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Tar Heels' talent will make the difference

Experience isn't everything in the NCAA Tournament.

Syracuse proved that in 2003, winning the National Championship starting two freshmen, two sophomores and only one senior.

Now, UNC head coach Roy Williams-whose Kansas squad lost to the Orange in 2003-is the one holding the loaded, but young hand that could bring him his second national title in three years.

Four out of five North Carolina starters-Tyler Hansbrough, Brandan Wright, Wayne Ellington and Ty Lawson-averaged double figures in scoring in the regular season.

Although the starting five is strong, what really sets this team apart is its depth. Ten players have averaged more than 10 minutes per contest this year, meaning none of the starters were forced to clock more than 30 minutes on average.

Often overshadowed by Kevin Durant and Greg Oden-and even UNC's own balanced scoring attack-Hansbrough has become one of the most consistent and reliable scoring weapons in college basketball. He's put on significant weight since the end of the 2005-2006 season, allowing him to assert himself under the basket with even more authority. He is averaging 18.8 points and 8.0 rebounds per game.

And Hansbrough's two invaluable postseason assets-his .764 free throw percentage and now, the potential for the Richard Hamilton/LeBron James face mask advantage-might just be enough to tip the scales in favor of UNC.

The achilles heel for these Tar Heels may be their youth and inexperience, particularly if they have to match up against a team like defending National Champion Florida, which has four returning starters.

Seniors Reyshawn Terry and Wes Miller were both members of the 2005 UNC squad that won the national title, but on a roster filled with NBA lottery picks, they weren't key contributors.

But as Williams learned the hard way in 2003, sometimes explosive talent and depth can outmatch experience on any given National Championship Monday.


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