North Carolina will be looking at a season of trying to live up to a pretty big billing. Players and officials will be looking down for a while trying to get used to the new 3-point line. A lot of fans will be looking back at the Hall of Fame career of a coach who left quite a mark in the desert.
The 2008-09 college basketball season starts in less than two weeks with all the usual questions about how good teams are and how powerful conferences can become. But there are a few things that make this season different right from the start.
ampionship on people's minds, but so is a perfect season.
``We have to do the job every single day, and at the end of the year, we'll add it up and see what it is,'' coach Roy Williams said at ACC media day. ``But I'm not going to put myself in the boat that says, 'We have to do this.'''
Hansbrough is the only first-team All-America to return to school, and he is the first reigning player of the year to come back since Shaquille O'Neal went back to LSU for the 1991-92 season.
Hansbrough's senior season got off to a tough start when it was announced he would be held out of practice indefinitely after an MRI on Thursday discovered a stress reaction in his right shin. There was no timetable set for his return to practice.
While underclassmen Michael Beasley of Kansas State, D.J. Augustin of Texas, Chris Douglas-Roberts of Memphis and Kevin Love of UCLA moved on to the NBA, Hansbrough and his averages of 23.0 points and 10.4 rebounds returned for a chance at winning North Carolina's fifth national championship.
Kansas got its third national title in April with a 75-68 overtime win over Memphis, a championship game that will be known for Mario Chalmers' 3-pointer that sent the game into overtime after the Tigers failed to hold a nine-point lead with 2:12 left in regulation.
s should have both back in the national mix.
UCLA, which lost to Memphis in the national semifinals, will try for a fourth straight Final Four appearance, what would be the fourth-best run ever.
But this is a season of firsts, too.
After 22 seasons with the 3-point line at 19 feet, 9 inches, men's college basketball will move the arc one foot back.
The women's college line will stay at 19-9, and the men's new line will be three inches deeper than the international distance, a move aimed at easing congestion in the lane.
The best shooting season from behind the arc was the first, 1986-87, when players made 38.4 percent. For the past 17 seasons, it has never been above 35.6 (1991-92) or below 34.1 (1996-97).
``I think it's going to affect our game more than people think,'' said Florida coach Billy Donovan, whose teams use the 3-pointer effectively and who capped his playing career at Providence as one of the top gunners in that record first season. ``There's going to be certain players I don't think it's going to affect, but there's a noticeable difference. You look at the line without somebody shooting it, and it doesn't look like that big of a deal. But then all of a sudden when guys start shooting, there's definitely a noticeable difference. I don't know if the number of attempts will go down from our league, but I do think that the shooting percentages will go down.''
ona's run of 24 consecutive NCAA tournaments, the longest current streak and three off North Carolina's all-time record.
Lute Olson turned the moribund Wildcats program into a national powerhouse over his 24 seasons there. Within weeks of the start of this season, the 74-year-old Hall of Fame coach suddenly announced his resignation; days later his doctor revealed he suffered a stroke sometime during the last year.
Olson, who also coached at Long Beach State and Iowa, finished with 780 career wins, eighth on the all-time list. He led the Wildcats to the 1997 national championship and three other Final Fours, the last in 2001.
``This basketball team has quality players on it. This is not some year that we're ready to dismiss and just get onto whatever regime is next,'' said first-year assistant Russ Pennell, who took over the program. ``The goals here are the same as they've always been.''
The best story of last season's tournament will have a good chance at an encore.
Stephen Curry and his Davidson teammates caught the nation's attention on their run to the NCAA's final eight. The slender Curry and his complete offensive game are back as the nation's leading returning scorer with a 25.9 average.
Two conferences have big numbers to live up to from last season's tournament: The Big East, which tied its own record with eight bids, and the West Coast Conference, which managed to get three teams in the field.
It's just five months until the Final Four gets under way at Detroit's Ford Field.

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