The start of the 2022-23 college basketball season is still many months away, but that doesn't mean we can’t have any fun projecting towards what figures to be an exciting season in Chapel Hill. The Tar Heels return four starters from last year’s team which fell short in the national championship game, along with both primary bench players and a crop of four, very talented, diverse freshmen. Add in the recent acquisition of Pete Nance via the transfer portal, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find a team with more experienced depth, and youthful talent than Carolina, and that’s a big reason why they are favorites to not only get back to the Final Four but win the national championship.
Given that UNC is returning four starters from last season in Caleb Love, R.J. Davis, Leaky Black, and Armando Bacot, it is safe to assume that they will preserve their roles as starters from last season. Who fills in for the now-departed Brady Manek is the question, Hubert Davis and his staff are tasked with answering. It likely comes down to newly minted Tar Heel, Pete Nance, redshirt sophomore Puff Johnson, or sophomore Dontrez Stylez. Nance who will be entering his fifth season of college basketball, adds even more experience to an already experienced group and is a versatile scoring option, both on the block, and on the perimeter. Puff Johnson made great strides during the second half of last season and had UNC taken down Kansas, he would’ve been the unsung hero of the national title game. Styles displayed last season even as a freshman that his body was ready to play with the best that college basketball has to offer and that he wasn’t afraid of the stage. Case in point, he made a 3 in the early moments of overtime against Baylor that restored some confidence in the team, as they went on to upset the #1 seed in their backyard.
There’s still a long way to go before Davis determines his starting 5, but early implications point to Pete Nance taking over for Brady Manek. He’s the same size as Manek (6-10), and last season shot an impressive 45% from behind the three-point line. He also adds another post presence, something that UNC lacked last season, with Manek on the perimeter, and Dawson Garcia never really finding a home before eventually leaving the program. Nance may allow Davis to play a more traditional version of Carolina Basketball, as opposed to playing 4 around 1 like last season, UNC could deploy a 3 around 2 offense this season. Also, the addition of Nance, means Carolina can still attack defenses with their high-low passing attack between him and Bacot, making it that much harder to defend UNC in the half-court. Nonetheless, no matter who steps in the starting lineup, the Tar Heels figure to be one of the best, more efficient offenses in all of college basketball next season.
Make sure to stay tuned to the Heel Tough Blog, for the latest news around the Carolina Basketball program.
The Four Corners Podcast: