Coming into 2022, the North Carolina Tar Heels were the consensus top-ranked team in the country and a popular preseason Final Four pick. Guards RJ Davis and Caleb Love returned, alongside forward Leaky Black and All-American center Armando Bacot for what was surely going to be one of the best teams in the nation. However, that couldn’t have been farther from the truth.
Ultimately, a year after being the runner-up in a National Championship loss to Kansas, the Tar Heels will likely miss the NCAA Tournament for just the fourth time since 1974 (not including Covid-19 season) and are going to be the first team ever to miss the NCAA tournament despite being the top-ranked team in the preseason poll since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985.
Goodnight, North Carolina pic.twitter.com/z3ozfMgjax
— The Field of 68 (@TheFieldOf68) March 10, 2023
UNC lost to Virginia on Thursday night by a score of 68-59 in a loss that really encapsulated the entire season for the Tar Heels. All season long, the issues had been very clear. Caleb Love isn’t cutting it at point guard, Northwestern transfer Pete Nance hasn’t been what UNC was hoping for, and Armando Bacot isn’t getting enough consistent touches. All of that came to fruition on Thursday night.
A postseason loss in any sport is likely to reveal your biggest flaws, and that is exactly what happened on Thursday. Point guard Caleb Love came into the season off a tremendous March where he was a significant piece in last year’s the Final Four puzzle. This season, he was one of the primary reasons why they are likely not returning to the NCAA Tournament.
Love failed to reach 30% from the three-point line on the season, and was an even worse 37.8% from the field overall. Even his free throw percentage took a massive 10-point decline from last year. Love’s nearly 1:1 assist-to-turnover ratio is simply not good enough from a point guard at the top level of division one basketball. The biggest issue for Love, though, has been his inability to facilitate and get the ball to Armando Bacot consistently.
When Carolina needed a bucket this season, Love usually took it upon himself to make a play, even though the ball should probably be going to their All-American big man. It is the job of a point guard to get the team in prime position to score, and Love ultimately wasn’t good enough in that area.
Caleb Love is the only Tar Heel player I heard definitively say he’d want to play in the NIT, adding he wants what’s in the best interest of the team. pic.twitter.com/hAdPKxpIah
— Carolina Blitz (@KeepBlitzin) March 10, 2023
Armando Bacot had only four points on Thursday. He attempted four shots total, while Love shot 15 times. Injuries played a role as Bacot injured his ankle against Boston College on Wednesday, but he played 21 minutes and only attempting four shots isn’t going to cut it. The ball needed to find him more and the point guards, as well as the coaches, failed at getting it to him.
Love isn’t the only reason why North Carolina struggled this season. He was not alone out there, as Northwestern transfer Pete Nance disappointed in his lone season in Chapel Hill.
In his final season at Northwestern, Nance shot the ball at a 45% clip from beyond the arc and nearly 50% from the field overall. Those percentages dropped significantly at UNC, as he was only able to shoot 32% from three and 42.2% overall. As you might expect, those numbers weren’t what folks in North Carolina had in mind. He was virtually a no-show for a lot of the season.
R.J. Davis was mostly tremendous this season and kept them in the game with 24 points against Virginia, but the assist numbers weren’t very high all season. Love couldn’t even manage three assists per game. There were only two Tar Heels that averaged more than two assists on a nightly basis. It felt like there was a lot of fighting for the ball and a lot of hero-ball going on. Ultimately, that is on the coaching.
Simply put, Hubert Davis fell short this year. There is an abundance of reasons why, but he couldn’t get through to his team and he couldn’t get them in the proper positions to succeed. Folks can blame Caleb Love, Pete Nance, or whoever else for this disaster, but at the end of the day, it all comes down on Hubert Davis.
North Carolina returned 4 starters from a team who was up 15 points at halftime of last year’s National Title game… and will not even make the tournament this year. Amazing
— Jimmy Dykes (@CoachJimmyDykes) March 10, 2023
So, when you sit down to watch the Selection Show on CBS, do not expect to hear Hubert Davis’ North Carolina Tar Heels called. This season has been a massive disappointment and there are a lot of changes that are needed to get this program back on track.