North Carolina can’t make amends all at once for its shortcomings a season ago, but the No. 19 Tar Heels can begin that process from the get-go.
The season launches with a game against visiting Radford on Monday Chapel Hill, N.C.
The Tar Heels, who were fresh off a spot in the 2022 NCAA championship game, began last season with the No. 1 ranking and didn’t land a spot in the postseason with a 20-13 record.
“How last year went, having a fresh start with a bunch of known faces, it’s been exciting and fun,” North Carolina forward Armando Bacot said. “We all love each other. We like to compete, so it’s been great.”
Davis is entering his third season in charge. He was hired following the retirement of Hall of Fame coach Roy Williams.
Last season, the Tar Heels began with five consecutive victories before the wave of fluctuating results began.
Radford is coming off a 21-15 season that included two victories in the postseason College Basketball Invitational. The Highlanders have been selected to finish second in the Big South Conference in the league preseason poll, and should be boosted by all-conference preseason first-team selections Bryan Antoine and DaQuan Smith. It marks the first time in five years that Radford is represented on the all-conference preseason first team.
This visit to Chapel Hill will be Radford’s only matchup the first month of the season against a team from a Power 5 conference.
As usual, North Carolina is gushing with talent and accomplished players. Bacot is a preseason All-American.
“I’m super proud of him, super proud of the relationship we built on and off the court,” North Carolina guard RJ Davis said. “Everyone has their own leadership standpoint and I think that’s what makes us such a good team so far.”
Hubert Davis said the Tar Heels will benefit from Bacot’s presence.
“For somebody that is as accomplished as Armando and the character that he brings off the court, that is a coach’s dream,” he said. “So to have him back for the fifth year is really a blessing and an honor.”
Newcomers include touted freshman point guard Elliot Cadeau along with ACC transfers Jae’Lyn Withers (Louisville) and Cormac Ryan (Notre Dame).
There could be a mentality change for the Tar Heels. RJ Davis said it’s necessary.
“Go into each game with the mentality we’re going to give every team our best shot,” RJ Davis said. “Holding each other accountable, doing the little things. I think that’s what will make our goals become able to accomplish.”
Radford, under coach Darris Nichols, has a roster that includes transfers in forward Josiah Harris from St. Francis Brooklyn and forward TJ NeSmith from Division II Lenoir-Rhyne. NeSmith played at Graham High School, which is less than 25 miles from Chapel Hill.
“He is an individual who has only improved over the course of his college basketball career, and we know he will continue to grow on and off the court at Radford,” Nichols said.
Truth Harris, who was rated among the top 75 JUCO players in the country last season, joins the Highlanders backcourt out of Indian Hills Community College.
North Carolina is 2-0 all-time vs. Radford, with the most recent meeting seven years ago.