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Monday, April 4, 2011
Harrison Barnes returning to UNC

By Dick Vitale
ESPN.com

North Carolina fans got some great news this week, as Harrison Barnes announced that he will return for his sophomore season with the Tar Heels. Roy Williams must be jumping for joy! Wow, the Tar Heels will have the complete front line of Barnes, John Henson and Tyler Zeller together again. Santa Claus has come early down in Chapel Hill. There is no doubt this team will be the preseason No. 1 overall team.

Barnes said no to the NBA and that spells a lot of W's, baby! Kendall Marshall is back to run the point and this was a different team when he was inserted into the lineup. Then add a pair of dynamite diaper dandies in P.J. Hairston and James McAdoo, who was brilliant in the Jordan Classic, and you can see hysteria on the Carolina campus. They are going to be tough to beat.

North Carolina came on strong at the end of last season, winning the ACC regular-season title while making it to the finals of the ACC tournament in Greensboro. The Tar Heels then made it to the Elite Eight before losing to John Calipari's Kentucky Wildcats.

I saw Barnes score 40 points at the ACC tournament and he was so special -- a different player from the start of the season when he struggled a bit. Barnes averaged more than 17 points against 19 ACC opponents last season. He was the runaway winner of ACC Rookie of the Year and he should get even better.

Williams is a mastermind with great talent. Remember, he had Tyler Hansbrough and company as a preseason No. 1, and they won the national title. They also lived up to their billing when Sean May and his teammates cut down the nets in Saint Louis in 2005.

Williams has a way of living up to lofty expectations. He has proved that throughout his career. With the experience the Tar Heels gained last season, plus the newcomers coming in, there should be joy on Franklin Street.

And just think, if Brandon Knight and Terrence Jones join Barnes and return to college, North Carolina and Kentucky could be a lethal 1-2 punch to start next season. Wow, baby!


Editor's Note: Roy Williams and John Calipari will be honored at the Dickie V gala on May 20. The evening is slated to raise more than $1 million for pediatric cancer research. For more information, go here.