1) The offense needs to run through RJ Davis and Harrison Ingram
Entering the 2020-21 season, UNC big man Garrison Brooks was named the ACC Preseason Player of the Year. Brooks had been a very good player in his time at Chapel Hill, but it was immediately clear once the season started that freshman Armando Bacot was the more effective player.
I bring this up because in a real circle-of-life moment, the Tar Heels find themselves in a similar situation now. Bacot, now in his fifth year, has had a superb career. He is the all-time leading rebounder at a school that has been the home of Tyler Hansbrough, Antawn Jamison, Brad Dougherty, and Brice Johnson. He is not, though, the guy that should be the focal point of the offense.
Harrison Ingram has played just nine games in Carolina blue, but in that time he’s firmly made the case through his play on the court that he deserves to be alongside RJ Davis as the fulcrum of the Tar Heel attack.
Ingram didn’t score in the game’s first 10 minutes, but he still finished with an efficient 20 points. His three at the end of the half got the Heels within five, and his three straight makes in the second half kept Carolina in the game when UConn threatened to pull away.
Ingram’s full game was on display. He hit three of four shots from deep, and UConn had no answer for his post-up game. Bacot, meanwhile, struggled to make his mark, despite keeping Huskies big man Donovan Clingan in foul trouble throughout.
Bacot finished just 4-12 from the field, and after showing off a refined free throw shooting touch in the season’s first eight games, he reverted to his old ways in converting just five of 10 from the line in this one. He threw up a couple of off-balance shots in the post, but he also missed multiple bunnies. His laborious post-ups bogged the Carolina offense down as he tried to go after Clingan’s backup Samson Johnson, and it ironically seemed that whenever Clingan left the court, UConn pulled away again.
Ingram always seems to be in control. He plays with a measured pace that belies his on-court intensity, not unlike what we saw from UConn’s Tristen Newton. UNC’s offense is ranked seventh in the country according to KenPom, but to ascend even higher (and it certainly can), Bacot needs to hand the keys to Ingram and accept the role of the guy that does all the dirty work. If RJ Davis is Carolina’s Batman, Ingram needs to be his Robin. Bacot is still extremely important, but it’s time for him to be Alfred.