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2017-2018 UNC basketball

The Results (click each game for an analysis)

Tar Heels 86, Northern Iowa 69 See season preview below
Tar Heels 93, Bucknell 81 Tar Heels 73, Wake Forest 69
Tar Heels 96, Stanford 72 Florida State 81, Tar Heels 80
Tar Heels 102, Portland 78 Virginia 61, Tar Heels 49
Tar Heels 87, Arkansas 68 Tar Heels 96, Boston College 66
Michigan State 63, Tar Heels 45 Tar Heels 69, Notre Dame 68
Tar Heels 86, Michigan 71 Tar Heels 87, Clemson 79
Tar Heels 85, Davidson 75 Tar Heels 80, Georgia Tech 66
Tar Heels 97, Tulane 73 Virginia 61, Tar Heels 49
Tar Heels 104, Western Carolina 61 NC State 95, Tar Heels 91
Tar Heels 78, Tennessee 73 Clemson 82, Tar Heels 78
Wofford 79, Tar Heels 75 Tar Heels 96, Pitt 65
Tar Heels 86, Ohio State 72 Tar Heels 82, Duke 78
  Tar Heels 96, NC State 89
  Tar Heels 83, Notre Dame 66
  Tar Heels 93, Louisville 76
  Tar Heels 78, Syracuse 74
  Miami 91, Tar Heels 88
  Duke 74, Tar Heels 64
  Tar Heels 78, Syracuse 59
  Tar Heels 82, Miami 65
  Tar Heels 74, Duke 69

© 2018 CB3media Cary, NC

2017-18 UNC Season Preview
Tar Heels are good enough to make another run but will new guys fit it?

After two straight NCAA championship game appearances, North Carolina basketball figures to take a step back. The 2016-17 Tar Heels got redemption for their last-second loss the season before. Two starters - Justin Jackson and Kennedy Meeks - are gone from that team. Nowhere to go but down, right? Not so fast.

It would be a remarkable accomplishment to make it back to the championship game - or even the Final Four - three years in a row, particularly with the current climate of college basketball. It's not like when UCLA would perennial go to the Final Four and usually win. Players come and go so fast today that heads spin.

North Carolina hasn't been getting the one-and-done players (promising Tony Bradley last year was the first in a while) and that works to the Heels ongoing advantage - especially when the engine, Joel Berry, decides to come back for his senior season.

Berry, the 6-foot point guard from Apopka, Fla., was the Final Four Most Outstanding Player a year ago and is one of only seven players in college basketball history to score at least 20 points in consecutive national championship games.

He's joined by returning senior Theo Pinson, who spent much of his junior season injured but who did help the Heels down the stretch. Pinson is one of those players who cement lineups with solid leadership, some points, more rebounds and a boatload of assists. If he could improve on his three-point shot it would help but, regardless, if he can get about 10 points a game, the Heels will be in good shape.

While Berry has emerged as the biggest outside threat for the Tar Heels, junior Kenny Williams, who missed most of last season with an injury, and junior Luke Maye, who hit the big outside shot against Kentucky last year, help the Heels' three-point shooting.

Maye, a 6-8 forward, has gone from playing just five minutes a game as a sophomore and 14 minutes a game as a junior to a solid senior scorer and rebounder who needs to be on the court as much as possible. He's easily been the Tar Heels most improved player and continues to surprise.

Meanwhile sophomores Brandon Robinson and Seventh Woods give the Tar Heels some depth at guard but they'll be pressed for time by freshmen Jalek Felton, nephew of UNC great Raymond Felton, and Andrew Platek, a solid gym-rat of a player.

The question marks come in finding a replacement for the production of Justin Jackson, who went pro after his junior season, and whether or not the new big men can make up for the loss of Meeks, Bradley and Isaiah Hicks. And will those new guys fit in with the old?

With Carolina shorthanded as far as inside experience, Garrison Brooks, the 6-foot-9 Alabama freshman, started the first game of the year and tallied 14 points. Along with 6-11 freshman Sterling Manley, the two figure to split time at a big-forward position. Both can block shots and score. If they can combine for 10-12 points a game, it will be a lift for the Heels.

Fellow freshman Brandon Huffman, a 6-11 Goldsboro native, figures to be a load by the time he graduates but Brooks and Manley seem to be a little ahead of him in development.

If Brooks and Manley can blend in with Maye, and be aggressive on the boards, the Tar Heels have a chance to challenge the favored Duke Blue Devils for the conference crown.

The wild card appears to be Cameron Johnson, who transferred from Pitt in an effort to help fit the spot left vacant by Justin Jackson. Johnson averaged double figures for the Panthers and is a solid swing man who has given the Heels fits in the past. But he started the season with an injury and there's a question as to whether he'll gel with the others quickly enough to be a difference maker. And will the others playing in his stead do well enough to eat into his time on the court.

With the experienced returners and the talented freshmen, along with Johnson the transfer, are there enough minutes in a game to keep them all happy and engaged? Coach Roy Williams will have to figure out how deep he can go as the season upfolds. The early-season minutes for 10 or more players tend to dry up as the season unfolds but he'd also like to have enough contributing players to rest his starters.

It's hard to predict what this team will do but they'll be good. The Tar Heels should contend for the ACC title and the NCAA title.

Prior to last season I wrote, "I'm thinking the Heels will go something like 31-8 and reach the Elite 8. But if the ball bounces just right, the Tar Heels could be in a position to avenge its narrow lost in the NCAA finals last season." Carolina went 33-7 and the ball did bounce right.

While not underestimating the possibilities, it would be too much to predict a third straight Final Four appearance. I do think the Tar Heels could match their 14-4 ACC record from a year ago but winning the ACC and NCAA tournaments seem a longer shot than last year. I'm going to basically predict the same as last season and, assuming the ball doesn't bounce just right, the Tar Heels will have a fine 29-9 season, losing in an Elite 8 game.

After all, they can't make it to the Final Four again. Can they?

- Clifton Barnes