Heels hope to reach new heights

North Carolina head coach Roy Williams said that this season would not be a waste if the Tar Heels failed to win the national championship.

But it would not be unreasonable for the No. 1 team in the nation to have a title on its mind.

The Tar Heels return all but two players from a team that compiled a 31-7 record last year and won both the ACC regular season and tournament before losing in the NCAA Tournament Elite Eight. With no true freshmen, North Carolina appears to feature the perfect combination of experience and talent to mount not only a run that extends past the ACC title.

Even without any first-year players, the team has plenty of sources of motivation. After a disappointing overtime loss to Georgetown in the East Regional final-a game in which the Tar Heels squandered an 11-point second half lead and scored just three points in the extra period-the level of competition in practice is as high as ever. Preseason All-American Tyler Hansbrough, who returned to school after earning All-America laurels his first two seasons, has exemplified this attitude. Williams praised his star junior for his determination to be the hardest worker on the team.

Hansbrough, one of the frontrunners for National Player of the Year, headlines a deep North Carolina lineup. Sophomores Ty Lawson and Wayne Ellington combined to score nearly 22 points per game last season, and their postseason experience makes them one of the best starting backcourts in the country. Sophomore forward Deon Thompson has become more agile after a summer playing for the U-19 national team, and fellow sophomore Alex Stepheson will also be a presence on the boards.

The Tar Heels' defense is Williams' main concern this year. North Carolina's talent should translate into a successful offense, but defense wins championships-so the team is working on shutting down its opponents.

"We've got to do a better job defensively," Williams said. "We've got to cut down the other teams' field goals and get to a point that we can't allow the other teams to run what they practice every day.

"If we do that, then we've got a good chance to be there on the last day."


Share and discuss “Heels hope to reach new heights” on social media.