Updated: Jan 5
In a blowout loss to Ohio State on Wednesday night, the Tar Heels lost one of the biggest pieces of this already struggling team when big man Armando Bacot went down midway through the first half. He appeared to sustain a left ankle injury, one that was later confirmed by head coach Roy Williams in his postgame press conference. Bacot had to be helped off the floor by teammates Walker Miller and Brandon Huffman, putting no weight on the left leg on the way back to the locker room. He would not return to the game and all indications were pointing to the Tar Heel big man being on the shelf for an extended period of time. An interesting update, however, was posted earlier today on Facebook today by Bacot’s mother, Christie Ann Lomax, updating his status.
Even with this positive twist, it appears evident that Bacot will miss at least a small period of time. The pressure is now squarely on both Garrison Brooks and Justin Pierce to cover the production that Bacot leaves behind. Brooks has had another strong season defensively for the Tar Heels, but has struggled to be consistent on the offensive end. The Tar Heels will hope to see an increase in his scoring (12.3) and rebounding (8.1) numbers to help accommodate the loss. For Pierce, you would like to see him build on his rebounding number (5.5), but more importantly become more of a scoring threat than he’s been so far this season. With Pierce on the floor, the interior presence won’t be as strong as with Bacot on the floor, but he can stretch the floor more than Bacot could. The problem is, he is shooting just 35.8% from the field and 26.1% from beyond the arc. The Tar Heels will need some of those shots to start falling with Pierce now having to likely step into the starting lineup. Depth big men Brandon Huffman and Walker Miller will have to be prepared to play more extensive roles, especially late in halves and if Brooks or Pierce get in foul trouble. The Tar Heels could also look to go with smaller lineups that could involve Pierce at the 5.
The good news is that Bacot’s injury doesn’t seem as bad as it did originally, but he will still miss some time recovering. That puts the pressure on the rest of this team to step up in his absence on both ends of the floor, a task tougher said than done, especially with the struggles the rest of the team has had on the offensive end. Unfortunately, there won’t be much time to adjust, as the Tar Heels have to prepare for the top ranked defensive team in the country, Virginia, who they will face in Charlottesville on Sunday.
On Friday afternoon in his press conference prior to the Virginia game, head coach Roy Williams addressed the situation. “99.9999 (percent sure) that he will not play,” Williams said Friday at the Smith Center. “He is walking, he’s not on crutches. It ballooned up, it was big, so I just don’t see anyway in the world he will play.” Coach Williams did not address the situation any meaning that the Tar Heels are without the big man for an indefinite period of time. The Tar Heels face Virginia on Sunday in Charlottesville before a week off ahead of the next Sunday’s game against Wofford that will take place in Carmichael Arena due to a previously scheduled event in the Smith Center.
According to Inside Carolina‘s Ross Martin, Bacot was dressed in the team’s shoot around and had no ankle support prior to today‘s 4:00 tip of against Virginia. The basketball program has since confirmed that Bacot will go through warm ups to test the ankle and ultimately his status will be determined at the conclusion of warm ups.
Armando Bacot will start today against Virginia.