Before the College Basketball season started, nobody could have expected the Tar Heels to start 5-3. When it was solidified that Carolina would have four of their five starters returning for this season, I predicted they would be the college equivalent to the 1995-'96 Chicago Bulls. But as we have seen in the previous three games against Iowa State, Alabama, and Indiana, that is far from the case.
Leaky Black, Armando Bacot, R.J. Davis, and Caleb Love all decided to come back to Carolina after making a National Championship Appearance and beating Duke in Coach K's final game in the Final Four. In addition, coach Hubert Davis proved he was a great selection to lead the Heels after Coach Williams' departure in 2021. In Davis' first season, he led the Heels to their best season since the 2018-2019 season, and of course, led the Tar Heels to their first National Championship appearance since 2017.
As a Tar Heel fan, the expectation for the team is that they are the best of the best. Many Tar Heel fans, including myself, believed this coming into the season. I'll probably catch a lot of heat for this take, but Carolina peaked at the right time, elevating them to the National Championship, and that is going to have to happen this season for them to replicate last season.
It's a long season, so there is still a lot of time to bounce back from this start, but the expectations were too high, and the Heels were too overhyped. I would not have ranked the Tar Heels #1 coming into the season. Last year, the highest they were ranked in the AP Rankings was #18, and there's a reason for that. This is evidence that they peaked at the right time.
These boys must lean on one another to get through the season. No one player on this starting lineup can carry the team. Love, Leaky, Bacot, and Davis are all very talented. There's no doubt about that. But there's a reason the upperclassmen are not in the NBA right now. Duke may have individual players that can carry the team, but Carolina has always had to play good team ball, or else there would be no success.
As the Tar Heels kick off ACC play against Virginia Tech, hopefully, this little bit of adversity gets their hind ends in gear. It's better to face this level of adversity at the beginning of the season, so you have time to learn from it. The Heels are in a good spot. Maybe they needed these last three losses. But we will have to wait and see this March!