Armando Bacot #5 of the North Carolina Tar Heels. Gregory Shamus/Getty Images/AFP
Last year was a disappointment for North Carolina basketball. Without their normal level of talent, the team struggled outside of the conference. This got the Tar Heels off to a bad start, and they needed an excellent run in the ACC to make up for it. They scraped their way to the NCAA Tournament, but they were nowhere near their normal level of dominance.
The team had no primary scorer, and they were one of the worst perimeter shooting teams in the conference. They also failed to compete on the defensive side of the ball. Nothing seemed to go their way, and they were never a top contender to win the ACC. Still, the young team managed to make it to the NCAA Tournament. They were embarrassed in the first round, but they still made it to the postseason when plenty of blue-blood programs couldn’t. It was certainly a down year for North Carolina basketball, but they somehow made it to the NCAA Tournament regardless. For next year, UNC has +5500 odds to win the NCAA Tournament at BetOnline (visit our Bet Online Review). That may be a pipe dream, but how far can they go?
— Carolina Basketball (@UNC_Basketball) April 5, 2021
The Bad News for North Carolina
It makes sense to usually start with the good news, but there is an elephant in the room at Chapel Hill. The Tarheels will be without Roy Williams, one of the best head coaches in the history of college basketball. Williams retired after this year, and it’s unrealistic to think this won’t have an impact on the team. He raised the floor due to his recruiting and coaching. If you played for him, you were going to be on a competitive team.
With an inexperienced head coach taking over, there is no guarantee that the team will remain competitive. It helps to have an internal hire to carry the torch, but Hubert Davis has never been the head coach of a D1 program. UNC also has no recruits in the top 60 prospects. They have two four-star players coming from high school and a couple of transfers, but is that enough? You want to trust the process, but they have the seventh-best recruiting class in the ACC. They had a top class last year, and they still failed to win the ACC.
Armando Bacot #5 and Caleb Love #2 of the North Carolina Tar Heels . Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images/AFP
The Good News for North Carolina
If I’m being honest, the good news for UNC doesn’t go far. They are losing many key players, including possibly their leading scorer. Armando Bacot is testing the waters for the NBA Draft, but he can potentially return if he feels that it is best for his future. Other players are leaving the program, including two bigs. Day’Ron Sharpe is leaving for the NBA, and Walker Kessler will be transferring. The best news is that Hubert Davis will bring new energy to the program. At the end of the day, the success of this team for the first few seasons of his tenure will fall on Davis. He will work to recruit his own players over time, but how will he do in his first season?
If Davis can bring new life into the players who decide to stay, we may see a motivated team looking to bounce back from a disappointing season. Also, UNC should have a more normal season in 2021-22. Last year was unprecedented due to COVID-19, so it will be easier to prepare and coach with more certainty this year.
Assistant coach Hubert Davis .Ronald Martinez/Getty Images/AFP
So, How Far Can UNC Go?
The Tarheels can’t expect to win a national championship in Davis’s first year as the head coach. They are behind the curve with recruiting, and the ACC is too talented to skate through easily. Still, they will remain somewhat competitive in the conference. They may be able to win the ACC Tournament once we get there, but they should make the NCAA Tournament regardless. After that, it all comes down to seeding and matchups.
A realistic expectation for the Tarheels is to make the NCAA Tournament and lose in the first round. Making it to the Round of 32 would be an accomplishment, and anything past that would be a magnificent story. We now have to change how we view this team, and they are no longer a lock to be a frontrunner in college basketball.