The college basketball season starts next week, as one of the more anticipated seasons in the sport is ready to tip-off. Not only is there anxiousness and excitement for the entire sport but there’s a heightened sense of both in Chapel Hill as the Hubert Davis Era gets underway. Upon his hiring, Davis made it known that Carolina is going to play a more modern style of basketball that emphasizes more floor spacing, and perimeter shot making. The change in philosophy is most welcomed by the guards on the roster, as the changes should make the game easier for the guards, making them more efficient and effective. With the return of the young core from last season back in Chapel Hill, the Tar Heels are poised for a big season for the first time head coach:
Love experienced the normal growing pains of a freshman point guard playing for Roy Williams last season. Factor in a global pandemic that changed the entire way a team prepares for a game, and it’s no wonder Love struggled at times a season ago. Now Love has the benefit of playing in a system that will only maximize his strengths and should allow him to play to the level of his five-star ranking coming out of high school. His entire off-season was based around being more efficient from the field and limiting his turnovers, both important keys for this team to be successful this season. He’s also been challenged to be a better individual and team defender, as his role as floor leader won’t be lessened in the coaching transition. Love was picked as a second team All-ACC in the preseason, if he takes his game to the next level, we will be talking about him as a first team All-ACC, and a potential Cousy Award winner.
Love’s backcourt mate is also going to benefit from the change in philosophy, even though his summer was spent improving his efficiency, and decision making just like Love. With that in mind, there were times that he looked more comfortable at times, more so than Love, and he is more than capable of becoming a household name in the ACC this year. The freelance style of play should make him more comfortable when he’s running the offense, as opposed to last year having to make sure the ball entered the post consistently. Davis will look to build off of his performance in the ACC Tournament, where he arguably played his best basketball of the 2020-21 season. Defensively, Davis played with an edge you’d expect from a guy coming out of New Jersey, but he has been challenged to be an even better on-ball defender this season.
The biggest surprise of last season was the emergence of Kerwin Walton, who entered as the lowest ranked recruit in last season’s loaded class, but emerged as a starter during ACC play. Walton shot over 40% from behind the arc and was the only reliable perimeter shooter for Carolina a season ago. While he doesn’t expect to shoulder the entire load from the outside this season, Walton has been tasked with expanding his offensive arsenal. Walton spent the summer, working on attacking off the dribble, and finishing at the rim. His refined offensive game should make it harder to defend not only him but the other guys on the floor, as well. Whatever Walton gives you defensively is a bonus, as his best trait is to put the ball in the basket, something Tar Heel fans and coaches expect him to do quite frequently this season.
If Harris is fully healthy we may see the player we thought we were getting back in 2019-20, when he arrived in Chapel Hill. Nonetheless, Harris has brought great energy and an edge defensively which this team needs. Unlike with Kerwin Walton, whatever Harris gives you offensively will be considered an addition, as he hasn’t proven to be a quality offensive player. With that in mind, his role will be to run the offense as constructed, and score when the opportunities present themselves.
Dunn is believed to be the furthest behind the incoming freshmen class, which just consists of him and Dontrez Styles. He has some work to do on his body as he adjusts to the level of competition in the ACC, but Dunn is going to be a productive player for Carolina in the years to come. His role this season will be limited, so he will need to make the most out of his opportunities especially in the non-conference portion of the season. If he does that, he will be primed to be a contributor in 2022-23.