The decorated big man is back for his fifth year.
Plenty has happened so far during the Tar Heels’ offseason. The latest news was D’Marco Dunn’s decision to enter the transfer portal, marking the seventh player to do so. With three open scholarships now, the roster is likely not set in stone. Thus, we’ll tip off the summer player previews with the most familiar face and a guy we know will be ready to go come November: Armando Bacot.
Given the struggles the program has endured since he got there, Bacot deserves a lot of credit for being a rock, not only with his play on the court but also with his commitment to the university. He’s a guy who loves this school and will do whatever it takes to win. We are lucky to get one more ride with Mando.
Bacot is one of just four players now (RJ Davis, Seth Trimble, Jalen Washington) that will be returning from last year’s team. It’s been quite the overhaul but Carolina is fortunate to have consistent performers like Bacot and Davis to build around. Despite dealing with injuries, Bacot was once again arguably the most dependable player start to finish. The Heels’ inability to truly space the floor made life more difficult than usual for him. That could very well improve with the new-look roster.
Bacot averaged 15.9 points, 10.4 rebounds, and 1.0 blocks last season while shooting 55.4% from the field and 66.5% from the free throw line. Due mainly to the presence of Pete Nance, his rebounding numbers dropped from a ridiculous 13.1 as a junior. The fact that he hauled in nearly three less boards a game and still averaged a double-double tells you everything you need to know about Bacot.
Many of the Heels’ struggles last year were in spite of Bacot. Shot selection was certainly an issue at times, but there were enough open looks, they just couldn’t knock them down. Those open looks were often created by Bacot and the massive amounts of attention he received in the paint. He has pretty much always seen double teams but what he saw last season was a different animal. Once teams figured out that Carolina’s poor shooting wasn’t going to improve, they really packed it in. There were instances when the Heels were trying to initiate offense with four, even five guys with a foot in the paint.
Despite it all, Bacot was still a dominant force in the ACC. The extra attention forced him to find more creative ways to score the ball. When given enough time and space to make a play, he is still among the best big men in college basketball. Aforementioned injuries hampered Bacot at times, and arguably cost the Heels’ some important games, but he’s extremely tough to stop when 100%.
The Tar Heels’ incoming transfers will hopefully offer some relief for Bacot. Hubert Davis has largely targeted wings who can shoot, bringing in guys like Cormac Ryan and Jae’Lyn Withers in an effort to space the floor a little more. If those guys can knock down open shots, it will allow Bacot more room to work. Despite there being so many new faces, the experience of this roster should lend itself to more disciplined ball movement.
Regardless of the way things look when the season starts, one thing we do know is that Bacot will be ready. With the way things ended and this being his last year, he ‘s going to be especially hungry. Bacot will once again be the focal point of a Carolina team looking to get things back on track.