Blowers Racing

Spearheading Sports Quality

A very early projection at North Carolina’s starting lineup in 2022-23

A very early projection at North Carolina’s starting lineup in 2022-23
A very early projection at North Carolina’s starting lineup in 2022-23

Despite falling short in the national championship game, the UNC basketball program accomplished a lot in Hubert Davis’ first season as head coach. The future is certainly bright for the program in Chapel Hill and this upcoming season will be one of the more anticipated in years.

Especially if this group of Tar Heels do decide to run it back.

While the title game loss was just a few days ago, it’s never too early to look ahead to next year. ESPN has the Tar Heels projected as a Top 5 team and that may very well be the case if they get back some key players. The big word there is ‘if’.

Armando Bacotand Caleb Love are very likely going to test the NBA Draft waters and both could leave after getting their evaluation. Brady Manek is gone after not having any eligibility left and Leaky Black has a decision as well with one year left.

Then there’s the transfer portal. UNC could lose a player or two to the portal and with a four-man class coming in, they don’t have a lot of space to add to their roster via the portal unless there are multiple exits.

But what will this starting lineup look like next year? We give our very early projection, which obviously could change a lot, here in April.

For this projection, we are working under the assumption that any player that DOES NOT receive a first-round grade for the NBA Draft returns. Obviously, this could change but for now, this is how we will operate.

G – R.J. Davis (Jr.)

Chris Jones-USA TODAY Sports

Since R.J. Davis arrived on UNC’s campus, he’s gotten better and better developing into a really good point guard to run the offense. Going into 2022-23, Davis has the potential to be a first-team All-ACC selection and one of the top guards in the entire country.

2021-22 stats: 13.5PPG, 4.3RPG, 3.6APG

G – Caleb Love (Jr.)

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Again, I should mention that this is under the assumption Love will return after not receiving a first-round grade. But we should also keep it open that he may not return either.

A third year in college might do Love well. He did get a lot better in his second season and improved his shooting. However, will a team give him a ‘draft promise’ that lures him to the league?

2021-22 stats: 15.9PPG, 3.4RPG, 3.6APG

Alternate option: Seth Trimble (Fr.)

G/F – Leaky Black (Grad. Sr)

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been an up and down journey at North Carolina for Leaky Black but credit to him for sticking with it and putting in the work. Black has developed into one of the best defenders in the entire country. With the extra year due to the COVID season, Black likely uses it and returns for a fifth and final season.

2021-22 stats: 4.9PPG, 4.3RPG, 2.7APG

F: Puff Johnson (Jr.)

Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

The one guaranteed loss in the starting lineup is Brady Manek. But UNC fans should be excited for the future at the forward position especially if Puff Johnson gets better. He played well in the title game loss to Kansas and another full Summer on campus should help him.

The key for Puff will be to put on some muscle and be a consistent shooter.

2021-22 stats: 3.1PPG, 2.0RPG, 0.5APG

C – Armando Bacot (Sr.)

Chris Jones-USA TODAY Sports

Redemption. Legacy. Excellence. That’s what describes Armando Bacot as he potentially returns for his senior season at North Carolina. Bacot tested the draft waters after his sophomore season and will do so again here in 2022 but there’s a chance he could return. If he does, he will be the preseason ACC Player of the Year as well as a first-team All-American.

2021-22 stats: 16.3PPG, 13.1RPG, 1.5APG

Sixth Man: F Dontrez Styles (So.)

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Dontrez Styles didn’t see a lot of run last season as a freshman but he came on and hit a big three-pointer in UNC’s upset win over Baylor. He has talent and another full offseason in Chapel Hill should help him develop.

2021-22 stats: 2.0PPG, 1.4RPG

Bench: G Seth Trimble, C Jalen Washington, F D’Marco Dunn, F Tyler Nickel, C Will Shaver, G Kerwin Walton, F Justin McKoy

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

North Carolina’s highest-rated recruit in the 2022 class, Seth Trimble, could very well be a starter depending on what Caleb Love does. But either way, I expect Trimble to be an impact player for the Tar Heels right away coming off a big senior year in high school.

Jalen Washington is another key piece to UNC’s 2022 class and eventually should become a really good player for the Tar Heels. He suffered an injury that kept him out of the 2021-22 high school season but should be ready to go when he gets on campus. The Tar Heels may even need to call upon him earlier than expected if Bacot bolts for the NBA.

Will Shaver has already spent a semester with the team and program while Tyler Nickel is coming off a record-breaking year.

The rest of the depth looks like this pending any transfer news: Kerin Walton, D’Marco Dunn, Justin McKoy.