When Harrison Barnes announced his intention to return to North Carolina Tar Heels basketball instead of entering the 2011 NBA Draft, the first question on the college basketball fan's mind: does this make UNC the easy pick for preseason No. 1? Two weeks ago, SB Nation's Andy Hutchins ranked the Heels No. 2 behind the Kentucky Wildcats -- and that was with the assumption that Barnes, John Henson, and Tyler Zeller would not all return for the 2011-12 season.
So who has the best case for No. 1 now?
Kentucky is set to import a fairly standard Kentucky recruiting class -- two of Rivals' top three players, three of its top six, and four of its top 25 -- and could get even stronger if Brandon Knight or Terrence Jones follow Barnes, Jared Sullinger, and Perry Jones III in remaining in school. Not that UNC isn't bringing in top recruits of its own. James McAdoo and P.J. Hairston are both Rivals top 15 talents.
Speaking of Sullinger, Ohio State is about the only other team in the nation that could make a case to be named preseason No. 1 at this point. But it won't be until Knight and Jones make their decisions that we can properly evaluate the situation anyway. The good news: time's almost up for the UK stars.
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