With Anthony likely entering the NBA Draft, Caleb Love is the early favorite to earn the starting point guard spot. The No. 17 recruit in ESPN's rankings, he is known as an aggressive scorer and has shown flashes of being a potent playmaker as well.
Skipping ahead to the front court, the Tar Heels should have one of the deepest big-man rotations in the country. With four highly-touted big men on the roster, head coach Roy Williams will always have two of them playing at full energy. Garrison Brooks figures to be a lock for a starting position, especially after being named to the All-ACC Second Team.
The other starting frontcourt member will be a three-man competition between incumbent starter Armando Bacot and top-15 recruits Day’Ron Sharpe and Walker Kessler. Bacot showed flashes in his first season by averaging 9.6 points and 8.3 rebounds.
Sharpe’s game is similar to Bacot’s, as his 6-foot-9, 225-pound frame allows him to dominate inside. Kessler, at 6-foot-11, can comfortably step out to the three-point line and knock down jumpers. Expect Bacot’s experience to earn him the starting role early in the season.
Predicting the wings is also complicated, but this group will ultimately dictate how successful UNC can be next season. Leaky Black is a Swiss Army knife for the Tar Heels and is one of the team’s best on-ball defenders, likely locking him into a starting spot.
At shooting guard, there are a few candidates that can assume this position. The favorite figures to be rising sophomore Anthony Harris, who thrived in limited minutes before tearing his ACL last season. With Harris' health an unknown, though, incoming first-year R.J. Davis could also step into the role. He averaged 26.5 points and 5.3 assists per game in his senior season, and won the heralded New York Mr. Basketball award.
Another possibility would be to move Black to shooting guard and start first-year Puff Johnson at the other wing. Johnson is the younger brother of former Tar Heel Cameron Johnson, and looks to have much of the latter's shooting prowess.
With injuries hampering the depth of last year’s team, this year’s bench has the chance to be different.
The reserve front court will feature two starting-caliber players on most teams. Early signs point to Sharpe and Kessler handling those duties.
Rising sophomore Jeremiah Francis looked comfortable running an up-tempo Carolina offense during the brief stint when he was fully healthy. Barring any injury setbacks, he should be ready to handle that backup role once again in the fall. In addition, returning senior Andrew Platek can use the experience he gained last season to fill in on the wing when called upon.
The bottom line
Despite all of the troubles the team faced last season, the program’s rich history suggests that “down seasons” are mere anomalies. The last time UNC had a season like 2020 was in 2010, which was followed by a tremendous recruiting class that made the Tar Heels title contenders once again. This class has the chance to restore the hope like its predecessors did 10 years earlier.
Each season begins with a new slate, and once Late Night with Roy rolls around, the six national championship banners that shine in the Dean Dome will illuminate a promise for greater days ahead.
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