UNC Basketball 2021-22 Player Preview: Armando Bacot

SOUTH BEND, IN - FEBRUARY 17: Armando Bacot #5 of the North Carolina Tar Heels dribbles the ball against John Mooney #33 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Purcell Pavilion on February 17, 2020 in South Bend, Indiana. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
SOUTH BEND, IN - FEBRUARY 17: Armando Bacot #5 of the North Carolina Tar Heels dribbles the ball against John Mooney #33 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Purcell Pavilion on February 17, 2020 in South Bend, Indiana. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images) /

Our 2021-22 UNC basketball player preview series continues with junior big man Armando Bacot, the undisputed leader of this year’s squad.

D’Marco Dunn | Dontrez Styles | Creighton Lebo | Puff Johnson | Dawson Garcia | R.J. Davis |

Kerwin Walton | Caleb Love | Anthony Harris | Duwe Ferris | Justin McKoy

The UNC basketball program will have a new look this season in many ways, but will ultimately rely on a very familiar face to be the team’s leader during the 2021-22 season.

After going through the NBA Draft process, Armando Bacot decided that it was in his best interest to return to Chapel Hill for his junior season. This was great news for the Tar Heels, as they returned arguably their best player from a season ago.

Heading into his junior year, there is a lot of attention surrounding the Richmond, Virginia native, as he’s earned some well-deserved preseason recognition in the process. This year’s roster may benefit Bacot more than any other Tar Heel. We still haven’t seen this group together on the court, but based on expectations, it’s very possible that Bacot could be in line for a monster season for the Tar Heels.

2020-21 Season In Review

The talk surrounding the 2020-21 UNC basketball program was their depth in the front court. In Roy Williams’ final season at the helm, the Tar Heels possessed arguably the deepest front court in the country, as they had the ability to mix-and-match in any given situation.

However, too much front court depth served as a constant issue for last year’s team, as their lack of shooting production often clogged up the paint for the big men to operate efficiently and effectively. Even with the likes of Garrison Brooks, Day’Ron Sharpe and Walker Kessler in the mix, it was Bacot who stood out as the best of the group.

Bacot led the Tar Heels in both scoring (12.3) and rebounds (7.8) per game. He shot 62.8 percent from the floor, which serves as one of the most efficient single-season shooting percentages in North Carolina history.

With what seemed to be a constant struggle to shoot the ball effectively as a team, it was Bacot who stepped up to be the “go-to” guy for the 2020-21 squad. Even though his minutes went down (due to the team’s aforementioned depth), Bacot was able to make the most of his time on the court.

The season ultimately did not go the way the Tar Heels would have liked. However, Bacot’s improvement was certainly a bright spot for a roster that didn’t quite live up to expectations.

What to Expect in 2021-22

New head coach Hubert Davis hopes to bring another national championship to Chapel Hill. He also aspires to get his players ready to hopefully compete at the next level. With these goals in mind, Bacot is certainly a player to keep an eye on.

After hearing what executives and evaluators had to say during the NBA draft process, Bacot now returns to the collegiate level looking to improve in the areas that need some refinement. Luckily for Bacot, his new coach has NBA experience and should be a very valuable asset in helping him prepare for the next level.

With the way the NBA is currently played, it’s important for players to be able to shoot the basketball. Even for big men, teams around the league search for versatile players who can not only make an impact down low, but can also help stretch the floor.

For this year’s Tar Heels team, expect Bacot to see a lot of action down low. With guys such as Dawson Garcia and Brady Manek in the mix, the Tar Heels should be able to effectively spread the floor, which will only help clear room down low for their leading scorer from a year ago.

However, don’t be surprised if Bacot starts taking some more shots away from the paint. Davis preaches that he wants all his players, especially his big men, to shoot the basketball efficiently. He understands the importance of shooting the basketball, as he, too, was a very good shooter during his playing days.

Bacot has worked on adding three-point shooting to his repertoire. According to Davis, Bacot was shooting 1,000 three-pointers a week during the offseason, and was making about 40 percent of his attempts during live practice sessions.

The goal of grooming Bacot into a “modern NBA big man” will not only help the junior in the future, but can most definitely help the Tar Heels this upcoming season. Don’t be surprised to see his overall numbers take another major jump during his third year on campus.

Bold Prediction

Davis is going to challenge Bacot to shoot the basketball, and early on in the season, expect opposing teams to do so as well. Don’t be surprised if Bacot starts knocking down his shots and forces teams to respect him as a shooter on the floor.

His minutes should go up (possibly to around the 25-28 minutes per game mark) and I’m personally expecting his scoring numbers to go up to the 15-18 points per contest range. With the look of the current roster, it wouldn’t be surprising to see both his rebounding numbers (which took a small hit last year given the team’s depth) and block numbers to increase.

With his improving ability to shoot from long distance, I will say that we will see a drop in field goal percentage for Bacot this season. However, it’s possible that he can shoot anywhere from 30-35 percent from three-point land and maintain a 50 percent field goal percentage overall in the process.

Bookmark this for later: Armando Bacot will be an All-ACC player, and help lead the Tar Heels to a run in the ACC as well as the NCAA Tournament. Similar to some other notable Tar Heels of the past, Bacot will emerge as one of the top players in the country as a junior, and will be in line to suit up for an NBA team next season.

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Check back with Keeping It Heel for the rest of our player preview series, and everything on the UNC basketball program.