If you were to read any college basketball pundits going into the season, one theme was common. Harrison Barnes was supposed to be a Beast. Everyone from Jeff Goodman to Doug Gottlieb picked him as the Preseason Player of the Year and the AP actually gave him their Preseason POY Award, the first Freshman to win said award since the 1980s. As my radio cohost, the Big EZ said today, that was really stupid as most of the people voting had never seen him play, but it did express a reality that all believed to be true. Barnes was supposed to be great and to lead UNC to a new golden era of Baby Blue and an acknowledgement that other schools except UK could succeed with the “one and dones.”
But then, as sometimes happens, reality got in the way of the hype and many were left saying, “What happened?” Barnes has been…well underwhelming. He has had only two games in double figures, has shot under 33% in four games and had a stellar 1-12 in one miserable outing. In fact, Barnes has played so poorly that people now wonder if he can even go to the NBA, much less win Player of the Year. Perhaps most damning, players who go against him are openly mocking the hype. One player told an ESPN writer after a game against Barnes, “”If that dude is the next LeBron I’m MJ cubed!” Harrison Barnes hasnt lived up to the hype and has actually gone far in the other direction.
Roy Williams has decided that the entity to blame is ESPN. He ranted after last night’s Illinois game that ESPN’s hyping of Barnes wasnt fair and that it caused some of the pressure he is feeling. Whatever Roy. John Wall had that hype and he excelled. Lets just face the facts that early on, Barnes hasnt been good. I like Harrison as a player and think he still has the potential to be great. But as of now, he is joining John Henson, Tyler Zeller and others as UNC disappointments. Will it continue? Or will he use Saturday as a chance to shine and get some of his street credibility back? We shall see. But no matter what the case, the name “Harrison Barnes” will always be something we can say to make fun of Jeff Goodman…and if for no other reason, that will make him always a name to remember.