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Harrison Barnes grew up in Ames, Iowa, and is the son of former Iowa State basketball player Ron Harris.

"I'd been around Big 12 basketball all my life," he said Thursday. "That's what I'd been exposed to."

But he was, in a sense, born to be a North Carolina Tar Heel.

And not because he was among the most-coveted recruits in the nation in the class of 2011.

The apparent UNC birthright is reflected in his full name: Harrison Bryce Jordan Barnes, in part a salute from his mother, Shirley, to the artistry of Michael Jordan.

Long before her son was born, she was taping Jordan's games for future reference, as chronicled by ESPN The Magazine.

She began unspooling them for her boy as soon as he was old enough to sit and watch instead of fidget.

But that was just one way Shirley Barnes, since estranged from her husband, nurtured visions of greatness in her son.

Starting in fifth grade, for instance, he was schooled in the saxophone, which he only appreciated in one sense at the time. It was cooler than the cello that he had been playing, he said, "and a lot easier to carry to class."

Easy enough even to take to Chapel Hill with him.

"My sax was at school, but I sent it back home to Iowa so my sister could play in the jazz band," he said,

The worlds of music and basketball have an intersection for Barnes, the leading scorer at 17.3 points a game for Midwest Regional top seed Carolina entering its game against 13th-seeded Ohio at 6:47 tonight.

"I guess you could describe the game as a compositional piece," he said. "I mean, everything you do has to have a flow to it, just like music.

"It has flow, it has measures, it has an overall theme you're trying to accomplish. And as you play that and as you practice that, it becomes better, it becomes more masterful.

"You look at a game as you're adding strokes, you're adding paint to a canvas."

So he has this season, coming to better understand how and when to get the right shots at the right times — feeling the flow better.

That was evident to Boston College coach Steve Donahue in Carolina's 83-60 win over BC on Jan. 7.

"There's such a difference when you watch film and watch his body language out there," he said after the game. "First of all, his body is different. He looks a lot better. He has such a purpose to his game. Everything is sharper. He has a sense of where his teammates are.

"He understands and can slow down when he needs to slow down."

Now, Barnes might need to speed up.

With point guard Kendall Marshall doubtful for the game tonight with a broken bone in his wrist, it isn't just those who might fill in for Marshall that might need to make an impact on the game.

While Barnes has scored 20 or more points 13 times this season, he's done it just once in North Carolina's past eight games and is only 12 of 31 from the field in the NCAA Tournament.

"I do think we'll ask him to be more aggressive, to be more of a scorer," UNC coach Roy Williams said Wednesday on ESPN's Mike & Mike in the Morning. "We're saying it doesn't have to be one guy. It has to be everybody."

Barnes has it in him to finish with a flourish.

Last season, he averaged 21.5 points and hit 46.5 percent from the field, highlighted by a 40-point eruption against Clemson in the ACC tournament.

Along the way, he became the first Carolina freshman to score 20 points or more through three NCAA tourney games and the Tar Heels reached the Elite Eight.

That ending enhanced Barnes' stock for an early departure for the NBA, but for several reasons he opted to return.

Indicative of his well-rounded background and sophistication, particularly notable in an era of the one-and-done, the dedicated business student took another philosophical cue from Michael Jordan.

"People see Michael Jordan as a great basketball player," Barnes said in an interview with The Atlantic magazine. "But he's a great businessman, too."

As such, Barnes weighed the likelihood of a lockout, his enjoyment of school and the program and the broader upside to staying.

"The longer you stay in college, the better a brand you build," he told The Atlantic, continuing, "The NBA is a business. ... But on the brighter side, you do gain a lot of capital, and you have a platform from which you have avenues to do just about anything you want to do."

Jordan left Carolina following his junior year in 1984 with one national title to his credit. Whether Barnes would seek to leave early if Carolina pulls off an anniversary title is an unknown. But ...

"There's no better exposure and no better way to get the hype machine going than UNC returning to New Orleans, 30 years after Michael Jordan, of all people, won it there," Barnes said in the magazine interview.