We’re roughly a month away from the start of basketball practice, assuming that the season starts on time. Last season didn’t go the way we wanted to, or expected it to with all the incoming talent both as freshmen and grad transfers. That 14-19 mark, led to a off-season of soul searching as one of college basketball’s premier programs isn’t used to being in the cellar of the ACC. But just as last season went the way nobody thought it would, this off-season has been the same way, due to COVID-19 restrictions. Nonetheless this is as important off-season as any since Roy Williams left Kansas to coach his alma mater.
Despite the many frustrations of last season, which was evident with both the players and the coaching staff, there was one bright spot. The play of Garrison Brooks. The rising senior from Lafayette,Alabama increased his scoring significantly and grew into the vocal leader we never thought he would be. The play of Brooks’ kept Carolina competitive as the losses mounted, and his play was good enough to earn him multiple All-ACC honors. To say his development came as a surprise would be an understatement, and it continues to prove how good this staff is at developing players that aren’t as gifted as others.
While there is an abundance of incoming talent coming in, with four McDonald’s All-Americans in the class Roy Williams brought in, there are still a lot of questions that need to be answered for the Tar Heel team. You know what to expect from Garrison Brooks, and to an extent Armando Bacot, but after that there’s a lot of potential but it’s unproven. One way to answer one of the many questions is to have a player breakout like the aforementioned Brooks’ did last season. We give our opinion of who that potentially could be:
This was the most obvious choice, because expectations were high for Bacot upon arriving on campus. The former 5 star big man from IMG Academy had his moments last season, where he proved that he belonged in the ACC. He recorded the second most double-doubles as a freshman in program history, which is saying something considering the players that have come through Chapel Hill. He recorded 9.6 points and 8.3 rebounds, while shooting 47% from the field. For him to be the breakout player, he needs to be more consistent night in, night out. Averaging a double-double will be difficult with the depth this team has on the interior, but it’s not out of the question. He’ll also need to be more efficient from both the field, and charity stripe to help carry the scoring load for the Tar Heels. One area he might be a boost, is his ability to protect the rim, which this team hasn’t had consistently the past couple of years. For that to happen, he’ll need to stay out of foul trouble which was issue during the ACC portion of the season last year. Regardless, Bacot is poised to take another step forward in his sophomore season. How much he improves just might determine how good this team is, as they look to bounce back from a disappointing season.
Harris might’ve broken out last season, had a second consecutive ACL injury ended his season early. Before suffering that unfortunate injury, Harris was starting to look like the spark plug the team needed during a long December of losing.In the 5 games he appeared in, he scored 34 points including 14 in a win over UCLA. His scoring was needed at the time as Carolina was hamstrung with multiple injuries in the back court. He averaged his 6.8 points, on 55% shooting, including 43% from three point territory. Harris displayed the ability to make outside jump shots, and to put the ball on the floor and get to rim and finish. This team needed that last year, and they’ll need it again this year. Carolina will be on their fourth point guard in as many years, and when your success is predicated on play from the floor general you need help from the supporting cast. Harris has the ability to run the offense when needed, but he’s best suited to be the wing-man that makes his job easier. While he’ll be working back from another major injury, Roy Williams is confident that Harris will be ready to go once the season starts, and more importantly be ready to contribute in a big way.
Armando Bacot and Anthony Harris might be more obvious candidates to break out, but Carolina might benefit more if Leaky Black takes his game to the next level. Black has struggled to stay healthy, and has battled becoming a consistent player in this conference, but had moments last year where it looked the game was slowing down for him. His season averages 6.5 points, 5.0 rebounds and 2.6 assists are disappointing, but what was more troublesome was his efficiency from the field, or lack thereof. Black shot only 36% from the field, 25% from deep, and 70% from the charity stripe. If he’s going to be a breakout player for this team, it’ll start with him being a more effective and efficient scorer of the basketball. Last year it felt like he settled too many times for a mid-range jump shots, that never seemed to find the bottom of the net. You’d love to see him use his length and strength to get to the rim, and plays for himself and his teammates. Being a better offensive player isn’t all that will help him take his game to another level. Upon arriving to Carolina, it was thought that Black would be the best perimeter defender on the team, and that simply hasn’t happened. He needs to commit to playing defense at a high level, as he’s too gifted a player to not be a force on both ends of the floor. Lastly you’d like to see him become a more reliable play maker, as his height makes it easier to see over defenders. There’s a lot that Black needs to improve on to take a leap, but he has possess the talent to do so.