We are on the eve of the college basketball season, and there’s a lot expected of the Tar Heels this season. As we’ve learned, the Tar Heels are Number 1 in the AP Poll to start the year, and the ACC media has crowned the basketball team to be the preseason ACC favorites and Armando Bacot to be Player of the Year.
But, really, do you want to trust the word of a bunch of writers who just sit and watch all the teams, or do you want the opinions of those who are die hard Tar Heel fans? Come on, you wouldn’t be reading unless you were curious.
This year, the staff got together to examine how we think the season will go. Where we agree and where we don't is fascinating, so let’s dig in. Here’s the main chart, and let’s look at each category.
The vast majority of are expecting Bacot to have a monster season, and hopefully it’ll end with him doing enough to have his number in the rafters. Just as a reminder, a player is honored if they are a first or second team All-American, ACC Player of the Year, the MVP of a national title team, the MOP of the Final Four, or winning a gold medal for the Olympics. Additionally, if they are a National Player of the Year as voted on by certain organizations, they get their number retired. It would be funny if, with all the great players who've worn the number 5, Bacot would be the one to get it retired. Either way, most are in agreement with the ACC writers that the team will go as Bacot goes.
Akil, Douglas, and Matt went with the important point guard spot: RJ. It was pretty clear that once RJ was made the full time lead guard and Caleb Love primarily played two, the team took off. His overall skill and toughness stirs the whole drink, and there’s no doubt that some on the team view him as the real MVP.
One of the most split categories. Dontrez Styles took the position from the majority of us. There was a sense of relief when he decided to stay with Carolina despite his heavily reduced role last year. Still, he showed what he was capable of by hitting the first three in OT against Baylor. A full year practicing with this crew and knowing what Coach Davis wants should help the Kinston product get some more time.
Puff Johnson took second. As the only player coming off the bench for the majority of the time by the end of the season, he seems poised to keep the sixth man role. His lingering knee soreness to start the season is a little concerning, but hopefully he’ll be ready to go next week. When he’s on, his skills are deadly, and he showed what he’s capable of in the national title game against Kansas.
Akil noted that D’Marco Dunn would be the most improved, and if the guard sees a lot of time on the court, he would be a shoe-in for that honor. He was barely seen last season, but as Hubert Davis looks to keep his players fresh for the full run, at least early on, you’d have to think more of the bench will get a chance to show their stuff.
Another split vote. Tyler Nickel and Seth Trimble lead with three votes each, showing that the freshmen have some hype behind them as they come into Chapel Hill. Word on both of them during practice has been impressive, and they are both in a better position than previous freshmen in that they get a year to practice and learn the system. If either get some heavy minutes late in the year, on a squad with the six we already know, then that would certainly qualify.
Max and Tanya went with Styles, and Akil doubled on his Dunn prediction. It’s telling no one has picked anyone of the top six, meaning we know what to expect out of them by now, even the newcomer in Pete Nance.
Most Minutes off the Bench
This was a pretty easy win for Puff. He was the sixth man last year and while more players should see increased playing time this season, it’s hard to picture anyone else leading besides him.
Unless you’re Douglas who thought that Styles would be the leader. His size, skill, and range certainly could result in him turning into the sixth man. The hidden part of this is that if Puff is hurt beyond the opener, Styles may end up with this by default
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Most Three Pointers
Another unanimous selection, Caleb Love for threeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.
Speaking of Caleb for three:
Best Win of the Season
I was the outlier here, which I’ll get to. The answers here, otherwise, are what you’d expect. Half of the staff feels like the Tar Heels will start Jon Scheyer’s career in Durham the same way they ended Coach K’s: with a win. The other half had it to where the best win is the ultimate prize: the national title. Really tough to argue with that.
I went with the PK 80 due to the way the field is built and how difficult Thanksgiving Tournaments are to win. Carolina is staring at a field with Michigan State, UConn, Oregon, and Villanova. In the early season when it’s tough to scout teams, plus having to go all the way out to Portland to play three games in four days would tell us a lot if they can take home this title. That said — yeah a natty would be the best win.
Worst Loss of the Season
This is the least fun category cause we all have to go into a dark place to figure out where the Tar Heels will stub their toes because they were looking ahead, got bored, or who knows what else. Every national title team had games like that.
Indiana had two votes, and in terms of where it is on the schedule you could see things going wrong in Bloomington. The game is just a couple of days after the Tar Heels leave Portland and they’ll have been away from home for over a week. If Indiana gets rolling with that raucous crowd, it’s pretty easy to see the time just throwing up their hands and letting it go. Next up was at FSU, which has been a house of horrors for the Tar Heels. Leonard Hamilton’s squad is always coached up, so that could be a tough place to win. A couple of us went with the game at Pitt, as the Capel brothers seem to take beating the Tar Heels personally. Arguably, their win in Chapel Hill last year is what launched the great run.
Akil was the only one to take a home game, Notre Dame, and he may be on to something. The game has an odd 11:30 start time and comes right before the trip to Charlottesville. Finally, Michael said that the 2-3 zone of Syracuse would cause problems for the Tar Heels. It’s the last game before their off weekend, so you could see them dozing a little.
Regular Season Record
With 31 games on the schedule this year, we all had them in the range of 26-5 or 27-4. There’s just too much talent on the squad to suffer a lot of losses, but we all know they’ll happen somewhere.
We agree with the ACC media in that they’ll take down the regular season title. They’ll have competition for sure, as the ACC is stronger than last season, but a squad that made the national championship game and returning almost everyone should take down the conference.
NCAA Tournament Seed
We all felt they’d get a one seed, I just called my shot with a 1 seed in the South as the regional is in Louisville. The East is in NYC, at Madison Square Garden, and while NYC is technically a little closer, I felt like their familiarity with Louisville would have them in prime position there.
NCAA Tournament Outcome
As Max said, “We’re all thinking it.” The only ones who didn’t specifically say the Tar Heels would cut the nets down in Houston were Akil — who is refusing to place a jinx on the squad, and Max who just wouldn’t actually say it out loud. It’s been a while since expectations were this high in Chapel Hill, here’s hoping they can meet them.