You would think that after naming Harrison Barnes an All-American before he played a single game, and then having him struggle through the early part of North Carolina’s season, that folks would be a little bit hesitant to predict how well Barnes is going to play this season. Yet, here we are, without a game in the season played yet, and once again, he’s a preseason All-American. I mean, he did have a sensationally strong close to the year, highlighted by a 40-point outburst against Clemson during the ACC Tournament. Still, for a player who so publicly failed to meet the sky high expectations laid out for him last season in the early going, the skeptical few have to at least entertain the possibility that Barnes is once again overrated relative to what he’s actually accomplished and is capable of. Yet, despite this cautious approach, some take the other tack; suggesting that Barnes is, despite being a clear leader on a dominant team, somehow underrated. What can we expect from the sophomore wing when the season tips off? Is Barnes over-, under-, or appropriately rated?
Well, to turn to a totally impartial panel, Barnes, Roy Williams, and his teammates all think that he’s gotten even better than he was in March. “Exponential” is the word Williams uses for his rate of improvement. Citing improved ball-handling, better physical conditioning, and simply learning the offense, there is a strong case that Barnes totally deserves his preseason plaudits. Still, the skeptics have to wonder? Is improvement for Barnes even a likely outcome? Is the “sophomore slump” a real phenomenon or just a turn of phrase?