Yesterday afternoon, Leaky Black and Armando Bacot got to speak with the media ahead of their Senior night matchup this Saturday against Duke. During both of their interviews, the two players addressed the struggles that this team had for most of the season, and also discussed what they think changed in their two wins against Virginia and Florida State.
Armando said they had a hangover from last season and with the No. 1 ranking they’d win games but learned early on that wasn’t the case.— Tar Heel Illustrated (@HeelIllustrated) March 2, 2023
Leaky said they were tight earlier in the season and for much of the season. “With our backs against the wall now, we’re playing more stress free now.”— Tar Heel Illustrated (@HeelIllustrated) March 2, 2023
The Tar Heels were under the extremely bright college basketball spotlight to start the season, and if we are to buy into what Black and Bacot are saying, it appears that said spotlight caused a lot of issues when it came to this team playing to their full potential. Both players mentioned playing tight for most of the season, which is a bit concerning considering the fact that Carolina basketball always has Final Four expectations every single season. Is it likely that the pressure they felt was a more real, borderline unfair pressure because of what happened in 2016-17? Yes, but also it’s quite a head-scratcher that it took 11 losses to “loosen up.”
In the newest episode of the What in Tar Nation podcast, Tanya Anderson and Julius Emanuel had a lot of thoughts about Bacot and Black’s comments, particularly that they aren’t buying what the two players are saying. You can listen to that conversation using the links below:
For me personally, I think this team has had a lot of issues that have contributed to their struggles. For now, those issues seem null and void going into Saturday’s game against Duke, but the results of that game will tell us a lot about what hope the Heels even have of making it back to the NCAA Tournament. They will likely not only need a win against the Blue Devils, but to win a few games in the ACC Tournament as well. There is also still a chance that they will be able to resurrection a couple of additional Quad 1 wins from the grave if Michigan and Ohio State finish their conference seasons out strong, which truly highlights just how broken the NCAA NET rankings system is. Still, let’s hope the broken system works in the Heels’ favor before Selection Sunday arrives.