Yesterday officially marked the beginning of practice for Carolina Basketball, and college basketball in general after the NCAA voted to push the start of the season back, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s been as unusual an off-season as ever, which followed a rare down year for Roy Williams, and the Tar Heels. Last year’s 14-19 record was the first losing season in Williams’ college coaching career, as the team made a lot of history but not in a good way. Which puts a lot more pressure on the team this year to rebound, and prove that last was fluke, and that 14-19 is now the new normal. Due to the ongoing crisis, Carolina hasn’t had the usual summer they usually have before the start of practice begins. No pick up games with the former players now in the pros, where most of the time the player development is actually noticeable, and happens. Which puts more importance on the roughly 6 weeks of practice before the season begins in November. Here are three things Carolina needs to accomplish before they tip-off the 2020 season:
Develop Back Court Depth: In an ideal world, the injuries that plagued the team last season won’t happen again, but this isn’t an ideal world, and anything is possible in 2020. Carolina has a lot of pieces in the backcourt that could be a big part of the team this season. Gone are Cole Anthony, Brandon Robinson and Christian Keeling that at times all played a pivotal role in the limited success experienced last season. Returners with experience are K.J. Smith, Andrew Platek and Anthony Harris, who is recovering from an ACL injury. Roy Williams brought in a lot of talent in the backcourt with Caleb Love, R.J. Davis, Puff Johnson and Kerwin Walton. That gives Carolina a lot of pieces to work with, but they need to establish reliable depth, and a rotation. Caleb Love is set to take over the point guard, making it the fourth floor leader in as many years. But who’s the backup? At shooting guard Anthony Harris is the easy choice, but he’s working back from injury. Freshmen are going to play a big role on this team, so it’s imperative that they pick up the Carolina system as quickly as possible.
Interior Rotation: Depth isn’t an issue in the post, as Garrison Brooks and Armando Bacot return. Brooks will be a consensus pre-season All-ACC and All-America selection after a breakout junior season. Bacot is a former 5 star prospect, who possess the talent to be a force in the ACC, and the country. In addition to those two, Roy Williams brought in highly touted recruits in Day’Ron Sharpe and Walker Kessler. Sharpe is an old-school style big man, while Kessler is your modern day stretch big. It’s not a guarantee that Bacot starts, as both Sharpe and Kessler will push him for starting minutes. How does Roy Williams divide up the minutes? He usually has an entire non-conference schedule to tinker with lineups, but with a limited non-conference slate, he’ll need to have an idea before the season starts.
Install Confidence in Leaky Black: Carolina may have Garrison Brooks returning, and as talented a recruiting class in some time but the potential success of this team may hinge on junior forward Leaky Black. When Black committed to Carolina, we thought we were getting another do it all, Theo Pinson type of player. In his first two seasons, that hasn’t happened for a variety of reasons. Leaky hasn’t been healthy since arriving in Chapel Hill, but his confidence hasn’t been there either. Carolina needs the best version of Leaky for this team to return to the top of the ACC pecking order. He hasn’t been shy to put his time in the gym on social media, so his commitment to the game is still there. All that is missing is confidence to play the game at a high level on both ends of the court, because he’s the type of guy that impacts the game in many different ways.
Carolina still hasn’t released an official non-conference schedule as of this time, and the ACC is still finalizing their league schedule. Make sure to stay locked in on the Heel Tough Blog for the latest around Carolina Basketball.