Barnes mighty confident about UNC’s ’12 title prospects

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North Carolina enters next season as the team to beat thanks to their depth, talent, experience, etc., etc. You’ve heard all this before. The Heels have all five starters back, plus they add two 5-star recruits.

Not bad.

But even UNC needs to improve certain areas to beat teams like Kentucky, Ohio State, Duke and Syracuse for the title. That why guys like Kendall Marshall and Harrison Barnes have summer homework from coach Roy Williams. They must improve in certain areas.

In separate, lengthy interviews with Inside Carolina, the sophomore stars talked about what they’re working on, team chemistry and more.

Marshall’s supposed to work on improving his lateral quickness and building his body to become more durable (he’s the one player without a capable backup). Barnes is focused on his ball-handling.

Perhaps most telling was their responses to the question: “What’s the single, biggest key to winning a national championship next year?” They had different responses, but I’d say they’re both correct.

From Marshall:

“Defense, without a doubt. We’re going to be able to score next season. We’re going to be more naturally talented than a lot of teams. But, you know basketball is a team sport so we have to be able to stop teams. We’re going to have to be able to win games in the 50s, 60s, 70s as well as the 80s and 90s.”

From Barnes:

“Consistency. We were consistent at the end of the season and that’s why we made a big run. Earlier in the season when we struggled, we weren’t consistent. It’s a matter of simply going out and playing every game as that game and not worrying about anything else.”

Marshall’s realistic, focusing on an area of concern – defense – because he knows offense shouldn’t be a problem. (Nevermind that UNC’s defense was better than the offense last season.) But Barnes? He sounds more confident, even brash.

He sounds like a guy who knows the roster’s loaded and wants to fulfill every expectation surrounding the Heels. It also sounds like a guy who expects a big year out of himself as well.

Can’t wait to see if he delivers.

You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.