Expectations for the North Carolina Tar Heels basketball program are always high and 2011-12 was no exception. The Tar Heels opened the season at the No. 1 spot in both the AP and ESPN/USA Today polls, receiving 62 first-place votes in the AP vote and 30 first-place votes in the ESPN/USA Today poll.
The Tar Heels were led by senior forward Tyler Zeller, who became the 13th Tar Heel, and third in the last five seasons, to be named the ACC Player of the Year. Zeller leads the Tar Heels in field goal percentage (.549) and is second in scoring (16.4), rebounds (9.3), free throw percentage (.803) and blocks (44). In ACC play, he led the league in field goal percentage (.569) and offensive boards (4.0), was second in rebounds (9.7), third in scoring (18.5) and sixth in free throw percentage (.833).
In addition to Zeller, junior forward John Henson was named the ACC's Defensive Player of the Year for a second consecutive season. Henson was the conference leader in blocked shots and rebounding, and was the only player to average double-digits in scoring (14.3 points) and rebounding (10.3 rebounds) in the ACC.
After a pair of early-season losses to the UNLV Runnin' Rebels (in the Continental Tire Las Vegas Invitational) and to the No. 1 Kentucky Wildcats on Dec. 3 in Lexington, Ky., the Tar Heels rolled to a 21-2 record the rest of the way, with one of their two losses coming in a one-point affair with the Duke Blue Devils in Chapel Hill on Feb. 8, a loss they would avenge with an 88-70 win in Durham in the regular season finale.
UNC enters the big dance on a bit of a sour note after falling to Florida State in the ACC championship game, but they were still rewarded with a No. 1 seed. They'll face the winner of the First Four matchup between Lamar and Vermont.
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