Last year's campaign will go down as an off-year for North Carolina, finishing third in the ACC and ending the season unranked. If only every team could be so lucky.
The Tar Heels boast two of the nation's most exciting players, forward James Michael McAdoo and guard P.J. Hairston. The junior guard will likely be suspended for a portion of the regular season, getting in hot water for driving a vehicle rented by an ex-convict.
Despite Hairston's troubles, Roy Williams has another solid recruiting class this season. According to Rivals, UNC has the No. 16 (Isaiah Hicks), No. 57 (Kennedy Meeks) and No. 90 (Nate Britt) prospects in the 2013 recruiting class. Look for at least one of them to make an impact right away, with Britt expected to start at point guard in Hairston's absence.
Though the Tar Heels will likely play second-fiddle to a loaded Duke team this season, Roy Williams will have his boys ready to play come March. Expect them to go deeper into the tournament than last season, when they were bounced by Kansas in the second round.
P.J. Hairston: Hopefully North Carolina's leading scorer can get his head on straight. The junior was busted for speeding and associating with a known criminal, and will likely miss some time with an NCAA suspension. But when he is on the floor, he is the game-changer in UNC's backcourt.
Nate Britt: With Hairston almost certain to miss time, Marcus Paige will slide over to two-guard and Britt will likely start. If it plays out that way, it will be just the ninth time in North Carolina history that it has started a freshman at point guard. Britt has elite handles, can distribute the basketball and has no problem shooting the ball himself. Put him on your watch list.
Marcus Paige: Will play two-guard until Hairston resumes that spot, and brings a year of experience to the position. An early shooting slump murdered his chance at a good statistical season, but Paige really found himself toward the end of last year. His playing time could be at risk if Britt succeeds in his point guard audition, and will need to shoot better to stay on the floor.
Leslie McDonald: Likely the 6th man, McDonald will be a role-player in his senior season. Not a great shooter, but defends the perimeter well and knows Roy Williams' system. Definitely an asset late in games.
James Michael McAdoo: A highly touted recruit with a high ceiling, McAdoo more than doubled his output from his freshman season to his sophomore campaign. A double-double threat with unlimited athleticism, the Tar Heels will lean on his talents all season.
J.P. Tokoto: Entering his sophomore season, Tokoto's minutes should increase significantly from the 8.6 per game he played last season. Despite the limited action, the Wisconsin native shot nearly 50% from the field and grabbed 1.7 rebounds.
Isaiah Hicks: Long and lean at 6'8, 195 pounds, top prospect Hicks is built a bit like John Henson. He played power forward in high school and was ranked by Rivals as the sixth best player at that position in his draft class. With UNC's lack of star-power in the frountcourt, Hicks could make a splash as early as this season.
Brice Johnson: The 6'9 sophomore gave Roy Williams some great minutes as a freshman, scoring 5.4 four points per game in just 10 minutes. Even with increased minutes, Johnson should still shoot over 50% and give the Tar Heels a solid option on the block.
Joel James: Another sophomore looking for more minutes, the 6'10, 280-pound James is a beefy fella. Look for Roy Williams to throw James at ACC post players to eat up fouls and grab defensive rebounds.
Kennedy Meeks: Another big body, Meeks nearly cracks 300 pounds on his 6'9 frame. Expect him to slim down over the course of his career, but he enters his freshman year as the No. 4 center and No. 57 overall in Rivals' rankings. He has been criticized for relying too much on his jump shot, and he'll need to get down low to stay on the floor for UNC.