The 2013 season is six months away. Let's punch fate in the face and make wild assumptions about what could be the best 20 teams in the country next year.
Team: North Carolina
Important People: R.G. Keenan (FOGO); Marcus Holman (A); Joey Sankey (A); Nicky Galasso (A); Kieran McDonald (D) . . . and you could name a thousand others
Formerly Important People: Jack McBride (A); Tom Wood (A); Charlie McComas (D); Jimmy Dunster (M)
Final 2012 Poll Positions: Media: 11; Coaches: 6
2012 Record: 11-6 (1-2, ACC)
2012 Snapshot: I want to take you out for a nice seafood dinner!
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Carolina's defense was a steaming pile of monkey poo in 2012. (I sat for 15 minutes trying to find a better way to describe the Heels' defense last season and that's the best I could come up with. Apologies to all the poo-slinging monkeys out there.) Steven Rastivo had a really tough time with ball-stopping last year, holding only a 50.5 save percentage. Rastivo, however, wasn't exactly helped by his field defenders, a unit that finished the season ranked 56th in defensive assist rate. These kinds of problems have the potential to carryover into 2013: (1) Charlie McComas departs from the close defense and Mark Staines has left the long-stick midfield position up for grabs, creating some gaps in a unit that wasn't all that staunch last year; and (2) Rastivo is still likely to get the nod between the pipes for Joe Breschi. There are some bright spots that may mitigate some of these issues -- McDonald and Jordan Smith will return to the close defense; Logan Corey and Ryan Kilpatrick look like strong replacements at pole positions -- but this is still a defense that didn't have it all together in 2012, will need to replace some important faces in 2013, and it's a safe bet that, once again, Carolina -- due to its conference affiliation and elite national status -- will stare down a bunch of opposing offenses that are more than capable of tearing the Heels to shreds if Chris Feifs can't get his unit to perform at a high level.
A Thousand White Doves
There isn't a team in all of Division I that has more talent than Carolina (and I'm not even sure that the disparity is close). Breschi has been straight up slashing fools with the classes that he has brought in since arriving at Chapel Hill and at some point -- I am to assume -- the Heels are going to start to benefit from that and push toward Championship Weekend. The amount of offensive talent that Pat Myers has to work with -- an attack as deep as any in the nation (Jimmy Bitter, Davey Emala, Galasso, Holman, and Sankey) and a midfield with all kinds of assets (Greg McBride, Chad Tutton, Pat Foster, Duncan Hutchins, Will Campbell, and Walker Chafee) -- is almost embarrassing. North Carolina remains, from an offensive standpoint, The Death Squad of Death (if only in name and potential). With all of this talent -- some of it young, most of it big, strong, and athletic -- hanging around, all that is necessary for the Tar Heels to start smacking opponents in the face is a spark and some continuity. If Keenan can continue to win around 60 percent of his attempts at the whistle, that Carolina offense is going to have the opportunity for such coalescence to occur, mostly due to the fact that the Heels are going to own the possession margin game against their foes (Carolina led the country last season in that metric at almost six possession per 60 minutes of play). That combination -- incredible offensive talent combined with lots of chances to go at the goal -- may create that tidal wave effect that so many great teams are inherently capable of producing.