UNC basketball record same as NCAA finalists after 21 games: How unranked Tar Heels compare
North Carolina basketball gets the chance to take a breather with a week-long break before the Tar Heels resume their ACC schedule.
Much like last season’s group, UNC (15-6, 7-3 ACC) has produced a mixed bag of results through 21 games. After starting the season as the No. 1-ranked team in the nation, the Tar Heels saw a four-game losing streak boot them out of the AP Top 25 Poll.
But as winners of four straight and 10 of its last 12 games, Carolina appears to be on the right track coming down the homestretch.
Here are five takeaways from the Tar Heels’ first 21 games and how this team matches up with the squad that had the same record last season before making a run to the 2022 national championship game.
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Armando Bacot, ACC Player of the Year favorite
Armando Bacot, the preseason pick to be named ACC Player of the Year, is on track to win the award.
The senior double-double machine, who broke a pair of program records in UNC’s win against NC State, is averaging 17.9 points and 11.4 rebounds.
Bacot is making 57.8% of his shots. Despite missing games against Virginia Tech and Virginia, Bacot has more points (357) at this point in the season than a year ago, but has grabbed 27 fewer rebounds.
Bacot has 10 games with 20 or more points and 12 games with double-digit rebounds. Last season, Bacot had seven games with 20 or more points and 17 games with double-digit rebounds in the first 21 games.
Road woes continue, but no blowouts
UNC was 3-6 away from Chapel Hill through 21 games last season. This season, the Tar Heels are 5-6 in away/neutral games.
Carolina’s 77-65 loss at Indiana is its lone double-digit defeat. Last season’s group had four losses by an average of 24 points by late January, including back-to-back blowout losses at Miami and Wake Forest.
Offensively, UNC is averaging 79.2 points compared to 78 last season. Defensively, the Tar Heels are about the same. UNC opponents have averaged 72 points this season, compared to 71.5.
According to KenPom.com, the Heels are favored in eight of their final 10 games – five at home, five on the road.
UNC remains in the hunt to win an ACC regular-season championship.
What about UNC’s bench?
At this point last season, Dawson Garcia and Anthony Harris were no longer in the mix for the Tar Heels as coach Hubert Davis started leaning heavily on his “Iron Five” lineup.
With Garcia and Harris gone by late January, Kerwin Walton was the lone bench player averaging double-digit minutes in a reserve role.
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This season, each of UNC’s starters continue to average at least 30 minutes per game. But Puff Johnson, D’Marco Dunn and Seth Trimble have averaged double-digit minutes off the bench.
The Tar Heels have options, which is something they couldn’t say at this point a year ago.
RJ Davis and Caleb Love
RJ Davis (16.4 points per game) and Caleb Love (16.2 ppg) continue to shine as one of the top guard duos in the ACC, but both have seen their 3-point percentages dip.
At this point last season, UNC’s lead guards were shooting better than 40% from long range. Through 21 games, Love is shooting a paltry 28% from beyond the arc and Davis is at 38%.
Their assist numbers are on pace with last season. Love has 65 assists and 51 turnovers, compared to 72 assists and 52 turnover at the same point last season. Davis is at 68 assists and 41 turnovers with one fewer assist and one more turnover than he had through 21 games last season.
It’s no secret, but in order for UNC to reach its championship potential, Love and Davis have to be at their best.
Pete Nance vs. Brady Manek
The transfer portal has been kind to Davis in his first two seasons.
Brady Manek averaged 13 points and 5.6 rebounds in 26.4 minutes through his first 21 games. Pete Nance, UNC’s primary starter at the four spot, was sidelined with a back injury for three-plus games but is averaging 10.9 points and 6.0 rebounds through 18 games.
Nance is shooting 35.5% from 3-point range, compared to Manek’s 38.8% at this point last season. But Nance has gotten to the free-throw line more and is making 78% (48 of 61) of his attempts.
Following in the footsteps of a fan favorite in Manek, Nance has carved out a role as a consistent contributor with big-time plays in crunch time that led to wins against Ohio State and Syracuse.
Staff writer Rodd Baxley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or @RoddBaxley on Twitter.
This article originally appeared on The Fayetteville Observer: UNC basketball record same as Final Four team. Can Tar Heels return?