Part of rebuilding the roster for the 20129-20 season was wanting to get back to playing with 2 bigs on a more consistent basis. The last 2 years of small ball had landed results, but bigger teams had their way with Carolina in the NCAA tournament. That decision was in part made by incoming freshman Armando Bacot, a 5 star big man from IMG Academy in Florida. In high school Bacot made a name for himself by running the floor, and finishing around the rim. The prototypical Roy Williams big man was expected to produce right away.
A lot like his classmate Cole Anthony, Bacot made a name for himself in that win over Notre Dame to start the 2019-20 campaign. He only scored 7 points, but he made an impact on the game, and looked the part. The following game, he left less than 3 minutes into the game, after suffering a head injury. He came back to record his first double-double against Gardner-Webb. It would start a streak of 3 consecutive such games, as he recorded 22 & 14 against Elon, and 12 & 15 against Alabama in the Battle 4 Atlantis. 2 games later, he had another double-double against Oregon, recording 23 & 12. He averaged 11.7 ppg & 9.5 rpg in the first month of the season.
In the first game of December, Bacot suffered a nasty ankle injury in the process of a blowout loss to Ohio State. His status for the Virginia game was up in the air, but Bacot showed his toughness and played through the injury. He scored 11 points in the second consecutive defeat. In the loss to Wofford, he scored 8 points & grabbed 13 rebounds continuing to produce despite the struggles of the team. In the win over UCLA, Bacot recorded another double-double, putting him on pace to challenge the all time for freshmen.
Once the calendar turned to a new year, the competition was going to heat up as conference play got into full swing. After a disappoint effort and loss to Georgia Tech, Bacot rebounded with 15 in a loss to Pittsburgh, and 21 in a loss to Clemson. He recorded another double-double in a loss to Pittsburgh. The team finally snapped a 5 game losing streak against Miami, where Bacot once again recorded another double-double. He followed that up with another big performance at NC State, as the team was starting to show signs of life.
Carolina lost 7 straight games to start the month of February, as the team struggled to adjust to the return of Cole Anthony. One of the players that struggled was Bacot, who only recorded one double-double during the losing streak. It appeared that he hit the freshman wall, and it came at a bad time. Bacot was struggling to finish around the rim, and through contact in general. He also started having lapses defensively. Even when the team snapped the losing streak, Bacot wasn’t a huge part of the winning. He only totaled 3 points in the win over NC State, and 3 points in the win over Syracuse, as Roy Williams played Justin Pierce over him.
March was going to decide the fate of the season, and having won back to back games, there was optimism they could make a run in the ACC Tournament. Bacot missed the Senior Night win over Wake Forest, after suffering an ankle injury against Syracuse. In the season finale at Duke, Bacot recorded another double-double, but his foul trouble limited the impact he could've had, in the loss. He followed that up with another big game against Virginia Tech, in the opening round of the ACC Tournament. In what would be the season ending loss to Syracuse, Bacot totaled 8 points and 7 rebounds, and in the post game announced his intentions to return for his sophomore season.
There were times that Bacot showed flashes of the 5 star player he was coming out of high school. Despite that there are areas for him to improve heading into his sophomore season. He needs to be stronger, so that he can finish through contact more often. He also needs to develop a respectable mid range jump shot. In addition to those two areas, he needs to run the floor much better, and be a better team and individual defender. If he can come back after the summer with an improved game, he and Brooks can lead the team back to the top of the ACC.