North Carolina Tar Heels
Head Coach: Roy Williams
2018-19 Record: 29-7, 16-2 Conference
Odds to win Title: +1400
Odds c/o Bovada
The North Carolina Tar Heels lost to Auburn in the Sweet 16 last season. This year, it suffers the loss of two one-and-done talents, but it adds two graduate transfers to the mix. Even so, the losses of Coby White, Cameron Johnson, and Nassir Little are not insignificant by any stretch. The losses of Luke Maye and Kenny Williams compound that.
Despite losing so much, the Tar Heels brought in a big-time recruiting class and the team has plenty of depth. It remains among the top favorites for a 2020 NCAA title at +1400 in Bovada’s futures betting.
Garrison Brooks returns as the lone starter from last year’s team. Brooks averaged 7.9 points and 5.6 rebounds last season as a sophomore. He will be counted on for more this year, to be sure. He was the team’s best interior defender last season, and his offensive game did make some strides, particularly in becoming a much better passer and finisher around the basket. Brooks will see more time at the 4-spot this season.
Armando Bacot joins him as a great rebounder who is very good with both hands around the rim. Both should be able to function in high post offenses to feed the guards around them. Sterling Manley missed half of last year with a knee issue, and after struggling through the summer it is unclear whether he will be ready to start the season. The Tar Heels need his rim protection and board work. Brandon Huffman is an energy guy off the bench who should infuse some life into the second unit.
Cole Anthony comes in as a freshman expected to be a one-and-done. He won MVP of the McDonald’s All-American game, and at 6’3” he has enough size to be a promising point guard prospect at the next level. He is a good scorer and dishes it well, and he also finishes very well through contact. All those traits will help at the next level. Behind Anthony, at the 1-spot there is some depth. Leaky Black can play three positions, and he will see some time at the point. Last year he suffered a high ankle sprain that kept him out of action, but Williams loves his versatility on both ends of the court.
The 2/3 spots will be occupied by Brandon Robinson, Christian Keeling, and Justin Pierce. Robinson is lights out from three (46 percent last year) and is a good passer while keeping his turnovers down (nearly a 3:1 A/TO ratio last year). Keeling is a grad transfer who averaged 17 points and five rebounds per game at Charleston Southern. Pierce is also a graduate transfer who shot 41.9 percent from three while averaging just under nine rebounds per game for William & Mary last season. Andrew Platek will bring some shooting prowess off the bench, while Anthony Harris and Jeremiah Francis come in as freshmen who will have to fight to see court time.
Williams can work with a variety of talents, and this year should test him plenty. The best players lack experience, while the experienced ones lack high-end talent.
It is a quandary at least. Brooks is the only real battle-tested major talent, so Williams will tinker a lot early in the season in an attempt to develop some chemistry and stability. Where this team stands by March when it matters most is a lot of guesswork. There are experience issues, health issues, and the matter of whether any of these pieces can fit together at all. But if anyone is up to the task it is the time-tested great coach that Williams has proven to be.