In a “what have you done for me lately” landscape, it’s easy to forget that just two years ago, the Tar Heels were within three points of a national championship, falling just short in a matchup against Kansas. Now, the team is plotting to reclaim their place among the country’s elite. It’s Hubert Davis’ third year leading the squad, and he’s on a mission to prove that last year’s fall was an outlier. They’re off to a strong start this season, and luckily for Coach Davis, he has a few key returnees to join him for the ride.
It all starts with the man in the middle, Armando Bacot. Bacot decided to forgo the NBA draft and return to Chapel Hill for a fifth and final year. The highly decorated senior is North Carolina’s all-time leader in rebounds and double-doubles. A mainstay in the starting lineup since he first touched down on campus, Bacot is the heart and soul of the program and the perfect piece to build a culture around. There’s arguably nobody in the country with more expectations to succeed this year than Bacot, who was voted a Preseason First Team All-American and named one of 20 candidates on the preseason watch list for the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Award, given to the nation’s top center. Aside from his physical ability, his wealth of experience will prove to be the most valuable asset for this Carolina squad. Being one of NIL’s biggest beneficiaries certainly helped make his decision to return easier, but the team-first big has his eyes set on making one more historic run in the tourney.
RJ Davis is another senior who’s had a lot of major moments at UNC and decided to return for another run at a title. The 6-0 guard from White Plains, NY, is destined to see his notable work ethic and commitment to excellence pay off. His game, along with his confidence, has grown each year, and that makes him a tough cover for whoever his matchup is on any given night. Voted to the preseason watch list for the Bob Cousy Award, RJ is motivated to prove himself as one of the best point guards in the nation. UNC’s leading assist man for the past few seasons, he’s one of the most reliable guards in the ACC when the game is on the line. It’s no secret that the key to success in March is having good guard play, and that should be of no concern for the Tar Heels with RJ leading the backcourt.
Freshman guard Elliot Cadeau is the most highly touted recruit thus far in the Hubert Davis era. He reclassified up a year after committing to UNC and is expected to make an instant impact this season. The Diaper Dandy was voted 2023-24 Preseason ACC Rookie of the Year and will have every opportunity to solidify his place at the top of his class.
Other newcomers to keep an eye on are two snipers: 6-5 graduate transfer Cormac Ryan by way of Notre Dame, and 6-7 junior transfer Harrison Ingram by way of Stanford, who was voted to the preseason watch list for the Julius Erving Award.
It’s early, but this year’s Tar Heels have started the season full steam ahead. Will they be able to carry the momentum and bring home their seventh national championship come April? It won’t be easy, but they have the makings of a team ready to cut down the nets in Phoenix.
Source website: www.slamonline.com