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October 28, 2006

OSU-UNC looking like Freshman all-star game

Preseason Top 25
Media Days Central
The College Basketball Wire

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Rivals.com selected the top 25 storylines for the upcoming 2006-07 college basketball season and will be releasing articles daily, counting down from No. 25 to No. 1. The No. 11 storyline focuses on Ohio State's road trip to North Carolina on Nov. 29.

The ACC/Big Ten Challenge has always tried to arrange the best possible matchups since the event began 1999. In doing that this year, they inadvertently matched up the best recruiting classes.

Ohio State travels to North Carolina on Nov. 29 for a game that will feature the largest collection of freshmen talent this season. The Tar Heels and Buckeyes landed the No. 1 and No. 2-ranked classes in Rivals.com's 2006 team rankings. Both groups have been compared to some of the greatest classes of all time.

The six-man group the Tar Heels signed has everything from big-name recruits to balance to depth.

Point guard Tywon Lawson, shooting guard Wayne Ellington and power forward Brandan Wright were all ranked among the top 10 in the class of 2006.

There's also power forwards Alex Stepheson and Deon Thompson, a pair of top-100 prospects from California. Three-star small forward William Graves is the only in-state recruit in the class.

Ohio State's five-man group is also balanced, but it's known best for including Greg Oden - the dominating 7-foot center. Oden has long been considered the No. 1-prosepct in this class. Many believe he is the best big man to come out of the high school ranks in decades.

However, Oden won't be playing against the Tar Heels unless it's in the NCAA Tournament. He is recovering from offseason wrist surgery and isn't expected back until January.

The Buckeyes also signed two other McDonald's All-Americans: point guard Mike Conley (who played with Oden at Lawrence North in Indianapolis) and shooting guard Daequan Cook.

Four-star shooting guard David Lighty and power forward Othello Hunter, one of the nation's top junior college transfers, round out the class.

But, it's not just the freshmen that have generated all the hype behind this matchup.

The Tar Heels might have the nation's deepest and most talented team. Six of their top seven scorers return from a young team that captured a No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament last season.

That includes preseason ACC player of the year Tyler Hansbrough, who averaged 18.9 points and 7.8 rebounds a game on his way to collecting several National Freshman of the Year awards and All-America honors last season.

The Buckeyes face a different situation having lost four starters one of the main factors in their tremendous recruiting success. But they still bring back one of the Big Ten's top point guards in Jamar Butler, who averaged 4.6 assists per game last season. Another key contributor will be Ron Lewis, who scored 11.2 points per game as a sixth man in 2005-06.

All these factors have the Tar Heels and Buckeyes picked as the favorites in their respective conferences. The reasons above also illustrate why this may be the most intriguing matchup of the season.



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