With UNC opting not to participate in the NIT, the college basketball season is officially over for Tar Heel fans (except to root for Duke and NC State to lose in the NCAA Tournament). The focus for Hubert Davis and his staff will turn to the transfer portal, which opened on Monday. There are two things to look out for: incomings and outgoings.
It’s a new facet of college basketball for fans to monitor. For all the excitement of a Brady Manek or Pete Nance coming in, there’s always the sting of a Walker Kessler or Kerwin Walton leaving. But since the portal is a part of the competitive landscape, Tar Heel fans had better embrace it, because it can make or break a team.
Here are the players that have some business decisions to make for next season, starting with the seniors and juniors. In the next post later today we’ll look at the sophomores and freshmen.
- Justin McKoy: (Entered the transfer portal on Monday) The Virginia transfer saw a decline in games played (30 last season, only 11 this season) and total minutes (209 to 59). That’s a pretty precipitous drop. Hubert Davis doesn’t play a long bench, but that’s... drastic. His entrance into the portal is not a surprise.
- Armando Bacot: An interesting dilemma. Armando Bacot has seen stunning highs and staggering lows during his four years at Carolina. He has achieved individual excellence, setting school records for rebounds and double-doubles. Expectations for this season may have been misplaced, but UNC should have been a Tournament team, so his senior year will feel like a let down.
So why come back? As Fitzgerald pointed out, you cannot recreate the past. This season reinforces that fact, but you can create a new way forward. Bacot, when healthy, is a singular force in college basketball. If he can heal his ankles and shoulders and give it one more go, this time surrounded by capable shooters, who would stop him?
Also, he could potentially earn more money from his NIL deals (I am currently typing this post in a pair of Crocs I bought after learning that Armando became a spokesperson for the sandal brand) than in the NBA, as he is not currently projected to be drafted in the latest mocks. This is a decision to monitor closely.
- Puff Johnson: Puff saw an increase in games played (24 to 27), minutes per game (10.4 to 15.9) and points per game (3.1 to... 4.1). If Puff is not pleased with the minutes he’s received this season, he only really has himself to blame. His rebounding only climbed from 2.0 to 2.7 per game, not enough with the increased floor time. His shooting also suffered from the floor and free throw line, although his 3-point percentage climbed, but only to 28.3%, hardly striking Hubert Davis with confidence.
Puff has suffered from injuries since his arrival to Chapel Hill and missed time this season with knee soreness. If he needs surgery or an extended period of rest, it might be beneficial to his basketball career in the long run. Transferring and starting all over at another school, where he would have to compete for playing time immediately, is probably not the best move at this time. I’d expect him to stay and hopefully he can stabilize the wing and power forward depth.
- RJ Davis: What have his dislocated fingers cost us??!! RJ had been on a serious run of form to close out the season, hitting 53.3% of his 3-pointers in the final five games of the season, coinciding with him removing finger-wraps on his shooting hand.
I don’t expect RJ to seriously consider leaving. Too small to be a serious NBA threat as an early-entrant and too trusted by Hubert Davis to be benched, RJ is in that sweet spot where a return all but guarantees plenty of minutes and shots. That’s not a bad thing for him or Carolina.
If RJ Davis decides to come back, he has a good shot at being preseason first team All-ACC. He played one of his best games tonight and was robbed of a special season due to the finger injury.— Michael Koh (@michaelkohwchl) March 10, 2023
- Creighton Lebo: Dude ain’t going nowhere. We can chill.
- Caleb Love: Unfortunately, this one looks like it could end sadly for all parties involved.
Online hate and frustration over this season have boiled over, and although every player and coach contributed to Carolina’s shortcomings, most of the dissatisfaction was focused on Caleb. Yesterday, he essentially cleared out his Instagram profile of anything UNC related and closed his Twitter account:
Caleb Love has archived most of his posts and changed his profile picture to an inspirational quote. To me, I have a feeling that he’s overwhelmed by all the hate. pic.twitter.com/hmnbq5Nnvy— Unc Zone (@ZoneUnc) March 13, 2023
If Caleb leaves either to turn pro or transfer (there are rumors of Mizzou in the mix, Caleb is from St. Louis) I’ll understand. It’s probably best for all parties involved for him to get a fresh start somewhere else. Caleb was perhaps an odd fit at Carolina, but he will forever be burned in my mind for the lasting memory of this iconic picture:
We’ll look at the sophomores and freshmen in our next post. Early spoiler, Tyler Nickel is already in the transfer portal. Hold on to your butts.