It will be hard to top what North Carolina junior guards RJ Davis and Caleb Love did in the NCAA Tournament last season. But with both coming back for another season under head coach Hubert Davis, there are plenty of reasons to be excited about the team's dynamic backcourt.
Davis and Love entered last year coming off promising, albeit inconsistent first seasons at UNC. Due to a lack of depth at the position, the pair were essentially the only guards in the rotation for the entire 2021-2022 season.
While the two were very productive last season, more depth should be available for Hubert Davis this year, with returning sophomore D’Marco Dunn and first-year guard Seth Trimble looking to make an impact.
Here’s a look at the roles each of the four scholarship guards should have for the Tar Heels this season.
The clutch shot in the waning moments of the Final Four game against Duke likely cemented Love’s legacy in Chapel Hill, but in the rest of the 39 games he appeared in during his sophomore year, Love put together a much better season than his first.
Love raised his scoring by over five points per game. More importantly, he was able to dramatically improve his three-point shooting — converting 36 percent of his triples in year two compared to under 27 percent in year one — and reduced his turnovers while maintaining his assist rate.
This year, Love will look to improve his finishing at the rim — he only shot 48.8 percent there last season — and continue to make strides defensively. With a large offensive role once again, Love will be heavily responsible for trying to get the Tar Heels back to the national championship game
Davis enjoyed a stellar sophomore campaign, and with another year of development he should be in line for even more success in his junior year.
The New York native is coming off a season where he averaged 13.5 points, 3.6 assists and just over four rebounds per game. Crucially, Davis raised his three-point efficiency from his first year in the program, going from 32.3 percent in as a first-year to 36.7 percent last season, while also taking 4.6 attempts from deep per game as opposed to 3.4 per game last year.
Davis was electric down the stretch as a primary ball handler, setting a career-high in assists with 12 against Marquette in the first round of the NCAA Tournament and following it up with a career-high 30 points in a chaotic upset over top-seeded Baylor.
He will likely have a similar role in splitting lead ball handler duties with Love this year, and should factor heavily into UNC’s offensive plans as both a high-level shooter and a primary facilitator for the offense.
Despite playing sparingly last season — with his longest appearance topping off at 11 minutes against Boston College — but with a full offseason to develop his game, there is reason to believe the former consensus four-star prospect will have a bigger role in UNC's team this season.
Dunn was widely seen as a good shooter coming into college, and his defensive versatility and long wingspan allow him to guard taller players than his 6-foot-5 height would indicate. Considering those strengths, an ideal role for Dunn will probably consist of backing up Davis and Love and being a two-guard that primarily plays off the ball offensively.
Trimble comes into the UNC program as a consensus four-star prospect out of Wisconsin. While finding consistent playing time may be difficult as a first-year, Trimble has a ton of potential as a primary ball handler due to his burst, playmaking and developing shot.
The 6-foot-3 guard won a gold medal as part of the USA’s U18 National Team in the 2022 FIBA U18 America’s Championship, and will look to continue that success as he joins the already loaded backcourt in Chapel Hill.
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