New coach, same expectations: An early look at the Hubert Davis-led Tar Heels


RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — One of the most challenging seasons for all sports, especially college basketball, has come to an end following Baylor’s dominating 86-70 victory over Gonzaga in the national championship game.

In the Triangle, though, Duke missed the NCAA Tournament, North Carolina was bounced early, N.C. State was too — in the National Invitational Tournament, and N.C. Central had its struggles as well.

And with the NCAA’s new rule allowing transfers to play immediately, incoming freshmen making late decisions, and others departing for the NBA across the entire college landscape, rosters will change every day up until the 2021-22 season tips off — and that’s the fun part.

Let’s take a very early look at how the Triangle’s four men’s Division I hoops teams are shaping up for next season starting with North Carolina:

New coach, same expectations

The North Carolina Tar Heels could have pulled off one of the biggest April Fool’s jokes ever when longtime head coach Roy Williams announced his retirement on April 1.

For the first 10 minutes or so after the news dropped, it was literally unbelievable.

Less than a week after the news, the Tar Heels have a new coach — Hubert Davis, a former Tar Heel guard turned TV analyst turned assistant coach. And after all the pomp and circumstance of Davis being introduced is over, it will be time to get to work.

Davis will face a bit of an uphill battle going into next season. Breakout big man Day’ron Sharpe has put his name into the NBA Draft, fellow freshman big man Walker Kessler entered the transfer portal and senior Garrison Brooks has one more chance at it due to the NCAA’s new rule granting an extra year to seniors due to the pandemic, but his status remains up in the air.

What we do know now is that Carolina will likely be led by rising junior forward Armando Bacot and may get freshman guards Caleb Love and R.J. Davis back, as well as sharpshooter Kerwin Walton. Junior forward Rechon “Leaky” Black is also poised to come back for his senior season, pending a surprise transfer/going pro decision.

Other contributors such as guards Anthony Harris and Donovan “Puff” Johnson will likely return as well.

Recruiting wise, the Tar Heels are holding on to two four-star in-state prospects who both seem to be unbothered by the coaching change and are likely to don the Carolina blue and white.

If Kinston native Dontrez Styles is anything like previous recruits out of the small, basketball-rich city, then his career in Chapel Hill will be one to keep an eye on. Fayetteville native D’Marco Dunn fits the bill of the versatile wing player that UNC has kept in its lineup for the last few seasons to score, distribute and defend (think J.P. Tokoto, Theo Pinson, Leaky Black).

So what will Davis change in year one? Will he turn away from Williams’ offensive philosophy and inject his own flavor? Will he refocus recruiting efforts and zero in on other types of players that may have ramifications on future recruiting classes?

One thing is true, though: Tar Heels fans were spoiled over the last 18 seasons to the tune of three national championships and five Final Four appearances — the most during that span — and won’t expect anything less from Davis.

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