Predicting the UNC basketball program’s starting lineup for the 2020-21 season
Okay, so the 2019-20 college basketball season didn’t go the way that North Carolina had hoped it would. But then, if ever there were a time for a down year, it was this one, because just one day after the Tar Heels’ final loss of the season to Syracuse, the coronavirus shut down the remainder of conference tournaments, as well as the big dance. The season will likely have a series of asterisks as it pertains to regular season and conference tournament champions, and it will be void an NCAA Tournament champion for the first time since 1938 — the year prior to its inception.
Regardless of all of that, the Tar Heels were, well, awful in 2020. After beginning the season with a 6-3 record, they went just 8-16 to finish the season. A plethora of things went wrong for UNC, so it wasn’t just a lack of good basketball being played on the court. But make no mistake, there was a lot of bad basketball played on the court. That was aided, however, by multiple injuries to multiple players that saw the program lose nearly 100 games to injury throughout the season.
Fast forward a few months, and UNC will say goodbye to senior guard Brandon Robinson, and soon-to-be lottery pick Cole Anthony — assuming the 2020 NBA Draft still takes place. The Tar Heels bid farewell to senior grad transfers Christian Keeling and Justin Pierce, and who knows where Sterling Manley will be in his recovery process six months from now? The talented but oft-injured 6-foot-11 big man has been plagued with physical ailments over the past two seasons that have kept him off the court.
The Tar Heels will return the ever-important front court duo of Garrison Brooks and Armando Bacot. They’ll be joined by a junior Leaky Black, and sophomore reserves Jeremiah Francis and Anthony Harris — who is recovering from a torn ACL and may not be ready for the start of the season. Add to it the Tar Heels’ No. 3-ranked recruiting class that features three 5-star players, four McDonald’s All-Americans, and five prospects ranked inside the top-54 of the 247Sports Composite, and North Carolina appears to be in good shape moving forward.
They’ll have one of the best front courts in the country as Brooks and Bacot are joined by top-20 freshman Day’Ron Sharpe and Walker Kessler. The back court will be much deeper and more talented this season, too, as Caleb Love and R.J. Davis join the fold, providing immediate scoring for the Tar Heels, as well as depth at the point guard position. Puff Johnson, the younger brother of former Tar Heel Cameron Johnson, will give North Carolina much-needed support on the wing, where 5-star recruits have alluded Roy Williams and company over the past couple of years.
All in all, UNC fans have a lot to look forward to next season. The Tar Heels should return to their fast-paced, run-and-gun style of old, and Bojangles biscuits should return to the Smith Center for the first time since February of 2019.
And who makes the cut for UNC’s starting five? We dive into that, here, and give you the reasons why those five are a cut above the rest.