- Elena Bergeron
Insider knows you're hot for hoops during the summer, so we bring you a closer look at five programs on the rise, five on the way down and five at a crossroads. On Monday, we dive into teams facing a turning point, starting with reigning national champion North Carolina. Next up on Tuesday, rival Duke.
34-4 (NCAA National Champions)
Most programs would kill for the type of "at a crossroads" year going down in Chapel Hill, N.C. Lose four players to the NBA draft, including a former Player of the Year, from the starting lineup and usually it would take at least a year (Kansas) or four (Michigan State) to even get a whiff of title hopes again. But for Carolina, national champions get replaced by ace recruits -- in this case, ESPNU's No. 2-ranked crop.
Still, rankings don't project learning curves. Last year's newcomers, F Ed Davis and G Larry Drew II, showed the difference between instant impact and sometime sidekick. There is now more opportunity for the five freshmen to hit the floor, but there is also a familiar set of expectations. "We're approaching this season like we do every season at North Carolina," senior guard Marcus Ginyard said. "We don't assume that anything from last season will automatically transfer over to this year. But our goals are still the same."
Perhaps some tempering is in order. With a boatload of forwards coming to campus (John Henson, David and Travis Wear) and three very different returnees to the front line (Davis, Tyler Zeller and Deon Thompson), the team doesn't lack big men who can run, block, score, rebound and part the Red Sea. And now that Ginyard is back on board for his redshirt senior season, the team has a defensive answer for the dominant shooting guards that burned them last season. That being said, North Carolina is coming down from one of the most dominant runs in recent memory, and will be tutoring young players who'll be expected to win national championships as soon as possible.
To find out which player will replace wheelman Ty Lawson, get the lowdown on new recruits and read about a key factor that could trip up the Heels, you must be an ESPN Insider.
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