To state the obvious, the 2019-20 North Carolina Tar Heels dealt with a lot of adversity, and with it came a lot of losses. It definitely wasn’t the season that the 2019 freshman class signed up for, and it’s unfortunately that Cole Anthony will likely take his talents to the NBA instead of giving things another shot in Chapel Hill. However, one freshman made his intentions of staying perfectly clear, and he’s likely to be one of the biggest (pun intended) returning players in 2020-21. I’m of course talking about Armando Bacot.
When Bacot announced that he was committing to the Tar Heels last year, it started a snowball effect of some big commitments. Cole Anthony of course is the most notable one, but Anthony Harris was also a huge likely four-year pickup as well. The Anthony acquisition was so huge that it unfortunately took away some of the spotlight that Bacot deserved, and he certainly at times did a good job shining it on himself throughout the season. The Virginia native finished the season averaging 9.6 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 1.2 assists per game while shooting 46.9% from the field. He was dangerously close to averaging a double-double, and his 11 double-doubles throughout the season were two-shy of tying the school freshman record currently held by Antwan Jamison (13 games).
While what Bacot was able to do in the post was impressive, the scary thing is that he could be much, much better in 2020-21. One of the more frustrating parts of his game was his ability to play defense without drawing fouls, which is likely an issue that kept him from breaking Jamison’s record. Record aside, his early trips to the bench also hurt the Tar Heels quite a bit on both sides of the ball due to the team’s need to play small. One of the biggest upsides to Bacot coming back? Attrition should be less of an issue, as Roy Williams will have Garrison Brooks, Armando Bacot, Day’Ron Sharpe, Walker Kessler, Sterling Manley, and Brandon Huffman to deploy. It’s quite possibly the deepest lineup of bigs we’ve seen in not only the Roy Williams era, but in Carolina basketball history as well. That is, of course, assuming everyone is healthy by the time things tip off in (hopefully) November.
It’s also safe to say that Bacot could get better in both the scoring and rebounding departments as well despite his solid freshman campaign, and seeing a big jump his sophomore season is likely. One thing that I will be looking for going into November is whether or not Bacot continues to get stronger, and if so whether or not he’ll be able to use his strength to his advantage. Sometimes he struggled to take his defender down low and finish with a dunk, and instead settled for lower-percentage layups instead. As far as rebounding goes, there’s always room for improvement in this department on a Roy Williams-led team no matter how good a player is. Bacot is no exception, and I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see him finish next season averaging a double-double by the time everything is said and done.
Bacot returning to Chapel Hill for his sophomore season is not only a strong insurance policy for Roy Williams in the depth department, but he may also be enough to make this team one to fear in the NCAA Tournament (barring a repeat of this year’s events, of course). This could mean that we see the return of a Bacot/Brooks frontcourt, which would make for a strong one-two punch before having to go into the reserves for the powerful bruiser in Day’Ron Sharpe, or the skillful big in Walker Kessler. The possibilities in the paint are exciting to think about, and it certainly makes me personally breathe easier when thinking about what the ceiling of next year’s team is.
As an honorable mention, another player that should make a big impact is Anthony Harris. We got a small sample size of what he’s able to do this season, but what we did see from him was an aggressive, skillful player that gave the team a big boost when they needed it the most. It’s likely that we won’t see him until the 2021 calendar year, but I expect him to be a man on a mission when he is able to return to the court.
Do you agree with Bacot being the projected breakout player for the 2020-21 season? Let us know in the comments below. Stay safe, and Go Heels!