And the coronation begins…

Carolina fans had their morning brightened just as the workday was getting started with the announcement that Harrison Barnes is returning for another year. After a quiet week, the college basketball media awoke to fill the internet with adjusted thoughts on next year, since the landscape of the season is now officially altered with Carolina as the entrenched, consensus #1 team. A few quick thoughts from my lunch break:

  • We will probably never know the true nature of Barnes’ decision, but despite multiple reports as early as two weeks ago that he had decided to return, there certainly appeared to be a significant level of indecision. His choice was layed out before him as clearly as it possibly could be, making his indecision a little odd compared to the lengthy evaluation processes necessary for Zeller and Henson, and even Lawson, Ellington, and Green three years ago. But perhaps the clarity of his decison was what made it so difficult since his two options were both pulling at him so forcefully from opposite ends of the spectrum; on the one hand, he has already maximized his draft stock as a top-three pick and NBA-ready player, but on the other he possesses an uncharacteristic, Hansbrough-esque love for the college game and desire to win a national championship.
  • We were going to be ranked in the top two nationally preseason alongside Kentucky even if Barnes left, with only the order to be determined. The order is now likely set, but little else changes about that situation. Except that we are returning the country’s best player, our leading scorer and resident master of the final three minutes of a basketball game. Edge: North Carolina.
  • I am admittedly somewhat of a Twitter rookie, but I got pretty excited by the response of our players to Barnes’ decision. The collective confidence, and even cockiness, of this team demonstrates their intense desire to win big next year, and it ought to ease any concerns about the cohesiveness of a team filled with future NBA players. More than is usual, these guys are here for one shared purpose, and that is to win a national title.
  • ESPN blogger Eamonn Brennan wrote an interesting blog post this morning on the significance of Barnes’ decision, which makes official that three of the top five NBA prospects are returning to college in an unprecedented postponement of NBA riches. We have mostly the looming lockout to thank, but it is without question an opportunity for college basketball to dig in and hold its own against the NBA’s attack on the caliber of its best teams. 2012 will have more teams with legitimate claims to powerhouse status than any season since 2008, with Ohio State joining UNC and Kentucky. The past two seasons arguably had none, and in 2009 UNC left everyone else behind in its march to greatness. As Brennan writes, if the NBA is sidelined while this college season plays out, it will be a tremendous statement that the college game isn’t going anywhere.
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