Commentary

Harrison Barnes' shocking choice

UNC gets a big boost, but don't expect decision to trigger a freshman trend

Updated: April 20, 2011, 4:01 PM ET
By John Gasaway | Basketball Prospectus
Harrison BarnesBob Donnan/US PresswireThe return of Harrison Barnes means North Carolina is the early favorite for next season's title.

Harrison Barnes recently announced that he will return to North Carolina for his sophomore season, a decision that has pretty much every pundit putting the Tar Heels atop his or her very early top-25 list. The great expectations for Roy Williams' team are understandable. Two of Barnes' teammates, Tyler Zeller and John Henson, have also chosen to return to Chapel Hill, even though they too could have found themselves selected in the first round of this summer's NBA draft.

Barnes isn't the only high-profile player who's decided to come back for his sophomore year -- Ohio State's Jared Sullinger and Baylor's Perry Jones have also announced that they will stay in school for at least another year. Perhaps the possibility of an NBA lockout next season helped drive these decisions -- certainly it had to be a factor. Then again, maybe the league's current labor strife wasn't such an elephant in the room after all. Sullinger, incredibly, has said he didn't even know of the NBA's looming work stoppage until after he'd made his decision (Ohio State apparently needs to beef up the current events portion of its curriculum), while Henson has admitted candidly he likely would have entered the draft if he were projected as a top-five pick.

To me, however, it's Barnes' choice to stay that really stands out. Here are my thoughts on what just happened and what it all means: