So, some things have changed. Many things, actually. But not all of them.
This UNC men’s basketball offseason has already seen more upheaval than the blue-blood program is used to: Roy Williams’ sudden retirement, Hubert Davis’ promotion to head coach and the departure of four-fifths of the team’s frontcourt, easily its greatest strength last season. That’s, uh, a lot to digest, and a lot of moving parts to keep track of.
The (somewhat) good news is that the program does have some key pieces returning, including at least three starters from last season. And while the incoming recruiting class isn’t nearly as large as last year’s — only two players arrive rather than six — both additions from the high school ranks should have the immediate opportunity to crack the rotation.
And that’s without even mentioning the two transfers (so far) coming aboard. Technically, the staff still has two scholarships available, and it continues to mine the transfer portal for potential additions. But for the time being, let’s sort through who’s coming back, who’s coming in and what’s fair to expect from everyone.
2020-21: Sophomore — 12.3 ppg, 7.8 rpg
So, technically Bacot hasn’t announced that he’s finished testing the NBA Draft waters and he’ll be returning to UNC. But both common sense and Davis say that Bacot will be back — he would likely go undrafted if he opts to relinquish his remaining college eligibility — and that’s massive for the Tar Heels. Simply, Bacot is poised to become UNC’s frontcourt centerpiece, both because of his own growth and the departures of Garrison Brooks, Day’Ron Sharpe and Walker Kessler.
Bacot improved in a number of key statistical categories last season — scoring, field goal percentage, free-throw percentage — and looked like the Tar Heels’ most consistent player through the first half of the season. But his play was more up and down the latter half of last season, when Kessler and Sharpe started to really break out. Next season, he’ll need to resemble the player he did in December if North Carolina is going to hit the ground running.
At the same time, Bacot’s going to be asked to fill a little different role than he did his first two seasons. As the only true back-to-the-basket big on the roster, he won’t be dealing with the frontcourt logjam of the last two years. That’ll mean more opportunity, but also more responsibility: as a rebounder, as a defender and generally in terms of conditioning. Especially considering the lack of other proven offensive rebounders — we’ll get into that more later — he’ll have to pick up additional slack in terms of hitting the offensive glass. Again, nothing he hasn’t done, just not to the rate at which he’s going to be asked to next season.