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UNC Basketball: Can Cole Anthony alone carry Tar Heels to greatness?

Can Cole Anthony be enough to make the Tar Heels title contenders?

NCAA Basketball: Notre Dame at North Carolina Nell Redmond-USA TODAY Sports

Three games into the 2019-2020 season, there is no debate who the North Carolina Tar Heels’ alpha dog is. Cole Anthony has been the go-to-guy from the first game, to the surprise of nobody. There are no issues with that. Anthony is one of the five best players in college basketball.

The problem with that is that there is no clear-cut second option for Anthony, especially when he is on the bench, because he cannot play 40 minutes, because he is not superman (at least we don’t think). There is reason to believe that Brandon Robinson can be the go-to-guy when he comes back from injury. He has shown an ability to be a good shooter, as well as score in the mid-range. But there are moments for the time being where it feels as if Anthony is doing it all himself.

As a whole, there should be concern in the long run over the sustainability of having Anthony do everything for this team. Looking back in time, there are a lot of notable runs through March and April that were led by superstar point guards. Most memorably, just think about Kemba Walker’s run with Connecticut. Having one player get hot over the span of six games in the NCAA tournament can send that team to the history books with a national title. Anthony is good enough to be in the conversation of guys who can single-handedly carry a team to a national title, especially in a year like this one where there is no clear-cut national championship favorite.

But the Tar Heels have a good ways to go if they are going to be a title contender. Looking at Roy Williams’ past title winning teams, the recipe for success was great guard-play, a good wing scorer, and a big man who produces at a high clip. This year’s team checks one of those boxes, being the great guard-play box. There is potential for them to have check marks in the other two boxes. Armando Bacot has looked good in the minutes he has played, especially against Gardner Webb. Garrison Brooks is also very reliable in the front court. As I stated earlier, Robinson has shown potential to be a very good wing player. Leaky Black is also a good player on the wing for the Tar Heels.

The one downside to all of this is that these names look great on paper, but the production hasn’t quite been up to par this year. It’s very hard to nitpick a 3-0 team who also has an ACC win already, but North Carolina didn’t look like the sixth best team in the country against Gardner Webb. One could chalk it up to rust after having not played for a week, but even against UNC-Wilmington there were reasons to be worried about this team.

It seems like the easy answer to say “Just give Cole Anthony the ball and let him cook.” There hasn’t been a player in Roy Williams’ tenure at UNC that will have the usage rate with the ball that Anthony will have. With that could bring heightened injury risk, which would be devastating for the Tar Heels’ title hopes, as well as Anthony’s draft stock. It’s not as if North Carolina is barren in the other positions.

While the Tar Heels fight to get healthy, it’s going to be the Cole Anthony Show, but down the homestretch of the season, look for this group to blossom into more of a Roy Williams team, giving them a great shot at making a deep run in March.