Another step in a new era for North Carolina basketball will come Tuesday night.
The No. 19 Tar Heels will open their first season under coach Hubert Davis.
“The foundation of Carolina basketball is going to be the same,” Davis said. “There are going to be some tweaks. I’m really happy with the veteran players adjusting to the tweaks.”
Davis, a former North Carolina guard, took over for Hall of Famer Roy Williams, who announced his retirement April 1. Shortly afterward, Davis was promoted from his role as an assistant coach, though this is his first assignment as a head coach.
North Carolina will begin play against the Loyola (Md.) Greyhounds in Chapel Hill, N.C.
“It will look like UNC basketball,” Davis said. “The foundation has been set. It has been here for a number of years.”
Yet the coaching position isn’t the change for the Tar Heels. They’ve welcomed three transfers who figure to play key roles.
They are Brady Manek from Oklahoma and Dawson Garcia from Marquette and Justin McKoy from Virginia.
“They’ve played big-time college basketball before,” Davis said. “They understand the preparation that goes into it.”
Manek, though he would be considered a power forward or center, could help bolster North Carolina’s perimeter shooting. Davis calls him perhaps the best perimeter-shooting big man in the country.
“I love his versatility,” Davis said. “His versatility on the offensive end is a huge piece for us.”
That should be a nice complement for forward Armando Bacot, who has averaged 10.9 points and 8.0 rebounds across 61 college games. Bacot has 18 double-doubles through two seasons.
Davis said the starting lineup could evolve.
“At this point it could be a fluid situation — in terms of practice, in terms of matchups,” Davis said of a starting lineup. “We’ve got a lot of talented guys. A lot of guys who want to play.”
Davis said he’ll stick to mainly using a man-to-man defense, but he wants to turn to variations. “I like to try many different things and different looks,” he said.
UNC finished 18-11 last season, including a first-round loss to Wisconsin in the NCAA Tournament.
Loyola had a limited schedule last season, playing a Patriot League-only slate.
The Greyhounds finished 6-11. Two victories came in the league tournament before the Greyhounds fell at Colgate in the championship game.
Yet those postseason experiences were beneficial.
“We wanted to win,” coach Tavaras Hardy said. “When they gave us a chance to have a new season, that’s the way we looked at it.”
Hardy said the team was better than its record indicated. An uneven schedule, plus a reduced roster based on COVID-19 protocols for some early games, put the Greyhounds in tough situations.
“We learned from all those things,” Hardy said. “We feel like the adversity throughout the year and close games had us prepared.”
Hardy, who’s beginning his fourth season, saw Loyola edge Division III Johns Hopkins 60-49 by pulling away late in a recent exhibition game. Senior guard Jaylin Andrews is Loyola’s top returning scorer at 11.6 points per game.
Meanwhile, Davis said he’s enjoying his new role with one of the college basketball’s most storied programs. He said he’s “comfortable right now.”
But mostly, he said he wants the players to be in position to achieve their goals.
“They’re desperate to be relevant,” Davis said. “They want to be heard, and they want to be seen. … They want their own stories, they want their own memories of playing in big games, winning big games and winning championships.”
–Field Level Media