced talent, it's even better."
Having the best team on paper also doesn't guarantee a conference championship.
As good as the Tar Heels are, they should face a formidable challenge from archrival Duke in a likely two-team race for the ACC title. The addition of guard Austin Rivers - the top overall recruit in the 2011 recruiting class - gives Duke one of the nation's top backcourts.
While this league features two legitimate Final Four contenders, it also has much less depth than usual. Florida State's size should help the Seminoles return to the NCAA tournament, and Miami's backcourt combination of Malcolm Grant and Durand Scott could give Jim Larranaga a successful first season on the job. But it's hard to imagine either team seriously challenging UNC or Duke.
ALL-ACC FIRST TEAM
ORDER OF FINISH
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