After a flurry of announcements coming out of the Smith Center that players were leaving, including the latest one today from Puff Johnson, one player decided to release an announcement that he was staying.
Armando Bacot, long thought to be playing his last year in Chapel Hill up until the end of the season, made it official on Wednesday that he will use the extra season granted to him thanks to the 2020 COVID pandemic and suit up for the Tar Heels.
BREAKING: North Carolina big man Armando Bacot is returning to Chapel Hill for another season, he tells @Stadium.— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanHoops) March 22, 2023
“I’m using my last year of eligibility.” Bacot said. “I felt it was the right decision for my future.”
Bacot averaged 15.9 points and 10.4 boards.
As the 2023 season wound down, despite participating in Senior Night, Bacot wouldn’t definitively say that this season in Chapel Hill would be his last. It was clear that he, along with Leaky Black, RJ Davis, and Caleb Love, all returned with the hopes of finishing the job of winning the national title. It was Bacot’s last ankle injury in the title game that might have cost them that championship, and the feeling was that his returning would get them over the top.
Bacot was named a preseason All-American and ACC Player of the Year, but it was clear early on that the season wasn’t going to shape up the way many thought it would. Injured during the 4OT Alabama game, he was hurt worse against Indiana, and missed the game against Virginia Tech. The result for all of these games ended up being losses for the Heels. He would then hurt his ankle in the opening minute against Virginia in Charlottesville —another loss, and fittingly, he hurt his ankle in the opening ACC round win to Boston College. He was limited against Virginia in their final game of the season.
At that point it was clear that Bacot wasn’t going to win all of the honors many thought he would. Defenses took advantage of Carolina’s poor shooting and heavily defended Bacot down low, limiting his impact as the season wore on. He still earned third-team All-American honors and did make first-team All ACC.
A return to Chapel Hill marks one more chance for Bacot to get the honors that will allow his jersey to be raised to the rafters, as well as put several UNC records out of reach. That said, it’s pretty clear the team around Bacot will look drastically different, whether or not that’ll be a help to him at this point is unknown. That said, after all of the departures, having someone as steady as Bacot coming back creates a great base for the Tar Heels next season.
At the very least, having someone with a sense of humor will help. Bacot confirmed the news with one of the most self-aware tweets you could have:
Don’t discount the effect Bacot will have on getting people in from the transfer portal, either. Bacot has always taken an active part in landing recruits for multiple teams, and with this being his last chance to take home hardware, there’s no reason to think that he will slow down. With the holes appearing on the roster, every bit of help will be needed.