UNC Hoops: Who’s Really The Tar Heels Best Player?


Basketball has become a sport of the superstar.  If you have one on your team, your pretty good and in most cases can make some noise.  If you have two, your golden.  Usually three or more and your just cheating or being obnoxious (see Heat, Miami, Fab, Five).  We all know who was supposed to be UNCs best player coming into the season.  Harrison Barnes the sophomore from Ames Iowa, the reigning two-time Pre-Season All American.  Barnes still might be the Heels best player, more on that in a minute.  One thing is clear through 20 games, Barnes is not the clear cut best player he was supposed to be.  Several other candidates including Kendall Marshall who may be the best passer in the nation.  John Henson, the best shot blocker in college basketball now brings an offensive game to the table.  And the old rock Tyler Zeller, started out slowly but has been the Tar Heels rock in many contests this season with his consistent play.  Are all candidates for the throne.

Let’s break down the candidates and let you decided who the Heels real best player is.

Harrison Barnes: By far the most gifted player on UNCs roster.  Barnes can shoot, penetrate the lane, finish at the basket almost the entire package.  As a freshman, late in the season, Barnes showed a toughness late in games the Heels have yet to see, but will need this season.  He averages a team high 17.1 points per game.  His shooting percentage is up and he’s taking less ill advised threes.  Overall he’s a more efficient player, but I think he’s too hung up on that.  Barnes needs a little less Lebron, and a little more Jordan in him.  While Barnes has risen to the occasion, more than once, he needs to start setting the tone and stop disappearing to be anointed king of Chapel Hill in my book.  On the other hand, who else do you want taking that shot with 3 seconds left in the Final Four?

John Henson: Coming into his junior season Henson was just a dominate defender/rebounder, that didn’t give you much on the offensive end.  Henson quickly erased that reputation, by unveiling a new wave of post moves, to go along with a mid range jumper.  Always great at running the floor and finishing at the rim, Henson seems at his best in all phases of the game this year.  His defensive game is almost scary, his reach almost unfair, and taking it to the rim against Carolina is almost stupid with Henson around.   Shooting 53% from the field, 14.2 ppg, 3 blocks, 1.4 assists.  Henson fills up the box score and he might be the teams best player.

Kendall Marshall: Of all the candidates, Marshall plays the most minutes per game.  Both out of necessity as PG is the thinnest position on the team, and because as Kendall goes, so goes the offense.  Marshall’s impact cannot be digested simply by reviewing his stats.  A simple look at the chart below shows that the other three players crush Marshall in every area except assists.  Marshall is both the engine and the glue that runs and keeps this team together.  He plays with a certain calm, and fundamental excellence, that balances all these athletic, scoring machines together.  Others may be more talented, gifted, whatever you want to call it.  But I can see the team getting by if one of the others goes down like Dexter Strickland did.  The one thing I can’t see, or even pretend to imagine, is the Tar Heels without Kendall Marshall.  But what about that jump shot?

Tyler Zeller: The old rock, the senior, the last member of the 09 championship team.   Zeller seemed soft early in the season with teams attacking him hard with double teams.  Tyler quickly settled down and found a little mean streak and is one of college basketball’s most efficient big men.  Zeller posts a team high 55% shooting and is second to only Barnes is scoring at 14.7 per game.  His 9.6 rebounds per are second to only Henson and Zeller is one of the few Tar Heels shooting a decent percentage from the foul line at 78%.  As the senior on this team, I don’t see Zeller leading us anywhere.  I love Zeller, have since he decided to come back and help us as a freshman.  Still, can you see Zeller making the big play in the final four?  I picture that play being facilitated by Marshall to either Barnes or a lop to an open Henson.

The Verdict: Tar Heel Nation, at this point I’m torn.  I’ve eliminated Tyler Zeller and almost eliminated Harrison Barnes in my mind.  Kendall Marshall is the most important player on the roster, but he’s not the best overall.  You can’t be with that jump shot.  In a coin flip between Barnes and Henson, it’s advantage John Henson for me.  He’s too good on both ends of the floor and gives UNC so many rebounds, second chance opportunities.  If Barnes has an off shooting night, he can help a little.  Henson on the other hand, doesn’t necessarily have to score that much in order to dominate.

Before you decide, take a look at the stats, then vote in our weekly fan poll.  I’m going with John Henson Heel addicts, who you got?

NCAA Basketball Stats

Now it’s your turn