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Off the cuff: Jay Bilas, ESPN commentator and former Dukie, says flatly that North Carolina is the best and most complete team in the country right now. He previously didn't think the Tar Heels were a legit contender for the title. Now he does.

Now everybody does.

It's still early but the Heels have set the bar really high after their performance in Maui.

The returning players say they are more focused coming off that loss in the national championship game last year. They think they know what it takes to get back there and win it. Coach Roy Williams say they are using the loss as fuel this season.

The Heels are getting solid contributions from freshmen, especially Tony Bradley but make no mistake, Joel Berry is the leader of this team.

The ball movement is crisper when he's in the game, the offensive flows and the defense is stifling when he's in there.

Kennedy Meeks is playing with a lot more confidence unlike last season sometimes when it felt like his feet were in concrete.

Jackson is a bit inconsistent but spectacular when he's on. Isaiah Hicks is a force on the offensive end and doing a better job of defending without fouling on the other end of the court.

If they stay healthy, the Heels do look like a complete team that can contend for ACC and NCAA titles.

Tar Heels 71, Wisconsin 56
Tar Heels are unstoppable in Maui

North Carolina looked like the best team in America during the Maui Invitational, which concluded with a 71-56 whipping of Wisconsin in a game that wasn't that close. But UNC coach Roy Williams said the national championship game isn't the day before Thanksgiving. (11/23)

Coach Williams seemed thrilled with the play of his team right after the game but when questions mounted about how good the Tar Heels are, he put a halt to that.

"We showed that we can play two different styles of basketball," he said referring to Wisconsin's slow pace as opposed to Oklahoma State's fast pace. "(But) if this is the best basketball we play this year, we won't be good enough (to win a national championship)."

Carolina certainly looked like a championship contender as the Heels held Wisconsin without a bucket in the first seven minutes of the game and went on a 14-2 run over five minutes early in the second half.

The Tar Heels led 29-20 at the half with tourney MVP Joel Berry and first-team all-tourney Kennedy Meeks equally sharing 20 of those points.

When Justin Jackson sliced through the lane for a bucket midway through the second half, the Tar Heels built the margin to 19 points at 49-30.

Playing against a slow-down team, that lead seemed insurmountable and it was. A 6-0 Carolina run in a minute's span increased the lead to 24 points at 60-36. During that run, Meeks picked off a pass on one end and Jackson drove across the lane for sweeping hook.

Carolina built the lead to a game-high 25 points at 69-44 before Coach Williams started emptying the bench during which time the Badgers went on a 12-2 run to close out the game and make the final tally more respectable.

But make no mistake, this was a blowout against a good team.

While Berry was being praised for his 22 team-high points, he said he thought the key was more his defensive play on Wisconsin's Bronson Koenig, who hit only one of 13 shots.

"I tried to deny hit the ball and when he did get it, I tried to stay in front of him," Berry said. "I contested his shots the bes I could and I think it bothered him. He only had two points so I think I did my job."

Berry said that once he gets going on the defensive end, everything else clicks.

"We have a lot of pieces on this team," Berry said. "We've got a complete team. If we can continue to get better on the defensive end, we'll be fine."

Jackson said since a poor showing against Hawaii, everybody on the team is really locked in. Meeks added that he was locked in at the pre-game meal.

Coach Williams said Meeks, who scored 15 points and hauled in 16 rebounds, may have played his best game since he's been at Carolina. Isaiah Hicks finished with 14 points while Jackson added 12 to cap off the double-figure scorers.

The 7-0 Tar Heels travel to Indiana for a 9 p.m. tipoff next Wednesday, Nov. 30.

Box Score

Heels win Maui.

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Read my Tar Heels' season preview on by clicking here.

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