The 2019-20 college basketball season tips off in a big way for #9 North Carolina. The Heels enter the season with as many injuries as they do questions. Gone are first round picks Coby White, Nassir Little and Cameron Johnson, along with ACC veterans Luke Maye and Kenny Williams. The good news is that Carolina retooled with multiple 5 star recruits in Cole Anthony and Armando Bacot, plus 2 coveted grad transfers. The problem is that Carolina has all these new faces to incorporate, against top tier competition starting tonight.
Notre Dame is hoping to improve off of last years 14-19 (3-15) record. The good news is that they return almost everybody from a season ago, most notably John Mooney who averaged a double double last season. Mike Brey is a underrated coach not only in the ACC but in all of college basketball, and he'll be eager to get this program back to competing at a high level. The problems they cause is that they know how to space the floor very well, and have snipers on the wing that can let it fly from 3.
There is so much uncertainty regarding this Carolina Basketball team, that it feels good to get the season going, as they try to answer the endless questions about this group. The Heels will be without 4 players to start the season, as the depth will be tested early. Here are the three things to watch against the Fighting Irish:
1. Backup Point Guard Play: The Tar Heels will be confident when Cole Anthony is on the floor leading the team, it's what happens when he rests that might make the coaching staff uneasy. Anthony Harris and Jeremiah Francis are both rehabbing from injuries suffered in high school. Leaky Black figures to see some time at the point guard position, but he already has some many other roles you wonder how comfortable he'll be. This opens the door for junior Andrew Platek to carve out a role for this year, Platek is a scrappy guard from New York (Frank McGuire would've loved him) who was recruited for his ability to shoot the 3.
2. Christian Keeling & Justin Pierce: Both of these guys transferred here to play for a big time program, and play on the national stage every night. They get their first taste of that against Notre Dame whom Pierce had is final three. With the losses on the perimeter from last season, and the injuries, all of a sudden both are being counted on to contribute at a high level. It'll be interesting to see how they handle the step up in competition, and if they succeed at the things they did in smaller conferences.
3. Post Presence: With the addition of Armando Bacot it appears that Roy Williams is returning to his traditional 2 post players in the lineup, after playing small ball the last two seasons. This is especially important as they have to find a way to contain Mooney on both ends of the floor. Mooney had 19 rebounds last season, including 16 on the defensive end. With a injury to Sterling Manley, the backup post players are Walker Miller and Brandon Huffman, with limited depth on the perimeter both figure to play and will need to impact the game in a positive way.
Carolina leads the all time series against the Fighting Irish 24-7, including 8-3 since Notre Dame joined the conference. Carolina won the only time the two met last season, a 75-69 in the Smith Center. This is the first time Carolina has opened the season against an ACC opponent since the 1966-67 season. Carolina is 15-1 under Roy Williams in season openers, and 11-5 in ACC openers.
TV Info: Tonight‘s game will be televised on the new ACC Network with a 7 pm tip time.
(Photo courtesy of springhopeenterprise.com)