UNC Basketball: Tyler Hansbrough Buying Into Tar Heels as a Contender

One UNC Basketball legend is beginning to believe in the potential of this year's Tar Heels, given their improvement on defense over the past month.

North Carolina v NC State
North Carolina v NC State / Lance King/GettyImages
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It's obvious the improvement that this year's UNC Basketball team has made since its double-digit loss to Connecticut on December 5th in Madison Square Garden. Even with the loss to Kentucky, the Tar Heels looked much improved from just eleven days earlier against the Huskies, and since they played the Wildcats, North Carolina has looked like a team on a mission.

In just over a month, the UNC Basketball program is beginning to win over several college basketball analysts into believing the Tar Heels are a legit contender this season and could very well make a deep run into March. Just this week, we've seen an analyst mention them as a Final Four contender, Joe Lunardi move them to the top line in his latest bracketology, and now a former UNC Basketball legend is buying into the hype as well.

Tyler Hansbrough discussed this UNC Basketball team and the potential of this squad on a recent Field of 68 Podcast. Hansbrough began the discussion referring to the increased level of defense that the Tar Heels have been playing, specifically after the loss to Connecticut on December 5th.

Hansbrough says the game against the Huskies is when the season turned around for this team and following that game was when North Carolina really changed the way they played defense. The ability of the Tar Heels to go on the road to kick off 2024 with three consecutive road ACC games and win all three has shown growth of the program and team according to Hansbrough.

Tyler adds that when you take into consideration the addition of Harrison Ingram and the offensive emergence of RJ Davis and his scoring ability it adds another level for this team. Elliot Cadeau has also been finding his groove and growing as a freshman and Hansbrough believes his ability to share the ball provides a level that the UNC basketball program hasn't seen in a few years.

The former UNC Basketball big man points out Armando Bacot's ability to step back offensively and into a lesser role for the betterment of the team while noting that it is a huge boost, as Bacot is still playing defense at a high level and one that is important for this team to succeed.

Hansbrough even went a step further to mention the bench and depth play of this year's Tar Heels, mainly pointing out Seth Trimble's growth from last year, both offensively and defensively while making winning plays.

All of those reasons, combined with the most recent performance from the Tar Heels absolutely dominating Syracuse over the weekend has Hansbrough beginning to believe that the ceiling of this team is a Final Four and a trip to Phoenix. He does point out though that how far this team goes in the NCAA Tournament will be dependent on continuing this level of defense that we have seen over the last month.

As we all know, and Hansbrough reminds us, this UNC Basketball team may have the potential to reach the Final Four, but once you get there, anything can happen. Hansbrough witnessed that in 2008 when the No. 1 seed Tar Heels made it to San Antonio and then were knocked off by Kansas.

Do you agree with the former UNC Basketball legend? Are the Tar Heels beginning to prove they are a Final Four contender? Or do you need to see more from the team over the course of the season to really believe in what the ceiling may be?

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