Discussion

As season looms, step into burning ring of questions

Updated: November 10, 2008, 3:49 PM ET
By Jay Bilas | ESPN.com
Every once in a while, we think we have all of the answers when a season tips off, as if we truly believe we can predict the unpredictable. This season starts off with a lot of question marks and unknowns, and the fun of the season is watching as all of our questions get answered by the play on the floor as the four best teams march toward the Final Four in Detroit. Here are 10 questions I have as the 2009 season gets underway:

1. What could stand in North Carolina's way?

For the first time since the poll's inception, North Carolina is a unanimous No. 1 after returning everyone from a 36-3 Final Four squad. While UConn in 2004 and Florida in 2007 should have been unanimous No. 1 teams, the consensus regarding the Tar Heels as the clear favorite has thrown the media into a tizzy. Of course, we will wear out the question of whether North Carolina can go undefeated (perhaps the stupidest question asked of any coach or player), but there is a more salient issue facing the Tar Heels: What can derail the mighty Heels from reaching Detroit and a chance to cut the nets down? It is not the pressure of being No. 1. North Carolina has dealt with that kind of pressure for decades, and Roy Williams won the 2005 national championship while being ranked No. 1 in almost every preseason poll. While it wasn't unanimous in 2005, no other team in the preseason was given the same chance of winning the title as North Carolina was. The scariest thing facing the Tar Heels is something they can do little about: injury. Already Tyler Hansbrough and Marcus Ginyard have suffered injuries that will cause them to miss games. How will they handle it? Will Hansbrough and Ginyard return to a better team, one that has grown as a result of the opportunities created by their absences? Remember, when Ty Lawson went down last season, Quentin Thomas went from little-used and under-confident reserve to important piece of a Final Four puzzle. If the Heels remain healthy, only a great performance by an opponent (see, Kansas) or a complete chemistry meltdown (an opponent's pipe dream with Williams at the helm) can stop the Heels from winning the ACC and marching to the Motor City.

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