UNC Basketball: What is the Current State of the Program?

CHAPEL HILL, NORTH CAROLINA - FEBRUARY 11: Head coach Hubert Davis of the North Carolina Tar Heels watches his team play against the Clemson Tigers during their game at the Dean E. Smith Center on February 11, 2023 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
CHAPEL HILL, NORTH CAROLINA - FEBRUARY 11: Head coach Hubert Davis of the North Carolina Tar Heels watches his team play against the Clemson Tigers during their game at the Dean E. Smith Center on February 11, 2023 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images) /

The UNC Basketball program has experienced an off-season like never before and some fans may be torn on what to think. So what is the state of the program?

To say the UNC basketball program is in uncharted territory would be an understatement.

This off-season is one that the program, or its fans, is unlike one that it has ever experienced. The program has seen nine players leave since the end of the season, seven transfers, and two graduates.

On Tuesday afternoon, the program’s off-season and current state were flipped upside down when 2023 four-star commit Simeon Wilcher requested a release from his National Letter of Intent.

As soon as the news broke, it felt like the UNC basketball fan base began to panic on social media all at once. Another talented recruit had de-committed from Hubert Davis and the Tar Heels. Fans immediately pointed the finger at Davis and blamed him for Wilcher’s decision to de-commit. The real question to be asking is… should that have been the reaction?

I don’t believe so. Simeon Wilcher has been committed to the Tar Heels and Hubert Davis since October 2021, nothing Davis has done over the past 20 months swayed him from coming to Carolina. Is this because of Elliot Cadeau’s decision to reclassify? Maybe. That would be the expected answer.

Of course, fans have been critical of Davis’ use of his bench and rotation minutes for the past season, but did that really have an impact on Wilcher’s decision to de-commit one week before stepping foot on campus in Chapel Hill? It shouldn’t have.

When Wilcher committed in October 2021, he should have had a good idea of what the roster outlook was.

Even in October 2022, which was just 10 months ago, the projected guards for the 2023-2024 Tar Heels were RJ Davis, Caleb Love, Seth Trimble, Dontrez Styles, and D’Marco Dunn. If three of those don’t transfer, there would have still been six guards, including Wilcher, on the roster.

Wilcher knew that the 2023-2024 Tar Heel roster was going to be guard heavy, it may not look exactly like we initially thought, but it’s here. Maybe Cadeau’s talent level pushed him to de-commit, and if that’s the case, so be it.

The knock on the UNC basketball program has been the inability to secure potential one-and-done players, now that Hubert has done that with the reclassification of Cadeau, there are still complaints. If Wilcher was afraid of competing for playing time, he shouldn’t have ever committed in the first place or de-committed long before now.

I wish Simeon Wilcher the best wherever he chooses to go, as we all should, but if you ask any UNC basketball fan if they could have Wilcher or Cadeau on the 2023-24 roster, almost, if not all, would (and should) choose Cadeau. This isn’t to say Wilcher isn’t talented, he is, and I, along with the rest of Tar Heel Nation was excited to see him in Carolina blue, but Cadeau is the better option at this point in time.

So back to the original topic of the article… what does the current state of the UNC basketball program look like?

Well, for one, they are bringing in the 18th-ranked transfer recruiting class in the country, and third in the ACC with four commits, according to 247Sports. Is this a bridge year to the No. 1 recruiting Class of 2024? Maybe. But next year’s Tar Heels have a lot of potential and should not be overlooked, even without Wilcher.

This is a revamped roster that has added talent and depth by removing nine players from last year’s team that missed the NCAA Tournament after being ranked preseason No. 1. One more thing to acknowledge is that it isn’t complete. Hubert has three open scholarships to play with now with Wilcher no longer on the roster. What does he choose to do with those?

The current roster appears like this:

Even with the loss of Wilcher among the guards, the backcourt is still very talented and should be exciting to watch next season. The main concern it appears at the moment is the lack of depth behind Armando Bacot. Jalen Washington can provide some minutes, but how much will incoming freshman Zayden High provide?

Will Hubert be relying on him heavily to provide rest to Bacot? Or will we see one of the final scholarships used on a big man that can really help Bacot stay rested throughout the season and healthy? For the last year, ever since the 2022 Final Four, it doesn’t really feel like we have seen him at full strength. It would be nice to see what a healthy Bacot can do if he has another big to carry some of the weight and not have to do it by himself in the paint for 40 minutes every game.

Some are concerned that the University of North Carolina has three open scholarships in June. This is the new age of college basketball. Rosters are likely not going to be filled until the middle to end of the summer. Players in 2023 want to come in and start or play meaningful minutes right away, and finding the balance of starters and bench depth can be challenging. The days of having 13 guys on a roster are likely over, especially top talented guys.

Take the defending National Champion UConn Huskies for example. Their run to the National Championship consisted mostly of an eight-man rotation that played important minutes. The Tar Heels currently have ten talented players on the roster and likely will add one or two more. Just as I wrote almost two months ago in mid-April, let the dust settle and see where the program is on August 1st before hitting the panic button.

As for the Class of 2024? There was some panic around Ian Jackson yesterday evening as well, which Jackson himself put to rest very quickly. It doesn’t appear that he will be re-classifying, but he is staying committed to the Tar Heels, and that should be something that excites all UNC basketball fans for the future.

With the reclassification of Cadeau, the possibility of adding another 2024 recruit is likely too. Could Jarin Stevenson be on his way to join Jackson in Chapel Hill? It would undoubtedly make Tar Heel fans feel better about the direction of the program.

But it shouldn’t take Stevenson to do that. I believe the current state of the UNC basketball program is a lot better off now than 87 days ago on Selection Sunday when the Tar Heels didn’t hear their name called by the NCAA Basketball Selection Committee.

And you should too.

Trust the process and trust Hubert Davis to construct the right roster.

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