North Carolina coach Roy Williams sees the similarities, and he likes the possibilities. His first team at Kansas won 19 games; his first team at North Carolina won 19 games.
His next 14 teams at Kansas averaged 28.5 wins and went to four Final Fours. Williams will be a happy man if his North Carolina tenure lasts that long and is similarly successful. Williams has the pieces in place to get that sort of run going, as the Tar Heels return every scholarship player from a group that started the season strong but went 11-10 after New Year's Day.
That sort of inconsistency will need to be addressed if the Tar Heels are to keep pace in a loaded ACC. If North Carolina can improve on one number -- opponents' 44.4 percent shooting accuracy -- it should be in the running for conference supremacy.
FRONTCOURTSean May (6-foot-9, 260 pounds) has the body to mix it up inside, but his rebound numbers (9.8) were padded at times by missing short shots and getting them back. He twice had 20-rebound games last season, but injuries contributed to May huffing and puffing through the latter part of the season. May can score, but only if he's well-conditioned for Williams' up-and-down style.
Senior Jawad Williams is again trying to add bulk to his small forward's frame and play power forward, though incoming freshman Marvin Williams may be able to help at that position. Jawad Williams likes to take outside shots, and has hit several important ones, but his 3-point percentage has dropped every season.
UNC will get rebounding help from David Noel, an athletic junior, and is hoping for contributions from Byron Sanders (6-9) and Damion Grant, a 6-11 center whose sore knees have limited his practice and game availability.
BACKCOURTThe Tar Heels are blessed with one of the nation's top scorers (Rashad McCants), top assist men (Raymond Felton) and top defensive aces (Jackie Manuel). Felton and McCants shunned a jump to the NBA because they knew their games could use more work. McCants has insisted he's a four-year player, and he may just be UNC's all-time scoring leader when he leaves.
Felton has shown flashes of excellence but also moments of weakness. He is capable of scoring -- he hit eight 3-pointers against NC State his freshman year -- and struggling. Felton had several defensive lapses that led to opponents hitting tying or winning shots late in games.
Manuel always has been solid on defense, but his continued improvement on offense will be critical to the Tar Heels as opponents focus on McCants. Another candidate to take some of the scoring load is Melvin Scott, a sometimes hot shooter who endured a prolonged slump last season.
Still, McCants is option No. 1. "There's no better natural scorer in the country -- none," May said.
FINAL ANALYSISThe Tar Heels may have Final Four material, but no current player has been part of a team to finish above .500 in the ACC. If the players rely on their reputations, they won't go anywhere in the postseason. Roy Williams has seen progress, and recruiting is going well, but he insists his team has to work to maximize its potential.
"I don't want our guys to feel cocky about 'Hey, we just show up, and we'll be better,'" Williams said. "Our team is not going to be better unless everybody gets better themselves and unless everybody buys into the team aspect on both ends of the court. ... I'm excited, but there is nothing that's going to make us any better by us thinking and saying that."
For the first time since '01, when Doherty's first team won 26 games, UNC has depth and experience, and players who have at least tasted NCAA play. With Williams settling in, the Tar Heels figure to be regular candidates for deep tournament runs, the same way Williams' Jayhawks were for so many years.