There’s no real way to sugarcoat it: the Tar Heels went into the Dean Smith Center last night and beat the brakes off of Georgia Tech. It was the second beating of the Yellow Jackets in a row after they had taken down the Heels two years in a row, and the margin of victory was even larger than the last time. Armando Bacot went nuts once again, R.J. Davis had himself a game, and Caleb Love locked down Michael Devoe to a degree I honestly wasn’t expecting. It was an extremely good victory against a team that they needed to beat, and a great way to go into Tuesday’s game against Miami.
Let’s take a look at three things we learned from the Heels’ dominant victory.
Caleb Love’s defense is underrated
All season long, Caleb Love has been impressive on defense. He maybe hasn’t been the best defensive player on the team, but he has absolutely been one of the better ones. It really showed that he is needed on both sides of the ball when he essentially didn’t get off of the bus until the second half against Notre Dame (when it felt like we were watching a completely different team), but it was even more apparent when he held Michael Devoe to two points last night. That’s right: Devoe, who is averaging 20.5 points per game this season, only made one basket for the entire game, and he wasn’t even able to get that done until late in the second half.
While it’s probably unfair to use one sample as a reason to say that someone’s defense is underrated, it’s worth noting that this isn’t the first time Love has held a team’s star guard to a lackluster point total. In the game against Virginia, Kihei Clark went 3-11 from the field for a total of 9 points. When Love is playing this high of a level of defense, it is extremely hard to beat the Heels, but truly that’s only when he is playing to his potential. Love, like the entire team in general, has had some weird games where he hasn’t been as effective on the defensive end, so the question moving forward is whether or not he can keep up this stellar play on both sides of the ball. Let’s hope the answer is yes, because the next two games is going to tell us a lot about whether or not this team is ready for Duke next month, or if they’re destined to never get that elusive Q1 win.
Armando Bacot is the ACC Player of the Year
Sometimes it’s really hard to make such large claims in the middle of a season, but I think it’s safe to say that Armando Bacot is the best player in the Atlantic Coast Conference, and it’s really difficult for anybody to argue otherwise. He is having an incredible junior campaign, which couldn’t have been more apparent than in his 29-point, 12-rebound performance against Georgia Tech. His double-double was the 12th one of the season, and the 30th of his UNC career. He is currently on a seven double-double streak, which his the longest streak we’ve seen since John Henson had nine in a row in 2010-11.
Bacot played like a guy that had something to prove last night, throwing down six dunks while he was on the floor. According to Adrian Atkinson, it is one of the highest dunk totals we’ve seen since at least the 2003-04 season.
I don't have complete dunk data prior to 2003-04, but these are the only games with 6+ for a Tar Heel in my database. pic.twitter.com/LfcicrjbxZ— Adrian Atkinson (@FreeportKid) January 16, 2022
Compared to the rest of the league, Bacot currently leads the league in field goal percentage, rebounding, and is seventh in field goal percentage and blocks (some of these stats could’ve changed after the GT game). It’s hard to find a more complete player in the ACC right now, and unless something dramatic happens, I think it’s safe to say that the big fella will get a lot of recognition following the regular season.
R.J. Davis really hates Georgia Tech
For one reason or another, some players really like playing against very specific teams. Sometimes it is because of something that happened during recruiting, sometimes it’s for rivalry purposes, and really it can boil down to someone not calling someone on their birthday. To that point, it’s unclear why R.J. Davis plays with such little remorse against Georgia Tech, but he finished last night’s game with 21 points and six assists. This means that he finished the home-and-home series dumping 44 points on the Yellow Jackets, which is almost more than Jordan Usher and Michael Devoe scored in the series combined (47). Needless to say, he loves playing Georgia Tech.
In all seriousness, Davis has had an awesome season so far, and he has been a constant threat when shooting from deep. The Yellow Jackets started off the game in a zone defense, and Davis made them pay until they started playing man-to-man. Things didn’t get any better for them, obviously, and things only got worse and worse until Hubert Davis called off the dogs. Earlier I mentioned how well Caleb Love has been playing as well, and I think that really hammers home one major point: if Love and Davis gives the Tar Heels these kinds of performances for the rest of the season, I don’t think we have to worry about whether or not this team makes the NCAA Tournament, and instead can start wondering just how far they will be able to get. This team has everything they need to at least make it to the second weekend, but now they have to finally convince all of us that they are done playing around. There’s no better time to prove it than Tuesday against Miami, who is currently in 1st place in the ACC.