2024 North Carolina Sports Network
Atlantic Coast Conference Basketball Spotlight:
North Carolina

By Ben McCormick
North Carolina Sports Network

School: University of North Carolina

Location: Chapel Hill, N.C.

Previous Conference Affiliations: Southern Conference (1921-53), South Atlantic Intercollegiate Athletic Association (1914-19)

ACC Member Since: 1953-54

ACC Ranking Among 32 Leagues (KenPom): 7th (2023), 5th (2022), 5th (2021), 4th (2020)

NCAA Tournament Bids52 (1941, 1946, 1957, 1959, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1972, 1975, 1976, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1980, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2021, 2022)

Conference Titles: 26 (1922, 1924, 1925, 1926, 1935, 1936, 1940, 1945 in SoCon; 1957, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1972, 1975, 1977, 1979, 1981, 1982, 1989, 1991, 1994, 1997, 1998, 2007, 2008, 2016 in ACC)

Conference 1st-Place Finishes: 39 (1923, 1925, 1935, 1938, 1941, 1944, 1946 in SoCon; 1956, 1957, 1959, 1960, 1961, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1971, 1972, 1976, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1987, 1988, 1993, 1995, 2001, 2005, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2016, 2017, 2019 in ACC)

Head Coach: Hubert Davis (53 years old, 3rd season)

As A Player: North Carolina (1988-92); 12 seasons in NBA

Record as Head Coach (Through Jan. 12): 61-26 (.701) in 2+ seasons

Previous HC Experience: none

College AC Experience: North Carolina (2012-21)

Assistant Under: Roy Williams

2022-23 Record: 20-13, 11-9 (7th in 15-team ACC)

2023-24 Preseason Prediction (Coaches): 3rd in 15-team ACC

2023-24 Record (Through Jan. 12): 12-3, 4-0 ACC

2023-24 Midseason Ranking (AP Poll/KenPom): #7/#9 nationally (1st/2nd in ACC)

Upcoming Schedule Highlights: Syracuse (1/13), at Boston College (1/20), Wake Forest (1/22), at Florida State (1/27)

College basketball’s worst-kept secret in 2022-23 was that there were problems in Chapel Hill. Then again, it’s hard to smile through the struggles when you’re the first preseason #1 team ever to miss the NCAA Tournament since it expanded to 64 teams in 1985.

For a team that had reached some of the highest peaks a college basketball team could dream of a year prior, it was such a monumentally low moment.

After legendary head coach Roy Williams suddenly retired in 2021 — on April Fools’ Day, of all days — the man left in charge was Hubert Davis. The former Tar Heel player, NBA veteran and UNC assistant coach took over one of the most pressure-filled jobs in the sport, and it wasn’t smooth sailing.

For much of the 2021-22 season, UNC was on the NCAA bubble. The Tar Heels had lost to Kentucky and Miami by nearly 30 each, and they were throttled at home by Duke in February.

It wasn’t until March that the Heels solidified their spot in the tournament and hit an extraordinary groove. Then they shocked the world, as they deflated Duke’s dazzling display of delight that preceded coach Mike Krzyzewski’s final game in Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Carolina didn’t stop there.

The Tar Heels weathered a seemingly impossible 25-point deficit to Baylor in the NCAA Tournament and made an improbable run to the Final Four. Then, they did it again — they beat Duke. Only this time, they ended Krzyzewski’s career, just one game short of a trip to the national title tilt.

While it’s true that UNC blew a 16-point lead in the championship game loss to Kansas, its inspired run had still caused quite a bit of enthusiasm amongst the Tar Heel faithful, and it led to a return of the majority of the team’s core.

For their incredible effort in 2021-22, they were awarded the #1 preseason ranking. The majority of what followed was disastrous.

The Tar Heels’ season was cut short in the ACC Tournament, with a loss to Virginia. It was their 13th defeat. They declined an invitation to the NIT.

Not long after that, UNC lost seven scholarship players to the transfer portal — the largest number in program history. That group included veteran guard Caleb Love, an extremely inconsistent and unpredictable player but also a staple in Tar Heel lore after his heroics against Duke in the Final Four.

Meanwhile, fifth-year forwards Leaky Black and Pete Nance graduated, making for a nearly complete roster revamp.

After those incredible highs, then incredible lows, perhaps a wave of calm has rushed over Chapel Hill.

“Coming off of a year where you’re a minute and 25 seconds away from winning a national championship, being able not to lose sight of the discipline and details that put yourself in a position just to be successful, whether it’s preparation and practice and play, that’s something that you have to hold onto,” Hubert Davis said. “That’s the most important part. I really believe that’s one of the many lessons that returning players like RJ (Davis) and Armando (Bacot) have learned from last year to this year.”

Bacot — a fifth-year center, five-year starter and UNC’s all-time rebounding leader — and senior guard RJ Davis are the final two remnants of the Williams era, and they appear hardened by their tumultuous experiences.

Now also including a group of hardy transfers who also have endured their fair share of losing at the college level, such as Stanford forward Harrison Ingram and Notre Dame guard Cormac Ryan, the 2024 Tar Heels are perhaps a group of veterans bonded by adversity.

Considering the additional contributions of some talented freshmen, led by pass-first point guard Elliot Cadeau and athletic forward Zayden High, Davis may have a recipe for more consistent success.

“It’s been refreshing and great having a bunch of new faces,” Bacot said, “because we get a lot of different perspectives from them coming from different places, and all of those guys are hungry, and I think that’s just great, especially just how last year went.”

So far in the 2023-24 season, the Tar Heels have weathered eight Quadrant One games (winning five). Outside of a loss to an unpredictable Villanova team in the Bahamas, the Tar Heels have lost only in close battles with top-10 caliber teams, i.e., UConn (87-76) and Kentucky (87-83).

Thanks largely to the offensive firepower of Davis, who leads the ACC in scoring (20.3 points per game), and the two-way intensity of Ingram, the Tar Heels have been able to rattle off wins over previously undefeated Oklahoma (now #9 nationally) and Tennessee (#5).

It’s been a wild journey for Hubert Davis in his first few years as a head coach, and while it seems that — finally — he may have found a bit of stability, nothing is ever guaranteed on the rocky path of Tobacco Road and the ACC.


2023-24 North Carolina Tar Heels
(12-3, 4-0 ACC; through Jan. 12)


PG Elliot Cadeau, Fr. — 23 mpg, 7 ppg, 2 rpg, 46% FG, 61% FT, 25% threes, 53/21 ATO, 1 block, 7 steals
(6-1/180); prep All-American, national champion at Link (Mo.) Academy; West Orange, N.J.

G RJ Davis*, Sr. — 34 mpg, 20 ppg, 4 rpg, 42% FG, 95% FT, 40% threes, 51/25 ATO, 0 blocks, 19 steals
(6-0/180); 2023 HM All-ACC; 3-year UNC starter; Archbishop Stepinac, White Plains, N.Y.

G Cormac Ryan, Gr. — 29 mpg, 11 ppg, 4 rpg, 38% FG, 91% FT, 29% threes, 19/18 ATO, 6 blocks, 15 steals
(6-5/195); 2023 Notre Dame transfer (3-year starter); Milton (Mass.) Academy; New York, N.Y.

F Harrison Ingram, Jr. — 32 mpg, 13 ppg, 8 rpg, 43% FG, 59% FT, 42% threes, 37/22 ATO, 8 blocks, 22 steals
(6-7/235); 2023 Stanford transfer (2-year starter); St. Mark’s School, Dallas, Texas

C Armando Bacot*, Gr. — 29 mpg, 15 ppg, 11 rpg, 52% FG, 78% FT, 33% threes (few), 20/22 ATO, 28 blocks, 8 steals
(6-11/240); 2x 1st-team All-ACC; 5-year UNC starter; IMG (Fla.) Academy; Richmond, Va.

Key Reserves

G Seth Trimble, So.. — 17 mpg, 6 ppg, 3 rpg, 52% FG, 65% FT, 58% threes, 9/7 ATO, 3 blocks, 4 steals
(6-3/195); 2023 UNC reserve; Wisconsin POY at Menomonee Falls HS, Menomonee Falls, Wis.

G Paxson Wojcik, Gr. — 10 mpg, 2 ppg, 1 rpg, 37% FG, 89% FT, 21% threes, 6/8 ATO, 0 blocks, 2 steals
(6-5/195); 2023 Brown transfer (2-year starter); La Lumiere (Ind.) School; Charleston, S.C.

F Jae’Lyn Withers, Gr. — 14 mpg, 4 ppg, 3 rpg, 43% FG, 78% FT, 17% threes, 10/13 ATO, 12 blocks, 6 steals
(6-9/215); 2023 Louisville transfer (3-year starter); North Mecklenburg HS, Charlotte, N.C.

F Jalen Washington, So. — 9 mpg, 5 ppg, 3 rpg, 65% FG, 64% FT, 50% threes, 2/5 ATO, 11 blocks, 1 steal
(6-10/230); 2023 UNC reserve; West Side Leadership Academy, Gary, Ind.

*—returning starter (started at least 50% of current team’s games last season)

North Carolina Tar Heels
10-Year Snapshot

Season — Overall, League (Place), Postseason

2022-23: 20-13, 11-9 ACC (7th), no postseason (Hubert Davis)
2021-22: 29-10, 15-5 ACC (2nd), NCAA Runner-up (Hubert Davis)
2020-21: 18-11, 10-6 ACC (5th), NCAA Round of 64 (Roy Williams)
2019-20: 14-19, 6-14 ACC (13th), no postseason (Roy Williams)
2018-19: 29-7, 16-2 ACC (t-1st), NCAA Sweet 16 (Roy Williams)
2017-18: 26-11, 11-7 ACC (3rd), NCAA Round of 32 (Roy Williams)
2016-17: 33-7, 14-4 ACC (1st), NCAA CHAMPIONS (Roy Williams)
2015-16: 33-7, 14-4 ACC* (1st), NCAA Runner-up (Roy Williams)
2014-15: 26-12, 11-7 ACC (5th), NCAA Sweet 16 (Roy Williams)
2013-14: 24-10, 13-5 ACC (3rd), NCAA Round 32 (Roy Williams)

*—conference champion

NOTE: Please visit the North Carolina Sports Network’s 2023-24 profiles and 10-year snapshots for all 19 Division One men’s basketball programs in North Carolina and all 15 Atlantic Coast Conference programs.

Appalachian State Mountaineers, Sun Belt Conference

Campbell Camels, Coastal Athletic Association

Charlotte 49ers, American Athletic Conference

Davidson Wildcats, Atlantic-10 Conference

Duke Blue Devils, Atlantic Coast Conference

East Carolina Pirates, American Athletic Conference

Elon Phoenix, Coastal Athletic Association

Gardner-Webb Runnin’Bulldogs, Big South Conference

High Point Panthers, Big South Conference

NC Central Eagles, Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference

NC State Wolfpack, Atlantic Coast Conference

North Carolina Tar Heels, Atlantic Coast Conference

North Carolina A&T Aggies, Coastal Athletic Association

Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Atlantic Coast Conference

Pitt Panthers, Atlantic Coast Conference

Queens Royals, Atlantic Sun Conference

Syracuse Orange, Atlantic Coast Conference

UNC Asheville Bulldogs, Big South Conference

UNC Greensboro Spartans, Southern Conference

UNC Wilmington Seahawks, Coastal Athletic Association

Western Carolina Catamounts, Southern Conference