CHARLOTTE, N.C. –– North Carolina vets Armando Bacot and RJ Davis showed face alongside head coach Hubert Davis at ACC Tipoff Wednesday in uptown Charlotte.
The trio met with media members and representatives from all the ACC schools in advance of the fast-approaching season. They participated in a mini press conference and then split into breakout rooms for individualized interviews.
Coming in at No. 19 in the AP Preseason Poll, the Tar Heels have a lot to prove after a disastrous ending to last season where they didn’t even make it to the NCAA tournament.
“Last year, we didn’t do a good job of competing at a high level every night,” big man Armando Bacot told the media at the event. “But from what I’ve seen so far, all the guys love to compete every day. Everything in practice is a bloodbath so it’s really encouraging.”
Over the course of the past six months, the team has endured some heavy player and personnel changes, including the exodus of nine players – seven of whom entered the transfer portal.
UNC sought to fill the void by diving into the portal themselves, bringing in guard Paxon Wojcik from Brown.
Louisville forward Jae’Lyn Withers also announced his decision to join the Tar Heels with two years of eligibility remaining.
On April 22nd, the team received another portal commitment from Stanford wing Harrison Ingram who was named the 2022 Pac-12 Freshman of the Year.
The program also received commitments from former Notre Dame guard Cormac Ryan and James Okonkwo. They supplemented those additions with freshmen Zayden High and Elliot Cadeau, who reclassified from the class of 2024.
With new weaponry in the toolbox it will be interesting to see how this team will fare, especially as they go farther in the season where they face higher-ranked opponents in No.2-ranked Duke, No.6-ranked UConn, No.9-ranked Tennessee and No.13-ranked Miami.
But if last season is any indicator, preseason rankings don’t mean much. The Tar Heels were ranked No.1 heading into last year, yet finished their season 20-13 (11-9 ACC).
It’s safe to say 2022-23 didn’t look like Carolina basketball, but this season they have the potential to return the program to its former blue-blooded glory and win a natty.
“I thought it was fair,” Bacot answered when I asked him about the ranking. “I don’t put too much stock into preseason anything because last year I was projected preseason player of the year. I didn’t win it. We were the number one team in the country and didn’t win anything. When has the number one team preseason ever really won a championship that same year.”
He definitely hit some major points, hinting at the struggles and lapses that plagued the group last year. But there’s something unique about this year’s team. I can’t put my finger on it yet, but that hunger is there. It feels different.
“I think it’s our competitive edge,” Bacot said. “I think since I’ve been here, this is the closest I’ve been with teammates. I think we get along great. Me and RJ have been doing a good job of doing things that bring us together, whether that’s traveling to the beach and having fun or just doing extracurricular activities.”
North Carolina is projected to finish third in the ACC per voting by members of the media corps who finalized their decision during the event. Ahead of them were Duke and Miami, with the Blue Devils receiving 44 first-place votes and the Hurricanes receiving 5 out of 51 total voters.
The Tar Heels will kick off the action with an exhibition game in Dean Dome Friday night against St. Augustine’s at 7:30 p.m.