Let’s just get this out of the way now: this North Carolina Tar Heels team is in championship-or-bust mode. This isn’t just my opinion or the media’s opinion, but it is how Hubert Davis and his team are approaching this season. Anything less than that with all but one members of the Iron Five, talented new freshmen, and a key transfer would be deemed unacceptable, and I do not expect to see any celebrations of moral victories in March. This is the hungriest team that we’ve seen since the 2016-17 team, but whether or not they will win it all is the big question.
While we all know what the ceiling should be of this team, it might not be as evident how low the floor could go. With that in mind, let’s discuss the best and worst-case scenarios for the 2022-23 Tar Heels.
Hubert Davis has one of the most talented Carolina basketball rosters that we’ve seen in quite some time. Sure, one could make the argument that the team with Coby White and Nassir Little was impressive, but think about it: Armando Bacot, Caleb Love, and Pete Nance could all hear their names called in the NBA Draft in the spring if they took big enough steps forward in their individual games. If we want to go a step further, R.J. Davis could prove to be an interesting prospect by the time this season is over. Knowing this, it would seem as though the floor for this team is pretty high, right?
Well, yes and no.
Realistically, I don’t think this team is going to have a chemistry issue. I also don’t think egos will be a problem at all, because as far as we know all of the players are on the same page and have the same end goal in mind. The biggest threat to this team’s season will be their health, and I think that would be more devastating to them than lackluster play. Could they come out flat to start the season, work their way into a bad seed in the tournament, and get smacked by a team that would infuriate us all? Sure, but imagine for a moment losing Armando Bacot for the entire season (also knock on every piece of wood in your house). This team is built to win it all, but one bad stroke of luck could ruin everything.
It’s really hard to see this team doing anything worse than making it to the Elite Eight, but let’s be honest: college basketball is a very unpredictable beast. Let’s just hope some higher power has mercy on them for the next six months.
Worst-case scenario: Third place in the ACC, and losing in the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament.
Winning the national championship.
Oh, wait, I have to keep talking? Alright, fine.
Look, if you’re not a Carolina fan and you are reading this article, you are probably rolling your eyes so far into the back of your head that you are able to see colors that you didn’t know existed. While I understand that sentiment, we also have to be very honest: on paper, UNC has the best team in the country. They have the talent, they have the experience, they added depth in Seth Trimble, Jalen Washington, Tyler Nickel, Will Shaver, and Beau Maye, and there isn’t a team in the country that comes close. The usual suspects in Kentucky, Gonzaga, Kansas, and Duke are undoubtedly going to be right there, but none of them check all of the boxes that the Heels do.
Last year’s Carolina team had some obvious holes in their game, and what was so impressive about them is that they found a way to slap Flex Seal on every single one of them during the NCAA Tournament. What they were able to accomplish was extremely impressive, and it still bums me out that if Armando Bacot didn’t play the final two games with an injury that we could’ve been discussing the returning national champions. However, with this year’s team, all of those holes are legitimately sealed shut. Seth Trimble should serve as a solid point guard off of the bench for R.J. Davis, Bacot finally has a backup center behind him in Jalen Washington, and we should see Puff Johnson, Dontrez Styles, and Tyler Nickel get quality minutes. This is a true Final Four team, and I think we would be kidding ourselves to think otherwise. I’m shooting my shot: the Tar Heels are bringing home the national championship in April.
Best-case scenario: 1st place in the ACC, some weird loss in the ACC Tournament, and they win the 2023 NCAA national championship