Coming off of an injury-plagued 19-loss season, where does 247Sports rank the 2021 UNC basketball program?
The North Carolina Tar Heels are coming off their worst season in nearly 20 years, but a pair of returning front court starters in Garrison Brooks and Armando Bacot, along with a top-5 incoming freshman class, has the program’s trajectory pointing straight up.
It appears that the folks over at 247Sports feel the same way that we do, given that the Tar Heels are ranked No. 12 in their ‘Way-Too-Early Top 21 teams for ’21’ that was released early this week. Below is their basis for which the ACC’s last-place team in 2019-20 will turn it all around in just a few short months.
“Cole Anthony is probably gone. Brandon Robinson, graduated. But Garrison Brooks took a massive jump in 2019-20, and Armando Bacot and Leaky Black are returning starters as well. When Jeremiah Francis and Anthony Harris get healthy, they’ll plug in nicely next to one of the nation’s elite recruiting classes that brings help down low around Brooks and Bacot and at the guard spots. Day’Ron Sharpe (6-10 246), Walker Kessler (7-0 245) and Caleb Love (6-3 170) are all five-star players in the 247Sports Composite; Puff Johnson is a top 50 player who gives depth on the wings. 2019-20 was undone by massive injuries; 2020-21 should be significantly deeper.”
That’s a pretty good assessment of a North Carolina squad that lost 19 games, but returns a fairly good amount of talent, and brings in three 5-star freshman that project to play a lot of minutes in the upcoming season. Look for Love to immediately step into the starting point guard role, while Sharpe and Kessler will be first off the bench when Brooks and Bacot need a breather. Johnson offers a good option on the wing, though he may need some time before being ready to take on the kind of minutes that his brother did just a season ago.
Not mentioned above, but undoubtedly one of the best up-and-coming recruits in the class of 2020, is R.J. Davis. The 5-foot-11, 165-pound guard from White Plains, New York has a chance to make North Carolina’s starting five, too, though he’ll battle with junior Leaky Black, and sophomore Anthony Harris. Davis’ offensive ability is advanced, and far surpasses that of Black or Harris, but only time will tell how he progresses in Roy Williams’ system, and on the defensive end of the court against bigger, stronger players than he’s used to.
Now, let’s not put too much stock in a preseason ranking. After all, the Tar Heels were a preseason top-5 team to begin last season. We all saw how that turned out. A lot of things went wrong, though, and we’ve got to assume that this year’s team won’t miss upwards of 100 games to injury like its predecessor did.
Stick with Keeping It Heel for all the latest on the UNC basketball program throughout the offseason.