We have reached the top of the mountain. The defending title game runner-ups, the North Carolina Tar Heels. Hubert Davis’ squad ended up overachieving last year in his first year at the helm. They won 17 of their last 21 games and made it all the way to the national championship game. They bring most of that team back too. The Heels are at the top to start this season.
Preseason College Basketball Rankings: #1 North Carolina Tar Heels
Leading the returners is Preseason First Team All-American Armando Bacot. He had had two really good years before, but he exploded last year. Bacot averaged over 16 points and 13 rebounds per game, as well as just under two blocks per game. His scoring average ranked tied for seventh in the ACC, blocks tied for fifth, and rebounding a distance first. Caleb Love also deciding to return was also massive. The junior point guard averaged just a hair under 16 points per game last year, good enough for ninth in the conference. He was dominant during their run to the title game back in March.
Two other starters also return in RJ Davis and Leaky Black, who it feels like has been in Chapel Hill forever, Davis is a good combo guard and Black is a good, versatile utility player. Key role player Puff Johnson also returns. Justin McKoy had a smaller role than I thought he would last year but could have a bigger one this year. Neither Dontrez Styles nor D’Marco Dunn played a ton of minutes as freshmen, but both could have increased roles this season.
In addition to returning 73.3% of their minutes and 73.9% of their possession minutes, UNC also brings in a top 15 recruiting class. The top player in the class is top 40 recruit Seth Trimble. He should fill in nicely in the backup point guard role vacated by Kerwin Walton, who transferred to Texas Tech. The Tar Heels also brought in one of the best players in the transfer portal, former Northwestern forward Pete Nance (The son of former NBA player Larry Nance and younger brother of current New Orleans Pelicans forward Larry Nance Jr.). The super senior brings a really good inside-outside game, which is needed after the only starter that the team lost Brady Manek.
C – Armando Bacot (16.3 PPG, 13.1 RPG, 1.5 APG, 0.8 SPG, 1.7 BPG)
F – Pete Nance (14.6 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 2.7 APG, 0.3 APG, 1.1 BPG at Northwestern)
SF – Leaky Black (4.9 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 2.7 APG, 0.9 SPG, 0.6 BPG)
G – RJ Davis (13.5 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 3.6 APG, 1.0 SPG, 0.2 BPG)
PG – Caleb Love (15.9 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 3.6 APG, 0.9 SPG, 0.3 BPG)